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Old 07-11-2017, 10:20 PM   #1
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Engine Costs?

Howdy all,
My husband and I are in the process of deciding whether or not we can practically convert a bus. We've seen several conversions that fit our budget and are leaning in that direction, but our biggest concern is the cost associated with maintaining the engine to keep it running. Part of what attracts us to the bus is being able to move it with us. (Husband is a college football coach and we may need to move every few years as his job changes.) We need to know how often the engine would need to be serviced and how much that will set us back, and worst case scenario, what are some of the most common engine problems in old school buses. (I hope I'm posting this question in the right place. I'm brand new to the site!)
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Old 07-11-2017, 11:01 PM   #2
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welcome to site,
noob here, so i cant say much.

I assume the worst case scenario would be needing a new engine. At that point you would have to weight the cost of new engine, time spent on build, money into current build, vs getting another bus.
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Old 07-11-2017, 11:28 PM   #3
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A gas engine doesn't cost much more to maintain than many cars, especially in the cutaway style buses.

Diesel engines are another matter, and it partly depends who is doing the work. Consider most school bus diesel engines use 16+ quarts (yes, that's over 4 gallons) of oil and some have 2 oil filters ... fuel filters (and yes, there's often more than one) need to be changed regularly too. Do *NOT* use the same 10W30 oil intended for gas engines. You'll need to use the 15W40 rated for diesel engines (which knowledgeable members here will gladly guide you on). Having this done by a shop will probably set you back well over $100; doing it yourself will save you money and it's not all that difficult.

Cooling system will likely use several gallons of coolant but it can be tested and additives used to extend the life, reducing how often it needs to be flushed.

Worst case scenario, should you suffer a blown engine, some engines can be rebuilt "in-frame" (common in big trucks and some school bus engines). This is a bit more daunting but some engines are within the realm of a reasonably competent do-it-yourselfer. I'd estimate a DT466 could be rebuilt yourself for somewhere around $2000; where a shop will probably set you back around $8000 or more (most of it is labor). If you're talking about a bus you just picked up at auction and haven't done more than remove the seats then it's kind of a toss up whether to re-do the engine or look for another bus. After a conversion? The rebuild becomes more realistic at some point.
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Old 10-04-2017, 12:15 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by BatieKuchanan View Post
Howdy all,
My husband and I are in the process of deciding whether or not we can practically convert a bus. We've seen several conversions that fit our budget and are leaning in that direction, but our biggest concern is the cost associated with maintaining the engine to keep it running. Part of what attracts us to the bus is being able to move it with us. (Husband is a college football coach and we may need to move every few years as his job changes.) We need to know how often the engine would need to be serviced and how much that will set us back, and worst case scenario, what are some of the most common engine problems in old school buses. (I hope I'm posting this question in the right place. I'm brand new to the site!)
I think it needs to be in a different forum. HOWEVER! I can help. As I drive trucks for a living. Depending on engine manufacturer. I Cummins 8k, CAT 8K miles or three months. Change the fuel every month as the different stations have different quality. The air filter I would ever other oil change. The transmission I'm researching. But the engine "PM" preventive maintenance. USUALLY start at 200 dollars depending on location and filter preference along with oil preference. I would change the rear end oil once a year with synthetic oil.
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Old 10-04-2017, 01:52 PM   #5
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If the cost of maintaining the bus is more of an issue that the gas mileage, you may want to look into a Gas bus.
I currently have 2, one is a 1985 International with the DT466, great engine and one of the cheapest and easiest Diesel buses to fix, but will still cost a lot compared to the gas engine.
The other bus is a 1991 GMC with the 366 Gas engine. I have driven both loaded and can not see/feel any real difference in seat of the pants power, both are slow on hills and both will do 65-75 on the flats.
However, the GMC 366 is just like the gas engine in a pickup truck(454) and can be serviced the same way. It even has hydraulic brakes like a pickup truck.
Both buses are 38ish feet long, both are 70 passenger type, same bus, just different engine and brakes.
If I was to drive around the country and put on a lot of miles, I would want the diesel, if I am going to drive to a place and stay for a long time before moving again, the gas would be the cheaper option.
The gas bus will also be cheaper to buy in the first place as they are seen as less desirable.
So, its up to you and how you plan to use the bus.
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Old 11-05-2017, 04:28 AM   #6
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Gas busses are also less desirable because a lot of school districts and states won't option a bus with a gasoline engine due to safety concerns. Here in Kentucky, all school buses are required to be diesel, following the Carrollton Bus Crash in 1988.

A retired school bus, full of church kids, was hit head on by a toyota pickup going the wrong way on the interstate. The right front suspension of the bus sheared and went through the gas tank, and the bus was consumed in fire. There were no serious injuries from the collision, but 24 kids and 3 adults died because they couldn't get out of the bus.
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Old 11-05-2017, 01:49 PM   #7
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Gas busses are also less desirable because a lot of school districts and states won't option a bus with a gasoline engine due to safety concerns. Here in Kentucky, all school buses are required to be diesel, following the Carrollton Bus Crash in 1988.

A retired school bus, full of church kids, was hit head on by a toyota pickup going the wrong way on the interstate. The right front suspension of the bus sheared and went through the gas tank, and the bus was consumed in fire. There were no serious injuries from the collision, but 24 kids and 3 adults died because they couldn't get out of the bus.
It is also for this reason Kentucky requires more emergency exits than any other state or federal law.
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Old 11-05-2017, 02:00 PM   #8
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It is also for this reason Kentucky requires more emergency exits than any other state or federal law.
My 92 Ward sure had/has a LOT of exits!!
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Old 11-05-2017, 02:07 PM   #9
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My 92 Ward sure had/has a LOT of exits!!
I think they mandate a minimum of 5 exits. Front and back door, side door and two hatches, or no side door and three hatches.
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Old 11-05-2017, 02:33 PM   #10
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I think they mandate a minimum of 5 exits. Front and back door, side door and two hatches, or no side door and three hatches.
Yep mine had two roof hatches, four window escapes, front door, rear door, and side door.
They were serious in 92!
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