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Old 01-04-2011, 09:14 AM   #1
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where to park/how to drive a bus and other questions

So I've tried lurking around to find some questions I have that may have already been asked, but when it comes to forums I can be rather slow. So if I ask questions that have been asked before I apologize.

One of my biggest questions or concerns really is driving, where to work on it, where to park it, I will ask questions about insurance that I know are all concentrated in another forum but it's easier for me if I just concentrate all my questions into one post rather than to scatter it around.

1. What are the differences from driving a bus and a car. I managed to find a dmv school bus guide and I read stuff like wider turns, changing lanes is a big thing with buses it said
Quote:
"Changing lanes with a school bus requires greater concentration and more careful use of mirrors than changing lanes with a car. To change lanes with a school bus, you should signal early, thoroughly check mirrors and blind spots and gradually move into the new lane. When you have positioned the bus in the new lane, remember to disengage the turning signal."
Things like turning a bus to a corner, or turning it around, it recommended not backing up and instead circling. Even though this was a school bus guide since a skoolie is a converted school bus I figured they would still apply and wondered how other people here learned to drive the school bus, or any tips or advice for me in driving. Also I won't have back windows (though I was thinking of installing a camera onto the back of the bus in replacement of having to rely on the side windows...)

2. When you first get your school bus where can you work on it? We don't have a big front yard and our backyard on each way to get to it is taken up by stairs and surrounded in 3 directions by neighbours. So there's no way for us to get it into the back. All we have then is our front yard and I don't know if it could fit a longer parked bus, and I also don't think the neighbours would appreciate it. So then where can I work on it?

3. Parking a bus to me is another important one. Most roads where I live and have lived have been built around cars and parking cars. If a truck happens to be parked it goes into the drive way (ours which is taken up already by a car and a van, another car which sits parked in the front--none of which are my cars). The school bus is going to be my main car so if I have to go to walmart, or if I want to stop at a restaurant, or any kind of store, or if I have an appointment with a place whose parking lot is built around accommodating small cars how do I figure this out?? What do others here do in the case of parking?

4. License. If I convert my school bus to an RV do I still need a special license? Like if a bus has 54 passengers, is that a big bus? Will that require a special license once converted into an RV?

5. Is the conversion process for an RV difficult to go about? How much does it 'tend' to cost, what's the process usually involve?

6. Insurance and bus conversion. I hear a lot of positive and a lot of negative about GMAC, the negative being only liability insurance? What are my insurance options, what are the pros and cons? One of the biggest things is I don't make much money and right now we're living on 600/month and we don't know how long that'll be. I'm 21 and know that if I am going to do this I need insurance, but I am going to need affordable insurance. I've never gotten auto insurance before so I'm not sure how to go about it.

Is the process: Buy the bus, find a place to work on it, try and register it as an RV (but they often require you to have insurance), so would I need to insure it as a bus before able to register and insure it as an RV?

7. Parts. So we're getting a school bus for around 2,500 and under. I read parts even just to fix a leaky transmission could cost (random number) something like 4,000. At that rate it would be cheaper to buy a new bus? What do you all recommend, or do when it comes to bus parts?

I think that's all I can think of asking for me the most important is the 'How to drive and where to park' the bus that gets me the most nervous. Thank you.
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Old 01-04-2011, 01:20 PM   #2
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Re: where to park/how to drive a bus and other questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ahna
...
1. What are the differences from driving a bus and a car. I managed to find a dmv school bus guide and I read stuff like wider turns, changing lanes is a big thing with buses it said...Things like turning a bus to a corner, or turning it around, it recommended not backing up and instead circling. Even though this was a school bus guide since a skoolie is a converted school bus I figured they would still apply and wondered how other people here learned to drive the school bus, or any tips or advice for me in driving. Also I won't have back windows (though I was thinking of installing a camera onto the back of the bus in replacement of having to rely on the side windows...)
Get a rear monitor! David was pulling the jeep out here with the bus and it blew a front tire. He had no clue that the tire had blown
(meanwhile I'm freaking out... he was tearing my jeep to pieces!!!! Rim is very damaged). He kept saying the bus acted like the jeep wasn't even back there. We have a wireless back up monitor/camera that I picked up on sale a couple of years ago (never got it installed on the Class C). We have to see if the distance is too far for the receiver.
Quote:
2. When you first get your school bus where can you work on it? We don't have a big front yard and our backyard on each way to get to it is taken up by stairs and surrounded in 3 directions by neighbours. So there's no way for us to get it into the back. All we have then is our front yard and I don't know if it could fit a longer parked bus, and I also don't think the neighbours would appreciate it. So then where can I work on it?

