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Old 12-13-2004, 06:12 PM   #1
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Driving the new bus home -- suggestions?

Hello-

Just purchased my bus for conversion, and will be driving it home (1700 miles) from Wisconsin to Arizona starting next weekend.

Without getting into the sanity of such a decision ( )-- are there any tips for the drive? This is my first bus & first diesel machine, but I am familiar with automotive basics regarding engines, electrics, etc. In addition to a tire pressure gauge, voltage test light...any recommended tools? How cold is "cold enough" to plug in the block heater, generally speaking?

It's a 1993 Genesis/International, DT360 engine.

Thanks in advance -- looking forward to hearing from you & sharing the conversion journey.

Sean
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Old 12-13-2004, 06:53 PM   #2
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Are you going to be traveling on I-80 going through Des Moines, a bunch of us could get together and grab a bite to eat/show and tell or something.
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Old 12-13-2004, 07:03 PM   #3
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Hi Steve-

Unfortunately, I'll be going south from the Milwaukee area: I-39 to I-55 to (maybe I-44) to I-40. I only have a few days to get the driving done, and have to take the most direct route.

That's an excellent offer though --- will take a raincheck for now. It would be good to see some conversions in person, meet the people who did the work/busted their knuckles/scratched their heads [repeat] to make it all happen.

Thanks
Sean
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Old 12-13-2004, 09:11 PM   #4
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among other things, i would bring:

tire plug kit

a gallon of 15w40 rotella T oil. Or mobil delvac

a gallon of anti-freeze

a winter coat and hat

a blanket or piece of foam to fill the small gap at the bottom of dorr to help keep heat in.

duct tape

good sam club roadside assitance....only $100.00 per year, they'll tow your vehicle unlimited mileage to the nearest appropriate facility to reapair it (or someplace closer) free of charge

a 5 gallon can of diesel fuel.

jumper cables

learn how to prime the fuel system

check the oil, trans fluid ect before leaving, and monitor them on the way home when you stop for fuel. If you do this on your way home, you'll have a good idea about what if anything is leaking, burning ect.

I don't have much info on the dt series engine. The ford 6.6 liter will start at any temp until about 10 degrees or so without being plugged in. IT's much happier if it gets plugged in with anything in the 30's or less.

IF you're worried bout her starting in the cold weather.....why not just leave her running and sleep in her during the couple nites it takes to get home? I would not recommend getting in the habbit of leaving your vehicle run all the time, but doing it just a couple nites in a row to get her home shouldn't hurt anything. Alll the big trucks at the truck stopps run 24 hours a day.
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Old 12-14-2004, 01:28 AM   #5
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Wow, thank you for that bevy of info!

Sean
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Old 12-14-2004, 12:45 PM   #6
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To add to the advice a little, make sure whoever is selling it to you goes over some "need to know" stuff about the bus. Some diesels have preheaters for the engines so look into that and how it works, if it has one. These work great if you can't plug the bus in. Up here in the frozen tundra it's a good idea to know how to preheat the engine any way possible.

The weather up here is very unpredictable this time of year so check to see what the temps are going to be and dress accordingly. Bring blankets and cold weather gear in case you break down in the middle of nowhere and have to camp out in the cold bus until help arrives. We had 9 degrees this morning and if you are from the south you can't imagine what that feels like on your hands until you experience it. It gets much colder, but 10 degrees or colder has a very memorable snap to the air. You have several cold states to travel through so I thought this was worth mentioning in detail Good luck in your journey and let us know how it went. Photographic evidence of this experience would be best!

Merry Christmas, God bless and God speed!! ;)
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Old 12-14-2004, 05:20 PM   #7
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How are you dealing with CDL, registration, and insurance - or shouldn't I ask

I'm getting ready to purchase and have identified a number of dealers that will deliver to my house since Massachusetts has no temp tags of any sort, mandatory insurance, and no way to register as a motorhome without a title change requiring an inspection by the State Police (that's is been converted, safety inspection is the same as a private car).

Jake
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Old 12-14-2004, 05:24 PM   #8
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You don't need a CDL and he should be fine to drive it home with a sign that says "In Transit" on the back.
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Old 12-14-2004, 05:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve
You don't need a CDL and he should be fine to drive it home with a sign that says "In Transit" on the back.
Hmm, are you saying I could buy a bus in Illinois and just drive it home to Massachusetts with my class D without a title conversion? That would really open up my options. http://www.used-bus.com/ has several of the rear engined Thomas busses I'm interested in.

Cheers,

Jake
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Old 12-14-2004, 10:25 PM   #10
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Hi vonslatt,

You're trippin' into a very grey area with the CDL, temp tags, and such. The real problem is that the rules are not uniform throughout the U.S. and it's hard to tell what an Officer of the Law would do in any particlar area or circumstance.

