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Old 02-20-2015, 08:01 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Posts: 15
Year: 1996
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Ford E-350
Engine: 7.3L Turbo Diesel
1996 Ford/Collins school bus conversion project

Hi everyone, I am starting a conversion project and will most likely need some advice. So here it is from the begining! The main function will be for my band to tour California and beyond. However, there will most likely be a lot of camping trips hosted by this thing, so I miiiight end up putting in some other items more catered towards living than touring.

It is a 1996 Ford E-350 with a 7.3L Turbo Diesel, has 235,000 miles on it. I bought it about a month ago and was told that the school district was still using it up until October. Has brand new tires and brakes and seems to be in good working order. I first drove it from about 3 hours north of here to pick her up, that went very well. I then drove about an hour to get her painted, which turned out nice I think. However, on the way back I broke down in traffic. The engine lost power and cut out while driving 65mpg during rush hour... not that fun. After a tow and some shady mechanics I was told that the problem was not only a fuel leak (which I noticed as the tow truck picked her up) but also a bad Camshaft Position Sensor. They definitely took advantage of me being out of town and in need of help, but apparently fixed these problems. On my way back from the shop, she broke down again. Same problem. A very friendly tow truck driver helped me get it started by pumping the gas and cranking it at the same time. When it starts, it sounds/runs great. However from time to time it will shut down.

I managed to get home and after some research decided to replace that cam sensor again. Apparently the sensor can be bad from the factory if it isn't OEM. Now I am going to drive it around as much as possible to see if there is still the same problem. Any ideas on what else I can look for? I will post more pictures including some interior picks soon.

I paid $3500 for the bus. Any opinions on how good of a deal I got? I have been thinking of doing the bus thing for a long time now and finally pulled the trigger.
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Old 02-20-2015, 08:26 PM   #2
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Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Western Tennessee
Posts: 102
Year: 1985
Coachwork: Wayne Chaperone
Chassis: chevy
Engine: 350
I love the RED. My favorite color.
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Old 02-20-2015, 09:28 PM   #3
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 12,136
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Ward/AmTran
Chassis: International
Engine: dt466
Rated Cap: 78
Since you asked-
I guess it depends on the area. To me 3500 sounds a bit steep for price. But no need to worry. You got what looks like a solid bus. Get It sorted out mechanically before going too far with conversions would be my advice.
The 7.3 has a good reputation. That would have been my choice of engines. You should be able to find a ton of info as well as qualified mechanics who won't rip you off.
I hate breaking down, that sucks!
Diesel shops can be pretty price gougey to travelers. Especially if they don't have lots of grease under their nails. It all just depends, though.
The good thing is that you have a BEAUTIFUL bus and you got home safely.
The rest of the headaches from there on are just part of bus life.
Welcome aboard.
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Old 02-20-2015, 10:22 PM   #4
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Everything in an engine, whether gas or diesel, is connected. The camshaft and crankshaft rely on one another for the engine to work. Since the engine is cutting out and the camshaft censor is fine, then it's most likely a belt timing issue, which means the cam and/or crankshaft's timing isn't as it should be. This will most likely require either a retiming of both shafts(which requires a rebuild, worst case scenario), a slight adjustment to the belts, or it could just be a fault in the wiring to the censor.
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Old 02-20-2015, 10:49 PM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Posts: 15
Year: 1996
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Ford E-350
Engine: 7.3L Turbo Diesel
Is there anything I can check for or test to narrow down the problem? I'd love to do some preliminary work before taking it to a mechanic... Although it's looking like that needs to happen.
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Old 02-20-2015, 10:57 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Posts: 15
Year: 1996
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Ford E-350
Engine: 7.3L Turbo Diesel
Here are some more shots from today. I just removed some seats, took off the stop sign and removed all flashing red lights since I'm told that is needed for registering in California. Off to the DMV on Monday.
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Old 02-20-2015, 11:16 PM   #7
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Posts: 15
Year: 1996
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Ford E-350
Engine: 7.3L Turbo Diesel
What are some things that people have done to keep the passenger door/hydraulic system locked? I can reach in and pop that emergency lever pretty easy. I was thinking about just going to home depot and bolting on a standard fence type latch.
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Old 02-21-2015, 12:29 AM   #8
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Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Snowflake, Arizona
Posts: 324
Year: 1996
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All American Rear Engine
Engine: C-8.3-300 Cummins MD3060
Rated Cap: 40 Prisoners
engine

On the engine stopping I would go over to one of the Ford diesel forums
and search for any pattern failures on that engine for that year, it could be
a control module or maybe poor oil pressure. This depends on the type of
injection system you have on the motor, the later models used a separate
oil pressure system to operate the injectors and some times if the oil got
to thick it would affect the firing of the injectors. If you have a wire connector at the top of the valve covers that goes to the interior of the valve cover then you have the electronic controlled engine with the auxiliary oil
pressure system. The wires where they go into the valve covers are also
notorious for shorting out and breaking down. Check out the ford diesel forums and get a good idea of what they say for common failures and then
you can take it to the mechanic better prepared to understand what they are
doing to your rig and also request the old parts be returned to you as well.
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Old 02-21-2015, 09:41 AM   #9
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Stony Plain Alberta Canada
Posts: 2,939
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC2000 FE
Engine: 190hp 5.9 Cummins
Rated Cap: 72
I'm so so sorry you have a Ford.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Veganvegabond View Post
Since the engine is cutting out and the camshaft censor is fine, then it's most likely a belt timing issue,
Do ford diesel engines really use a timing belt?

A Cummins the timing is set in the gear train in the front of the injection pump.

Nat
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Old 02-21-2015, 09:50 AM   #10
Bus Crazy
 
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Moodus, Ct.
Posts: 1,054
Year: 1996
Coachwork: Champion
Chassis: Ford e-450
Engine: 7.3 Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 14
Timing belt??? Huh? None here. Not even a timing chain-its gear to gear.
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