3. Parking a bus to me is another important one. Most roads where I live and have lived have been built around cars and parking cars. If a truck happens to be parked it goes into the drive way (ours which is taken up already by a car and a van, another car which sits parked in the front--none of which are my cars). The school bus is going to be my main car so if I have to go to walmart, or if I want to stop at a restaurant, or any kind of store, or if I have an appointment with a place whose parking lot is built around accommodating small cars how do I figure this out?? What do others here do in the case of parking?
Those tow are kinda related to each other. Depends on the regulations where you live. If parking is that tight, probably not allowed. You may have to find a vacant lot to use. Perhaps a piece of land with a mobile home hookup on it. Get a scooter or a bicycle. You car not taking a school bus into a tight parking lot unless its a shorty. My Class C is only 22 ft long and it's a PITA to get into a tight parking lot. We park out a ways and walk in... it's good exercise. We have passed up many a parking lot because we couldn't make the turn to get in. Be prepared to do a lot of back-tracking. Stores with huge lots are your friends. Start looking at how big RV's and semi trucks park, take turns and deal with various parking lots. They do a lot of walking.
Quote:
4. License. If I convert my school bus to an RV do I still need a special license? Like if a bus has 54 passengers, is that a big bus? Will that require a special license once converted into an RV?
How do we know. We don't know where you are... In most cases, not all, by title/tagging as an RV you will not need a special license. You may need a slightly different drive's license but probably not. It really depends on the state you reside in.
Quote:
5. Is the conversion process for an RV difficult to go about? How much does it 'tend' to cost, what's the process usually involve?
As much or as little as you want. Bear in mind you are building the equivalent of a house. How cheap can you build a house? How talented are you? So me folks convert to what I call a "sheet metal tent". Others convert to a fulltime home. Most fall in between there. Just remember, you will most likely NEVER recoup any of your time and precious little of your money should you decide to sell.
Quote:
6. Insurance and bus conversion. I hear a lot of positive and a lot of negative about GMAC, the negative being only liability insurance? What are my insurance options, what are the pros and cons? One of the biggest things is I don't make much money and right now we're living on 600/month and we don't know how long that'll be. I'm 21 and know that if I am going to do this I need insurance, but I am going to need affordable insurance. I've never gotten auto insurance before so I'm not sure how to go about it.
Get your states minimums for insurance. And then get something like Coach Net (roadside service). You insurance will probably never pay out if you need it. Because it is a home conversion, even if you document to crap out of it, they will find a reason not to pay out. That's just insurance companies.
Quote:
Is the process: Buy the bus, find a place to work on it, try and register it as an RV (but they often require you to have insurance), so would I need to insure it as a bus before able to register and insure it as an RV?
Find out the answers BEFORE you buy a bus! You have already stated that you probably can't park it in your yard/drive/street. So where are you going to park it? I would suggest you find a place to park it where you can live in it at the same time (you need warmish weather). And buy either a partially converted or fully converted bus.
Quote:
7. Parts. So we're getting a school bus for around 2,500 and under. I read parts even just to fix a leaky transmission could cost (random number) something like 4,000. At that rate it would be cheaper to buy a new bus? What do you all recommend, or do when it comes to bus parts?
You don't want to know what it cost to redo our radiator on the way out here! http://www.etxrad.com/ these guys were great and did a good job and it cost less than we expected but still lots of $$$ (radiator pooped out on the way out here). Everything cost lots of $$. Get something that isn't needing lots of parts replaced and then take care of them. We paid $1400 for our Bluebird (40 ft) everything was in good shape. The radiator had a crack in it that had been "fixed". Turns out, whomever fixed it, didn't use flux. Had a pound or so of solder inside the radiator. The guys working on it were amazed at what they dumped out (lots of solder, rocks and sand... bus used to transport whitewater rafters hither and yon... seems they refilled the radiator from the creeks). We were amazed at the radiators they built (they showed them off to us!!)
Quote:
I think that's all I can think of asking for me the most important is the 'How to drive and where to park' the bus that gets me the most nervous. Thank you.
I haven't driven our bus yet... But I was told (for the Eagle and it is similar to the BlueBird in handling) that when turning right, edge over to the left hand side of the lane (if you can just edge over the center line it's good), wait until the front edge of the road you want to turn down is even with your shoulder then turn the wheel like mad and hope you don't hit the car that will inevitably be sitting there waiting to turn as the bus's left wheel touches the center line (left line of the lane), straight out the bus as fast as you can (THIS is why I want a necker knob for the steering wheel). Interstate roads are wide and a piece of cake... good place to learn to drive... except in a big city like Atlanta. When driving down a two lane road place your front left tire on the center line. When you drive over a bridge... drive down the middle. Again, watch the semi's and see how they do it. And watch out for on coming traffic. When meeting another big rig (RV, semi) either adjust your speed so that only one of you is one the bridge at a time or hold your breath and edge over as much as you dare. It works for the Class C (which eats up the lane width on the back roads we like to travel) but it's not that big. It's roughly how David drives the bus. I have had my mirrors on the Class C "tapped" by a semi-truck's mirrors (make sure your bus mirrors will fold back onto the bus... keep them flexible so you don't have to buy new ones). That was a long narrow bridge. Use lots of care around big RV's and logging trucks. Logging trucks just don't care (terrible drivers) and the RVer's usually can't drive their rigs. No sudden stops... buses are heavy and it takes a long time to stop them... allow for that.
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Old 01-04-2011, 05:06 PM   #3
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Re: where to park/how to drive a bus and other questions

