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Old 01-31-2017, 10:41 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
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Smile Gus the Bus Build Thread

So, I bought a bus.

That was going to by my title but someone else took it...somewhere..

I bought it from a dealer and they are going to drive 2 hours to deliver it for me some time this week. This weekend I'll start by taking out the seats and handicap lift. Always looking for tips and suggestions.

It is a 2003 Ford E350 with a 7.3l engine and 226k miles. Seems like it is in good condition all around. Will get more pictures soon! It was $3500 (canadian dollars) plus about $500 in taxes.

Here's me and the bill of sale:
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Old 01-31-2017, 11:30 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iProgramStuff View Post
So, I bought a bus.

That was going to by my title but someone else took it...somewhere..

I bought it from a dealer and they are going to drive 2 hours to deliver it for me some time this week. This weekend I'll start by taking out the seats and handicap lift. Always looking for tips and suggestions. It was $3500 (canadian dollars) plus about $500 in taxes.

Here's me and the bill of sale:
CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Super excited for you!

Sandi
www.thismidwifetravels.com
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Old 02-01-2017, 03:02 AM   #3
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Sweet !

Welcome. You are in for a crazy ride ! Friends and family: You ...bought a ...what?!

I am in early stages of build, myself- I might suggest tackling any maintenance issues first so she runs good.Fighting my own demons there...

What type of 'stuff' do you program? I'll guess...embedded systems?

Now that you are an owner, take a second to update your sig/profile so others can help you better w/ ?'s.
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Old 02-01-2017, 11:56 AM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
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Chassis: Ford E350 with Girardin body
Engine: 7.3L Diesel
I've been talking about wanting to do this for awhile to friends and family. It's been on my mind a lot...so they already know what to expect. I've been there, done that

I program...a few things that I've conglomerated into 'stuff'. I started with games (made in flash), then got offered a lucrative job working on a telecom app also made in flash. Flash started dying, so I taught myself how to make websites. Now I do that...did it as a freelancer for about 2-3 years, 1 year of which I was cycling around Europe and Morocco. I lived in a tent. In Portugal, my girlfriend and I made an empty field our home for 2 months. It was so deserted we actually started leaving our tent set up when venturing into town...felt very home-like when returning to an already made tent at the end of the day. Since I have no more bus pictures atm, and pictures are the best part of build threads..here are some from that time:







I was planning to purchase this bus and live in it while working on it (huge upgrade over my tent), then tour the continent (Canada & USA)...but I ended up getting offered a full time job as a full stack web developer in Toronto. Now, the bus may end up being a weekend project until it is livable. I can't insure it until I've painted it away from the yellow and removed the seats. The job will help fund the build. I pay $600/mo ($30/day) to rent an Airbnb Sun-Thurs then will head to Hamilton (where the bus is parked) for the weekends. The bus will cost me ~$350/mo in insurance...so much less than an apartment here in Toronto. Just need a place to park it.

Maybe I'll have a family mechanic look at it, or find some beginner's guide to maintaining and diagnosing potential issues. And I'll definitely update my signature now that I'm officially part of the family
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Old 02-01-2017, 12:08 PM   #5
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how cool!!! I program stuff too... my money maker is a Telecom system for hotels.. (written in many languages)..

I use my bus 'DEV RANDOM' as a Mobile hardwasre /software DEV lab esp for LTE-based cloud testing and such ...

other stuff I program and build is home automation.. HVAC, car-computer control stuff like glass-cockpit style things..

wowsers canada insurance is Pricey!! I pay $900 / Year for for FULL coverage on TWO busses..

congrats on your new bus!!!!!!!
-Christopher
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Old 02-01-2017, 12:50 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
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I just typed a long reply similar to below that got lost upon clicking post because I needed to login again..it's never as good the second time around.

This bus was also going to be my office on wheels...I was going to actively improve my craft while scaling up my web development business and launching MVPs to scale or fail.

This insurance is super pricey. $4800 a year. Should drop to $3800 next year if I have no accidents. This is with the worst insurance company in the worst province. Facility Association exists to insure people who can't get insurance else where..because the law says you have to have it. They charge high rates because they know you have no other option. I also have nothing else insured and no insurance history, so that doesn't help my case.

My original plan was to have it insured before I bought it and drive it home...but now I am getting it delivered and will do some work on it before insuring. This opens up the possibility of doing enough work to get it appraised and insured as a motorhome, which could potentially mean cheaper rates for me.

@cadillackid I'm really interested in hearing and seeing more of your home automation work!! This is something I wanted to do with my bus. Tech and construction usually don't go hand in hand so I want to use my tech background to do something really neat. Mating two or more skills usually results in some interesting babies and a niche that not many can enter.

Some high tech home ideas I've brainstormed are:
Arduino / similar to control things via internet/app. Climate, lights, etc. [turn on heat 15-30 mins before you get home]
Bus-wide "Cortana" / "Ok Google" for lights, music, warm floors/seats, etc.
Back up camera...this plus extra mirrors (if you think you need) would make the bus super easy to drive.
Tracking system. If it gets stolen, or you forgot where you parked.
Nest? by Google
Philips smart lights? Change colours, control from app. $80 per bulb.

