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Old 11-16-2016, 05:01 AM   #1
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Short bus=good tow pig??

Hey everyone! I'm new here (this is my first post actually) not sure if this is the right area so if not...be gentle!

I'm looking to buy a 98 e350 20 passenger bus with a 7.3 for a tow vehicle. My thought is it would be very similar to a dually ford truck, is that a good assumption? How suitable of a tow pig would that be to pull a 24' enclosed trailer? With the trailer and truck I'll be putting in it I'm looking at right around 7000lb altogether
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Old 11-16-2016, 05:53 AM   #2
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i believe CAL tried this with an open trailer and it was a bit hard on the bus, dont remember what motor tranny he had in it.
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Old 11-16-2016, 06:23 AM   #3
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You might need to be creative and have some extra steel on hand when putting a hitch on as getting to the main frame to attach hitch is a bit of a stretch.
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Old 11-16-2016, 06:31 AM   #4
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bus bodies have to meet extra special fed regs which makes them very heavy so i'd check teh bus' actual weight and compare it to what teh tow rating/gcwr is on a truck with the same engine/trans/gearing.

when tow ratings are figured they give an overall figure - on my 13 silverado that's 14,400 for GCWR. So they SAY I can tow 9600lbs..BUT the empty truck weights 5740lbs.
so when family is in truck we're 6300ish pounds..add in firewood, bikes, etc and we can hit 6500..well below the trucks GVRW (ignoring toungue weight) but to keep GCWR in specs we can really only tow 7900 lbs - far short of 9600.

So if the bus body is 2000lbs vs say, 600 for a pickup bed, you're losing tow capacity.
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Old 11-16-2016, 06:36 AM   #5
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I tow a 20' enclosed trailer with my 1997 e350 shuttle bus. It has a little 5.4L v8 gasser. It tows just fine. Slightly under powered but does the job. I'm sure your engine will be awesome for towing. The frame goes all the way back so attaching a hitch is just like a truck. Take advice from someone who has been their and done that.. Still doing it.. Remember, don't tow in overdrive, its real hard on the tranny.
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Old 11-16-2016, 06:42 AM   #6
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towing in OD isn't an issue (anymore). Not sure it ever was.
thre issue is if the vehicle is constantly shifting in/out of OD while towing.
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Old 11-16-2016, 06:46 AM   #7
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I'm not worried about attaching a hitch, I'm a pretty decent fabricator so that's not an issue. I was more concerned that it's similar to an f350 as I thought it would be.

I need something with a decent amount of interior room, so it's always been between a 1 ton van or a bus...a bus just sounds way more badass than a van!

What rear end would this have? Any simple way to find the gear ratio on an rpo code somewhere? Or get the vin and call the dealer?
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Old 11-16-2016, 07:01 AM   #8
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Most of the van-cutaway chassis buses are pretty close to the GVWR when they are empty. Taking out the seats and putting in cabinets, fixtures, appliances, etc. usually puts in more weight than what the seats weigh. Leaving even less net weight available.

Since the GVWR's of buses are similar to the pickup sized trucks of the same GVWR from the same OEM the GCWR can be extrapolated to reach an equivalent number.

As it was pointed out above, the total amount that is recommended to tow is not that much since the bus already weighs so much.

Most school buses have a full frame that goes all the way to the back where the bumper is attached. Commercial buses do NOT have nearly as much structure at the back of the bus behind the rear axle. In order to pull a trailer you will need to make sure that attaching a hitch/hitch receiver to the back bumper means you are attaching the hitch/hitch receiver to a structural member.

As far as towing in OD is concerned, with the modern 4-speed and more automatic transmissions, most get the increased number of gears not so much from more gear sets but from counting going into lockup as an additional gear. If you are in OD lockup the transmission will not be heating up nearly as much as if you were in D but not in lock up. In other words, regardless of which gear you are in, if you make sure you are in lock up you will be fine. As it was pointed out above, shifting in and out of gears or lock up will create a lot of heat. And heat in an automatic transmission will cause premature death. The best way to know is to have a transmission temperature gauge.

Personally, I would guess that you would be really pushing the envelope towing with an E-350 chassis bus with any trailer weighing much more than 3,500 lbs. There is just too much bus to add very much hitched on behind.
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Old 11-16-2016, 07:12 AM   #9
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Huh, I'm surprised it would weigh that much more than say a 15 passenger van. It's close to the same thing but with an aluminum box on the back.
Are there any outlets to find out what exactly the towing capacity the bus would be? All I'm finding is info for vans rated around 9500lb
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Old 11-16-2016, 07:29 AM   #10
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That aluminum box to which you identify is not aluminum, even on most commercial bus bodies.

School buses are almost exclusively made out of steel. Steel in the floor, steel in the ribs that go in one piece from at least the floor on one side to at least the floor on the other side, steel stringers under the floor, steel rails that go in one piece the length of the bus above the windows and at least three more spaced evenly between the window rail, and steel body panels on the inside and the outside. On top of the steel floor on a lot of school bus bodies there is a subfloor made out of at least 5/8" plywood. Some have used 3/4" and some have used 5/4".

To know how much you can put inside the bus and tow behind you will need to weigh the bus.

I had two 1990 Ford E-350 and on 1994 Ford E-350 chassis buses. All were rated at 21-pax with the 1994 one row longer than the 1990's because it had a rear luggage compartment.

The 1990's weighed in just over 9,000 lbs. and had a GVWR of 12,000 lbs.

The 1994 weighed in just over 11,000 lbs. and had a GVWR of 14,000 lbs.

That barely made them capable of hauling their 21 passengers and luggage if you used the national standard of 150 lbs. per passenger and 70 lbs. of luggage per passenger.

And if you had 21 guys my size you were considerably over the rated capacity of the chassis.

Which would leave you virtually no towing capacity since some of the tow weight would be tongue weight.

Which is most probably why you are having a hard time finding tow ratings for buses--they have no excess capacity to tow since they are maxxed out for gross weight with nothing hitched on behind.
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