I love the idea of a rear monitor, I didn't know they existed outside of built in cars. I'll do that. Are there any brands you would recommend?
Quote:
"Those two are kinda related to each other. Depends on the regulations where you live. If parking is that tight, probably not allowed. You may have to find a vacant lot to use. Perhaps a piece of land with a mobile home hookup on it. Get a scooter or a bicycle. You car not taking a school bus into a tight parking lot unless its a shorty. My Class C is only 22 ft long and it's a PITA to get into a tight parking lot. We park out a ways and walk in... it's good exercise. We have passed up many a parking lot because we couldn't make the turn to get in. Be prepared to do a lot of back-tracking. Stores with huge lots are your friends. Start looking at how big RV's and semi trucks park, take turns and deal with various parking lots. They do a lot of walking."
That's a bummer. I'm glad I asked that question because for me being able to move around with little restriction is a must currently. I'll have to rethink the size of the bus I am going to get then and look into a shorter (medium) bus instead. On the bright side it would scratch my questions 2,3 and 4.
Quote:
"How do we know. We don't know where you are... In most cases, not all, by title/tagging as an RV you will not need a special license. You may need a slightly different drive's license but probably not. It really depends on the state you reside in."
Sorry I meant what's the general idea, I want to know what you had to go through regardless of where you were, whether it was Wisconsin or Texas. I know it's a state thing, but it does help me to paint an image of what different people had to do to regarding question #4. For anyone who has converted a school bus that is 54 passengers is that a big (long) bus? If it is a big/long bus then it might require a special license which is why I asked. (I'm measuring length of the bus inside my head based on the number of seats and I don't know if 54 seats is long or short)

You know I don't know what I meant when I wrote 5 because I used the wrong word when I said conversion process. Oh! Now I remember. I didn't mean how much it cost to build, I'm sorry. I meant the cost of converting a bus to RV on paper. It doesn't matter to me if it's 200 in one state or 30 in another I'm just building an image.

Quote:
"Find out the answers BEFORE you buy a bus! You have already stated that you probably can't park it in your yard/drive/street. So where are you going to park it? I would suggest you find a place to park it where you can live in it at the same time (you need warmish weather). And buy either a partially converted or fully converted bus."
Before I read these, I didn't realize it would be so difficult to find a place to work on. But also because of it's size and the trouble it would cause in this moment I have decided to search for a smaller bus. Using the seats as a measurement what would be a not small but medium sized bus between large and small (number of seats wise). Anyone know?