In my (this time humble) opinion if the the bus still has the commercial (school bus) plates on it from the State of purchase and the seats are all still in there it's going to be a chore to explain that you are *not* driving a commercial vehicle requiring a CDL. That Officer *may* choose to understand the situation with your bill of sale and such but then again...

If the plates came off the vehicle and you had a trip permit or better still temp tags (or best of all non-commercial plates) you could probably make the trip without much trouble; especially if most of the seats are removed (get under that magical 15-passenger count).

So, if Mass has no temp tags what happens there when you buy a new car? Do they have plates on hand so you can drive home immediately?

Do you know anybody in another State that can get the bus registered as a non-commecial vehicle (private truck, suburban, private bus, etc)? Then you should be able to get the bus registered in Mass without too much hassle since you bought it from a private party with non-commercial plates. Then after you get it converted you could change it to a motorhome.

Initially the key here in Washington was just to tell them I had a bus that I wanted to register as a private vehicle; I didn't go the motorhome route. At least here, there's nothing to prevent you from licensing a bus just like a private truck as long as you don't exceed the passenger and weight limitations for commercial vehicles. Once the bus is legally an "RV" you sidestep those issues. [Wouldn't you know it, right after I registered the bus they changed it so I could register as a motorhome without the inspection! Which I did! (thanks J.B.)]

Cover your nether regions on insurance for sure; you can get insurance on a private bus from GMAC insurance (GMAC is also available through Camping World and Good Sam (at perhaps a better price)). Make sure the bus is *not* still licensed as a commercial vehicle then GMAC just needs the pertinent info (VIN, Year, Make, etc) to get the policy in force.

So here's the YMMV part! This all worked for me and I never ran into any problems at all; most importantly I was never driving a "commercial" vehicle and a CDL is *NEVER* required on a non-commercial vehicle (that's Federal Law). That doesn't mean various States can't require extra endorsements to your regular non-commercial license though so be careful. If Mass is a State that requires an endoresment for Air Brakes (even on non-commercial licenses) and you buy a bus with air brakes make sure you get that endorsement before you start driving home. Some States require an endorsement (again, on a non-commercial license) for "extra large" vehicles so do your homework. And if the bus exceeds private weight limits in your State and can not be licensed as a private bus/truck/suburban you're outta luck without getting it licensed as a motorhome (that's when the Federal exemption kicks in on the CDL requirement).

Hope some of this rambling helps....
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Old 12-15-2004, 09:50 AM   #11
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Thanks for the detailed post Les!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Les Lampman
So, if Mass has no temp tags what happens there when you buy a new car? Do they have plates on hand so you can drive home immediately?
Mass RMV says:

"If you own a vehicle or trailer and purchase a new vehicle or trailer from a dealer or purchase a used vehicle or trailer from a private party, you may transfer your registration to the newly acquired vehicle. Massachusetts allows a grace period of seven (7) calendar days from the date you dispose of your previous vehicle to register your newly acquired vehicle.

Under this grace period, the following conditions must be met:

* You must be at least 18 years old.
* The newly acquired vehicle or trailer must be of the same type and have the same number of wheels as the previous vehicle or trailer.
* You must carry the transfer documents, which show the registration number to be transferred, in your vehicle.
* You must have lost possession of or disposed of your previous vehicle.
* The registration plates must be attached to the newly acquired vehicle.

Please note, there is no grace period if you do not currently have a registered vehicle or trailer. The RMV does not issue temporary registration plates. "

So, I could probably do it if I had "Auto home" plates to attach, it's a chicken/egg problem. The yard in Illinois just forwarded me the name of a ferry service that charges $1/mile. Not outragous - but more then I want to spend for a 900+ mile trip.

Thanks again,

Jake.
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Old 12-15-2004, 04:16 PM   #12
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I just drove my "new" bus 800 miles, all I had was a sticker from the seller in the back window, no plates, covered the school bus insignia with black paint. Picked up 5 gallons of transmission fluid and 4 gallons of oil. (had some leaks) I made it home with no major problems. (had fingers crossed) The way I understood it was my current insurance policy covered me in a new vehicle, not sure if that was true or not but I took the chance and didn't get into any accidents or get pulled over.
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Old 12-15-2004, 04:30 PM   #13
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Quote:
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The way I understood it was my current insurance policy covered me in a new vehicle, not sure if that was true or not but I took the chance and didn't get into any accidents or get pulled over.
I have heard that too.
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Old 12-15-2004, 06:12 PM   #14
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perhaps you could register the vehicle in the state where you are purchasing it from? Register it as a non-commercial bus. I have a friend in ohio that had a michigan drivers liscense with a michigan address and purchased ohio liscense plates for his truck while we was going to school there.

