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Old 07-24-2019, 09:12 PM   #1
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Question Collins 5-window: 2006 Duramax vs 2008 Vortec?

I have a choice (if nothing goes wrong between now and then) between two Collins 5-window short buses: one with a 2006 Duramax 6.6L diesel engine, and one with a 2008 Vortec 6.0L gas engine. They both have about 165K miles on them, and came out of fleet service in the fall of 2018. Both are within $500 of each other on price. I'm going to be looking at both buses on Friday, and plan to buy one unless I find some kind of smoking red flag doing the vehicle inspections.

I'm utterly torn about the Duramax diesel vs the Vortec gas engine. Been reading some scary stuff about people's Duramax's need multi-thousand dollar repairs!

On one hand, the Vortec is such a common engine and if well maintained supposedly easily lasts to 200-250K miles without a rebuild. And I know gas engines but have zippo experience with diesels.

OTOH the Duramax would be more powerful for driving in the Sierras and Siskiyous here in northern California. The kryptonite of diesel engines (I have read) is heat. Does anyone know if the Duramax is actively cooled with a fan, or only passively cooled by airflow past a radiator? Or if there's room in the engine area to put an active fan system? It's the crawling up to Tahoe in 90 degree heat scenario that worries me.

Opinions welcome, those based in experience doubly so. Ideally by Friday early morning California time!
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Old 07-25-2019, 02:22 AM   #2
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I'd go for the 6.0 gas engine.

I know a guy who bought two duramax trucks for his business and he has had a lot of issues.

My work truck has almost 300k on a highly abused 6.0 vortec so I'd not hesitate to get one of those.
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Old 07-25-2019, 03:23 AM   #3
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I’d go for the 6.6l Duramax. I think you’ll find many who say at 160K miles the diesel is just getting broken in and the gas engine is much more than halfway done.

Other than the engine I think everything else between a gas and diesel in that class is pretty equal.

It has a fan and it hauls butt in the mountains.

I have a 2007 Chevy Express-based Thomas Minotour. I like it and I’m not even a Chevy guy.

I grew up working on gas engines. (Queue the violins) at 15 I had to rebuild the top end of the car that was given me before I could drive it. I’ve never gone to a mechanic except to ask questions. I used to hate it, but now I enjoy it.

I’ve had to poke around on the Express. It has vane position sensor errors when running low RPMs. I’m pretty sure the turbo vanes are sticky from excessive idling. It was a wheelchair bus so it idled a lot. I’m trying to shake it loose with hard driving before I twist a wrench.

If you’re familiar with gas cars, you’ll find yourself pretty much at home with the diesel. The fuel system, aspiration and ignition is a little different, but it’s not too far off that it doesn’t feel familiar.

I’m guessing the diesel is below 14001 GVWR? That’s important for CARB rules in CA. You’ll still have to smog it, but no particulate filter is necessary. And smog is an easy pass too. They check ODB codes and look at exhaust color. No sniffer.

And the Collins body is pretty nice if it’s the one I’m thinking of. It has a flatter roofline that makes the ceiling more uniform in height and more accommodating of solar panels.

When you go, take your ODB reader. It’s a good thing to check.
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Old 07-25-2019, 08:46 AM   #4
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x2 on gas.

The Duramax is a good engine when its running well.
When it's not running well, things can get expensive real quick in order to get running well.
Are there any service records on either/both?
That would help in seeing what's new and what isn't new, and might potentially be in need of replacement down the road.
Good luck on your decision...
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Old 07-25-2019, 09:24 AM   #5
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Great replies, thank you so much!

Alas, I wish I could get the service records. The school districts don't pass them along usually. The bus isn't marked, but maybe I can find out which district it came from and ask them directly. Not likely to get any info in time to make a decision, but might help down the road.

I am bringing my ODB meter, and I hope the connector will be right, it's an automotive meter and is somewhat older. An Innova 3020b.

Thanks for mentioning the CARB restriction on diesels. I just did some reading and yikes. Based on this useful chart I just found, the type A Collins 20-passenger should be under 14001 but its still a wrinkle I hadn't considered. (BTW, yes, the body is the one with the flat roof and straighter sides.)

One consideration I have is total cost of maintenance and ownership. The starting price is pretty much the same, but what will the bus cost to maintain? What kind of servicing regimen keeps diesels happy, and what does a typical service cost? I have a rough idea for gas engines, but again the diesels are outside my experience.

Before I retire I doubt I'll put as much as 5k miles/year on it, for the next 5 years or so. After I retire and can travel more, another 10+ years with still under 10K miles/year. 15 - 20 years out, who knows if I'll be driving it or will need to hang up the keys? So either engine should have the service life I'll need.
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:15 AM   #6
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Try to make nice with the school mechanic. They're often amenable to running off any major mods done during the bus' tenure, if they aren't busy ATM.
The Innova OBDII mayn't work on that, see if you can't Goo-Fu what sort of interface you'll be looking for.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:58 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HazMatt View Post
Try to make nice with the school mechanic. They're often amenable to running off any major mods done during the bus' tenure, if they aren't busy ATM.
The Innova OBDII mayn't work on that, see if you can't Goo-Fu what sort of interface you'll be looking for.
I have an Innova ODB reader that works on the Chevy Express no problem
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Old 07-30-2019, 01:30 AM   #8
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I've owned a 2003 Collins with a 6L and now have my 2006 with a Duramax. I prefer the Duramax. The torque is easier to access around town and on the interstate. This is especially true when you're at altitude. Also I'd suspect the GVWR on the 2006 Duramax 5 window will match mine at 12,300lbs
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