Quote:
"You don't want to know what it cost to redo our radiator on the way out here!"
I do want to know because I know it is very* expensive and I'm trying to decide if my bus breaks down is it cheaper to just invest in a new bus and move everything from that bus to the new bus or is it worth finding someone to fix it?

Thank you so much Lorna, your information was very helpful and has helped me to reevaluate. It's amazing how much changing the size of what I want eliminates so many questions. One more question. How did you all learn how to drive a bus? Were there lessons, trial and error, or did you practice in a desolate area?
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Old 01-06-2011, 10:24 PM   #4
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Re: where to park/how to drive a bus and other questions

I live in Western Kansas where there's more cattle than people, but since my wife and I split, I've been using my bus for everything. Like I said, there's plenty of space out here to turn, park, and drive. But I have taken my bus through Kansas City (even suburbs to drop off step kids), shopping malls, crowded places, back roads, Denver hospitals, etc. You just have to really plan in advance and anticipate that other people are jackasses! The nice thing about a bus in heavy traffic is that people will EVENTUALLY move!

Repairs can be costly, especially away from home. Preventative maintainence is your friend, but that can also fail. Stuff just breaks.

I've been fortunate that my 65 passenger bus fits nicely in my driveway and my neighbors are all really old so they don't see the Silver Snail in the front yard. I also have a friend with an outstanding wood and metal shop to work on the bus. Without Dennis, I don't know how I'd have gotten. Many of the thing done that I have.

Owning a bus can be awesome and heartbreaking all within seconds! Good luck with you quest! You're asking great questions...there's a lot of information out there. You'll never never go wrong with information.

Ben.
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Old 01-08-2011, 10:56 AM   #5
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Re: where to park/how to drive a bus and other questions

Some more driving tips. As said above, go practice in a big empty parking lot somewhere. Watch the lines, try to get the tires close without going over. Slowly get close to objects in the parking lot, like light poles and curbs. Always check ALL mirrors before turning. Take your time, the idea is to learn in a controlled environment so that you know what it can do when you have to react to traffic situations. It's very helpful to have a spotter with you to practice backing up, have someone guide you back to a certain point so you can get your reference points for the rear corners.

One thing that's often overlooked: tail swing. I've been driving school buses for a living for 8 years, and coach buses for 3. The most common body damage area I've seen is the rear corners, especially with buses that drive in the city. To get an idea how much room you need to leave yourself, pull up alongside a curb, then make a sharp turn away from the curb and stop at about a 30 degree angle. Get out and look to see how far the corner is over the curb. When preparing for a sharp turn, remember to scan the areas on both sides of the bus to see how much room you have to play with, and watch both sides as you turn.

A backup camera is good for tight maneuvers and for towing, as stated above. A spotter is also a good idea, but if you're by yourself, don't be afraid to get out and look. If you ever see "G.O.A.L." on the mirrors of a truck, that's what it stands for. Take things slow until you're comfortable with how it handles. People expect buses and RVs to be slow. They'll do all kinds of stupid things to try to get around you, but you get used to it. If they hit you because you were going slow, it's their fault. If you hit them because you were rushing to try to get out of someone's way, it's your fault.
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Old 01-09-2011, 05:32 PM   #6
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Re: where to park/how to drive a bus and other questions

Quote:
The radiator had a crack in it that had been "fixed". Turns out, whomever fixed it, didn't use flux. Had a pound or so of solder inside the radiator. The guys working on it were amazed at what they dumped out (lots of solder, rocks and sand... bus used to transport whitewater rafters hither and yon... seems they refilled the radiator from the creeks).
I'm sorry...I know I shouldn't...but I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants when i read that!
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Old 01-09-2011, 06:48 PM   #7
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Re: where to park/how to drive a bus and other questions

It wasn't funny sitting in TX, in sweltering heat and spending ALL day at a shop. They were very nice and said we could spent the night in their parking lot if we wanted to (we wally docked down the road). And they did put a lot of overtime in on the radiator (They were also working overtime on another project). Cost was $812 (including replacing fluids). But to be honest, that wasn't too bad of a trip out here. The only things we had "break down" on the trip out here was the radiator and the tire on the Jeep (UNLOCK THE STEERING WHEEL WHEN YOU TOW 4 DOWN!!!)
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