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Old 07-12-2017, 12:51 AM   #1
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Seeking bus purchase advice from the mechanically inclined

My family of 5 is looking to buy a bus to convert. We are hoping to find a rear engine bus with the taller ceilings, as two of the five of us are 63 or taller, and another two are on their way in that direction. We live in Alaska, which means our pool of possible buses is relatively limited. It is over 2000 miles to the next big city out of state, meaning that buying elsewhere and transporting is -though possible- pretty cost prohibitive.

There are a number of buses currently for sale here, but only one of them is a rear engine bus. This rear engine bus also happens to have ceilings that are roughly 68. It is the only bus in our area that fits our desired criteria.

The bus is a 2001 International RE with a V8 T444E engine, Allison automatic transmission, hydraulic breaks, and roughly 200,000 miles on it. It was recently retired as a school bus, and worked shuttling cruise passengers for a short time. The bus is listed for sale at $2000 from First Student (the bus company) and the price seems to be standard, as I was told about a number of other First Student buses for sale here in Alaska (front engines) and all were the same price.

I spoke with a man about the bus and he was very helpful and upfront. He said that the bus was recently checked out by a mechanic and that it has a broken leaf spring, and needs the fuel injectors replaced. He guessed that having these repairs done might run $2000-$3000. He also said that it is a bit cold-blooded in that it has trouble starting if it sits for a while. He thought that changing the fuel injectors might solve this problem, but he didnt know for sure.

I really would prefer to purchase a bus without known issues. However, Id also really like to find a rear engine bus w/ tall ceilings. Buying one outside of Alaska and transporting it here would probably cost more than fixing the one here. If we decide it is worth it, we'll do more investigating about the bus before moving forward with any decisions. Any advice from the mechanically inclined?
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Old 07-12-2017, 01:01 AM   #2
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Welcome,
fyi,noob here.

have you thought about raising the roof? That way you can focus on finding a more mechanically sound bus without having to worry about roof high. Might be cheaper to raise a roof than to fix an engine.

Also, I heard the pros here saying that the 444E is okay for a shorty but not for a full size bus. Better getting a bigger engine. DT466 or the cummins 16valve ?

i'm just regurgitating what I recall from reading others. I could be mistaken.
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Old 07-12-2017, 01:16 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kznelius View Post
My family of 5 is looking to buy a bus to convert. We are hoping to find a rear engine bus with the taller ceilings, as two of the five of us are 63 or taller, and another two are on their way in that direction. We live in Alaska, which means our pool of possible buses is relatively limited. It is over 2000 miles to the next big city out of state, meaning that buying elsewhere and transporting is -though possible- pretty cost prohibitive.

There are a number of buses currently for sale here, but only one of them is a rear engine bus. This rear engine bus also happens to have ceilings that are roughly 68. It is the only bus in our area that fits our desired criteria.

The bus is a 2001 International RE with a V8 T444E engine, Allison automatic transmission, hydraulic breaks, and roughly 200,000 miles on it. It was recently retired as a school bus, and worked shuttling cruise passengers for a short time. The bus is listed for sale at $2000 from First Student (the bus company) and the price seems to be standard, as I was told about a number of other First Student buses for sale here in Alaska (front engines) and all were the same price.

I spoke with a man about the bus and he was very helpful and upfront. He said that the bus was recently checked out by a mechanic and that it has a broken leaf spring, and needs the fuel injectors replaced. He guessed that having these repairs done might run $2000-$3000. He also said that it is a bit cold-blooded in that it has trouble starting if it sits for a while. He thought that changing the fuel injectors might solve this problem, but he didnt know for sure.

I really would prefer to purchase a bus without known issues. However, Id also really like to find a rear engine bus w/ tall ceilings. Buying one outside of Alaska and transporting it here would probably cost more than fixing the one here. If we decide it is worth it, we'll do more investigating about the bus before moving forward with any decisions. Any advice from the mechanically inclined?
The leaf spring, while it should be fixed, would not be a major issue for me. A new one can be had easily enough. It will take some big tools to do the job, but should be straightforward enough.