On the opposite extreme, you'll probably be just fine driving home without any plates. A guy from michigan drove a bus several years ago all the way to Alaska, including 2 international border crossings, with an expired temporary paper tag. His thought is that the bus is so big and out of the ordinary that nobody even noticed the lack of registration.

I was fortunate enough to have purchased my bus 10 miles from my house, so driving home without a plate wasn't such a big deal.

IF i bought a bus in another state, i think i woudl try to put plates on it before i drove it home. Why couldn't send a money order through the mail to the owner, and have him mail you the title.....then you could register it at the dmv before you left (as a non-commercial bus) and take the plates with you? The only downside would be if you are purchasing the bus sight unseen.
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Old 12-15-2004, 07:42 PM   #15
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Hi vonslatt,

Interesting concept on the registration in Mass. It still intrigues me that you could go to an RV dealer and buy a brand-new megabuck motorhome and have no way to drive it home until you go to the licensing department and get plates! The dealers out here want you in the driver's seat and on your way home with the "paper plate" in the back window before you realize what you just did!

Quote:
The way I understood it was my current insurance policy covered me in a new vehicle, not sure if that was true or not but I took the chance and didn't get into any accidents or get pulled over.
I understand this is true as well, except that most insurance policies specifically exclude a vehicle used for commercial purposes. My concern would be that if the bus you were driving was still licensed as a commercial vehicle and you did have a problem your insurance company (understanding folks that they are) would deny they ever heard of you. I drove my bus 1500 miles home under the assumption (how's that for faith?) that my insurance coverage *did* in fact cover me in the bus with a temporary private paper plate in the rear window.

I'd ask the folks at the bus sales place if the current license plates are removed from the vehicle (I know in a lot of States that would be the case); if so, you should be able to go the local DOT or licensing office and get a trip permit (here in Washington it's good for 3 days). Anything official looking in the rear window is probably going to let you run down the road without a hassle (do *not* pull into the scales (commercial weigh stations) though!).

Can you register in Mass as just a truck or something before you convert your bus to a motorhome?
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Old 12-15-2004, 10:52 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Les Lampman
Hi vonslatt,

Interesting concept on the registration in Mass. It still intrigues me that you could go to an RV dealer and buy a brand-new megabuck motorhome and have no way to drive it home until you go to the licensing department and get plates! The dealers out here want you in the driver's seat and on your way home with the "paper plate" in the back window before you realize what you just did!
. . .
Can you register in Mass as just a truck or something before you convert your bus to a motorhome?
Hah! well you see, dealers all have "runners" that will go to the registry and get your plates while the dealer arranges the financing.

We don't seem to have a "private bus" or "private truck" over 26,000 lbs class, there are non-profit buses - but insurance for those is probably not cheap and insurance is not optional.

In fact, if I recall correctly, only 15 or 20 years ago you had to get commercial plates for a private pickup truck. And you could get ticketed for commuting to work in your p/u on the "recreational" freeways that lead into Boston along the Charles river.

Now if I were a farmer I could drive anything "between fields" with no registration what so ever.

On the plus side, the conversion to motorhome process looks easy, the state police come to your house to do the inspection to determine that the vehicle has been converted to a motorhome, the officer then signs a form that you submit with your RMV1 registration/application for title.

There is a fairly big busyard in the next town - maybe I'll get lucky and they'll get some MVP-REs in.

Jake
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Old 12-16-2004, 09:52 AM   #17
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Well, they make it tough on us sometimes, that's for sure. My bus didn't hit the 26,000 pound mark so I was able to get just regular 'ol truck plates at first.

Sounds like if you could bring your bus home on a trip permit or temporary tag from out-of-state to your place, you could then get the conversion done and get your registration and titling done once you're "converted".

Best of luck at any rate!
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Old 12-22-2004, 09:51 AM   #18
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Thank you one and all for the suggestions. I made it back home yesterday; ~1900 miles in 3 days. Bus ran flawlessly, but now I have an appreciation for skoolie gearing -- lots of oomph below 45, after that....not much. I learned all about having your 4-way flashers on to warn the truckers on grades ("grades" being anything >1%).


I had the bill of sale and title (not yet transferred) and after explaining the situation, the folks at the New Mexico weigh station waved me through with a smile.

When I got home some neighbors came over to see the bus. They and my girlfriend piled in and we went for a "route" through the neighborhood. Lots of smiles and laughter, and some strange looks from bystanders.

But now it's time for the REAL fun!
Next step is to pull the seats, give her a washing, take lots of pics, then peek in the floor, walls & ceiling to see what I have, rust-wise and insulation-wise.

Sean
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