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Old 08-04-2015, 04:32 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Montreal, Canada
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Thumbs up Clueless enthusiast needs help

Hi Everyone!

I've been lurking through the forums for a little while and thought I might as well start my own thread now.

As the tittle says, I'm clueless. This is gonna be my first vehicle whatsoever. I'm planning to convert the minibus as a minimalist camper van to roam Canada and the US with my wife and son (2 y.o.) for about a year. Afterwards, it's gonna be used occasionally as a camper van for camping trip and such.

I've been searching through the forums in order to have an idea of what to aim for and what to avoid. Btw, I'm from Eastern Canada (Quebec) and what seems to be most readily available around here are Ford E350/E450 and GMC from the late 90's/early 2000's with ~155 000-190 000 miles on them.

Now, here's what I understood so far :
  • In the GMC, the engines are more reliable after 2000 (something about a partnership with Detroit Diesel before that )
  • In the Ford, aiming between 1995 and 2002 would get me the 7.3L Powerstroke, which is a very good engine.
  • For good highway driving, I should really aim for a turbocharged engine
  • There seems to be something about gear ratio that's better for highway. I didn't understand much about that.
  • Stay away from starcraft (also known as starcrap)
  • Shuttle bus are not as reliable as school bus. Not sure why.
  • I don't understand much about chassis brand. Any comments are welcome.
  • Some of the buses come with the lift for wheelchair still working. Is it worth taking one of those and selling the lift back or not?

Any comments or suggestions will be welcome! It seems that shuttle bus are not liked as much as school bus. The main advantage I see in them is that they already have seats with seat belts. Thus, I could just remove the seats I don't want and keep 2-3, wile in the school bus I'd have to buy seats and put them in.

Also, if anyone knowledgeable could tell me what engine can be expected in what brand at what time... AND which ones I should be aiming for. That would be most appreciated!

Finally, does anyone can suggest a good book to learn the basics of taking care of a diesel engine? (Diesel engine for dummies maybe?)

Hope you'll be able to help me out!

Math
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Old 08-04-2015, 10:11 PM   #2
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 100
I should probably not give away my line on cool auctions, but check it out: Accueil - Disposition des biens

There is also a federal gov. version of this.

The deals look seriously good considering most of the buses I saw where still registered at time of the auction (meaning they had been inspected in the last year!).

For the gearing ratios I'll refer you to "how stuff works" on transmission and gear ratios. They do a better job at explaining what is what. Basically, the higher the final ratio in the diff, the more power you make but the higher the rpms on the highway. It's a trade off between hill climbing (power) and flat driving (fuel economy).

Steer clear of city buses (like those special needs ones). They were made to ferry people around town so theire gearing is most probably aimed at power (getting off the start reasonably quick) and not highway fuel economy. At all those system for the lifts... I'd rather find a simple bus than a complicated one!! (IMO)

That's all I learned from lurking here for a while! good lcuk, and contact me if you want to meet up, I'm the same area as you!
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Old 08-04-2015, 10:43 PM   #3
Bus Crazy
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Math View Post
  • In the Ford, aiming between 1995 and 2002 would get me the 7.3L Powerstroke, which is a very good engine.
  • For good highway driving, I should really aim for a turbocharged engine

All 7.3l Powerstrokes have a turbocharger. Older 7.3l IDIs won't likely have one.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Math View Post
  • Shuttle bus are not as reliable as school bus. Not sure why.
I don't know that they're less reliable, it's just that when it does come time to fix them you may be in worse shape than with a proper medium-duty chassis school bus. The engine compartments are usually cramped; the wiring is less accessible; there's that pesky dashboard prisoning all sorts of fans, heater cores, gauges behind it...

Buses with the larger chassis tend to have more room to climb around in the engine bay; they're easier to get under; can carry more weight; and are generally built sturdier (all steel).

The one positive note about the shuttle buses is that they are probably a nicer ride out of the gate. School buses can be a bit harsh, unless you find one with air-ride.
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Old 08-04-2015, 11:36 PM   #4
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Join Date: May 2010
Location: Farmington Hills, Mi (Detroit area)
Posts: 1,572
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Coachwork: Eldorado Aerotech 24'
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Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
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Shuttle buses come with highway gearing, many school buses are only good to 55mph or so.
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Old 08-07-2015, 11:47 AM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Montreal, Canada
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Thanks a lot for your replies!

It helped me out already. You mentioned the gear ratio for highway max speed. How can I know that before buying the bus?

I'm also reading through here that you need to redo the floor, insulate the bus, etc. If we're going minimalist, we mostly want a "metal tent", do we actually need to go through all that? We're not planning on either using A/C or heater in there...

We'll also need new seats for the baby seat and for my wife. Is it easy to find seats with seatbelts and can you just fasten them in the holes left by the bus seats?
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Old 08-07-2015, 05:11 PM   #6
Skoolie
 
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A bus with no insulation will be like sitting in your car.
No heat or air will depend on where you park
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Old 08-09-2015, 03:21 PM   #7
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Montreal, Canada
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Ok!

I might have found something worth buying!

It is a 2000 Ford E350, with a 7.3L (turbo diesel). It has ~197 000 km on it (~122 000 miles) and goes for 1800$.

Does anyone has something to say against that engine? Also, does someone knowledgeable can tell me if this is gonna be a good bus fort highway driving?

Still looking through the steps of a conversion. I was wondering, how to you take off the side panels in order to change the insulation in there?

Also, I don't mind ripping off the floor, using rustolem, vapor barrier, insulation, subfloor then flooring... But I'd REALLY like to understand what each of these steps do. What would happen if you skipped the vapor barrier or insulation?

Finally, since I'm travelling with my wife and 2 y.o., I'll need to add two others seats. Anyways has any experience with that? I can figure out how to fix the seats into the frame, but how do you do about the seat belts? I guess you're not all alone in your buses... How did you guys do?

Thanks a lot for the help and the awesome community!
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Old 08-09-2015, 05:18 PM   #8
Bus Crazy
 
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Join Date: May 2010
Location: Farmington Hills, Mi (Detroit area)
Posts: 1,572
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Eldorado Aerotech 24'
Chassis: Ford E-450 Cutaway Bus
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 19
The 1999 - 2003 7.3L Powerstrokes are a desirable engine. Good power, decent fuel mileage and great parts availability from most any auto parts store.

http://www.skoolie.net/forums/f34/th...sel-10607.html
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Old 08-09-2015, 09:45 PM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Montreal, Canada
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Thank you very VERY much roach for the link to the 7.3L powerstroke thread. I will definitely write down much of the information in that thread to bring on the road with me!
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Old 08-09-2015, 10:07 PM   #10
Bus Crazy
 
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Join Date: May 2010
Location: Farmington Hills, Mi (Detroit area)
Posts: 1,572
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Eldorado Aerotech 24'
Chassis: Ford E-450 Cutaway Bus
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 19
'Twas my pleasure

Are you looking at a shortie school bus or a shuttle bus?
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