My "new" bus is also an '01 IH with a T444 (shorty, air brakes, 5-speed Spicer manual transmission); I'm told the injectors were replaced just a few months before it was surplussed. The injectors on this engine (and its Ford 7.3 sibling) tend to last somewhere around 200K miles before they wear out, and cost somewhere around $200 each. A known issue on this engine is the valve cover gasket and injector wiring harness (they're sort of made into one piece) and it should be replaced as part of the job; I believe I've seen them available for about $80. The mechanic I talked to said they bought the better injectors for my bus; not the rebuilt ones and set them back about $300 each but they felt the performance was "better than when new". He also indicated "difficult cold starting" was often attributed to glow plug issues but was often an injector problem; they simply don't atomize as well as they should after that much age/mileage. Aside from all that, there's a fair bit of disassembly/reassembly to the job but nothing terribly difficult, just time consuming.

The T444 is a decent engine though not a powerhouse by any means. With proper care it should go another 300K or more (one of my friends believes they will easily go a million, if properly cared for). The lack of air brakes would be an issue for me (but primarily because I'm a driver and accustomed to air brakes); if the bus seems a good fit for you otherwise, and given your geographic location and lack of selection, I'd say go for it. Parts for this bus should be readily available - if not locally, then at least online.
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Old 07-12-2017, 01:16 AM   #4
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Thanks, oricha1984. The regurgitating is also totally appreciated!

Yeah, raising the roof would solve one of the problems, though it seems quite daunting- (especially because it will be the beginning of winter in Alaska when my husband is able to devote time to the bus project... haha... can't use heaters if the roof is gone. Yikes.).

It doesn't solve the fact that none of the buses for sale here seem to have rear engines -- though maybe that is just something we'll have to do without.

Thanks again!
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Old 07-12-2017, 01:23 AM   #5
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My guess is that the RE bus was shuttle to denali park during the summers from Anchorage. First Student is a good company, and are even in Soldotna last time i checked, but think all are not RE busses.\

I have found several RE and Coach busses on craigslist, and some coach ones recently, mostly around Anchorage area, however, the school busses like the one you like with the ford engine are well maintained, and first student always has busses for sale.

for me, the mileage is a little high, as the winter temps can be severe as you well know, which is harder on equipment than, say, RE purchased from Washington state. If it needs injectors, i am assuming you cannot do that maintance. Things like slack adjusters, fuel filters, fluids, etc all need to be dealt with before use, and during the same. However, if you are keeping it in AK, and not going outside, there aren't too many roads so the use mileage won't be great.

Whatever you buy, make sure it has all the electric heaters for batteries, etc., ... My thomas re has one big electric cord for plugging in at the front bumper...
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Old 07-12-2017, 01:26 AM   #6
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Thanks for the info about the repairs, Brad_SwiftFur. My husband is a pretty good
YouTube mechanic.. hhaahah.. With your descriptions, it is sounding like the repairs might be something he could handle. Appreciate your input..
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Old 07-12-2017, 02:16 AM   #7
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Thanks chev49. The bus is actually on Kodiak Island. It was used by the school district there, and then to bus cruise ship passengers for a short while. This actually means another $600 to put it on the ferry to Homer (or Whittier?). I left this part out because I didn't want to overwhelm the post with details. The good thing about this is that it doesn't get -as- cold in Kodiak.

We do hope to take it on a road trip outside eventually.

I've thought about the coaches, and seen a few on craigslist as you mentioned, but they tend to be a bigger investment up front. The school bus prices are rather attractive in comparison..
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Old 07-12-2017, 04:52 AM   #8
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OK. If n anchor, barge 2 the spit. niece drove skoolie n coach n the big town, now has fedex rt there, so i know there r busses around there.

sis lives next to spit, ... i have seen skoolies n east end rd, n the small town at top of hill going n of homer...
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Old 07-12-2017, 06:43 AM   #9
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Isn't First Student the company famous for running buses into the ground then selling them?
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Old 07-12-2017, 09:05 AM   #10
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I don't know your situation, or your price point, but if the bus isn't equipped to your needs, you can always fly out and drive it home.

I recommend the dt466 it's more powerul and fuel efficient than the 444
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