Does your telecom app have a name? Mine was renamed to phone.systems after I left: https://phone.systems/
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Old 02-01-2017, 12:52 PM   #7
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
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Chassis: Ford E350 with Girardin body
Engine: 7.3L Diesel
I'm going to probably use a lot of wood for the interior. I'm thinking of retaining a white ceiling but not the stock sheet metal. I will remove it all and add my own insulation - either Rockwool (maybe ROXUL | Fire and Soundproofing Insulation) or spray foam (I'm worried about health/environmental/unnatural aspects though). Maybe a light/white colored wood plank ceiling: https://www.google.ca/search?q=white...-HAgMQ_AUIBigB

I'll post my thoughts on layout when I get something better to post
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Old 02-02-2017, 10:41 AM   #8
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While Rockwool is an excellent insulator and does not absorb moisture itself...it does hold a lot of moisture. Several hot rodder friends here warned me about it after having serious rust issues. And even with great sealing...bus skins sweat a lot of moisture.
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Old 02-02-2017, 01:43 PM   #9
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Aerogel

You know what looks really 'cool' as an insulator? This thin matting called aerogel.

It is a very pricey NASA insulation they use on spaceships, but surplus does find it's way to ebay. I have never used it, but it sure looks interesting.

What is the best insulation in the world?
A: The best insulator in the world right now is most probably aerogel, with silica aerogels having thermal conductivities of less than 0.03 W/m*K in atmosphere. of aerogel preventing ice from melting on a hot plate at 80 degrees Celsius!

What is the lightest solid?
World's lightest solid material, known as 'frozen smoke', gets even lighter. Researchers have created a new aerogel that boasts amazing strength and an incredibly large surface area.


More Info On Aerogel


Recipie for you Walter White-types:

Part 2 Preparing Silica Aerogel
Dilute concentrated ammonium hydroxide. ...
Mix the TMOS and methanol. ...
Mix the ammonium hydroxide solution with methanol. ...
Pour the catalyst solution into the alkoxide solution. ...
Transfer the sol into molds. ...
Let the gel age. ...
Diffuse the water out. ...
Dry the gel in your supercritical dryer.
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Old 02-02-2017, 04:25 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tango View Post
While Rockwool is an excellent insulator and does not absorb moisture itself...it does hold a lot of moisture. Several hot rodder friends here warned me about it after having serious rust issues. And even with great sealing...bus skins sweat a lot of moisture.
I'm only using it in interior walls. And only two of them.
Its great but as you've pointed out it isn't great for every application.
__________________
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Roll Your Own Build Thread
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Old 02-06-2017, 10:49 PM   #11
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
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Chassis: Ford E350 with Girardin body
Engine: 7.3L Diesel
Looked up Aerogel and it sounded pretty neat...but $900 for 40ft x 30' x 8mm roll? Wow that is pricey stuff.

I did some work this weekend with the help of my dad (mostly) and my girlfriend and her dad a little. We managed to get the seats out pretty quickly with an angle grinder and ratchet wrench for the bolts along the wall, then we separated the cushion from the metal. The wheelchair ramp we just cut off the bolts and let it drop out of the bus...a scrapper had our seats and ramp picked up in under an hour.

Then we got started on taking out the wood floor. Holy crap this is secured. We removed a bunch of the buckles and latches as well. I think we did an 1/8th of the bus before I had to go find a spot to park it for the week, which is at a Walmart between two RVs that have been sitting there for a long time

We did some sanding but it was too cold to get good paint on...not sure what I'll do yet because I need to paint it to get insurance and I want insurance asap.

Here are some pictures!



So next weekend I'll be continuing to remove the floor (any tips? We've just been using a crow bar...it is screwed in) and I want to paint the bus (just with primer for insurance) but we'll see how that goes
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Old 02-07-2017, 01:42 PM   #12
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Chassis: Ford E350 with Girardin body
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Building a Skoolie has it's obstacles. I've had a really hard time getting insurance. Most people say no. I've got a quote lined up with a company for $4800/year. Problem is, they won't give me a policy until I send them pictures of the bus with the yellow covered, seats removed, decals removed, and stop sign removed. Problem is, I need to get it home to do those things because I can't do it at the seller's lot. Problem is, I can't drive it home without insurance. Do you see the circular dependencies?

How did I solve this? Well, I got the bus delivered by the seller. He was a dealer and just used his dealer plates to drive the bus 2 hours to me. Then, I worked for a weekend with my dad (pictures above) - removed the seats at my in-laws, and did a little sanding in prep for painting. But, they could not let me keep the bus at their place. I drove it 3km uninsured (ssshh) to a place to keep it for the week. It's now sitting at Wal-mart between two other RVs that haven't moved in (what I think to be) weeks. I'm thinking if I can get it insured this weekend, then I'll "rough it" in the unfinished bus during weekdays whilst working a full-time job and do most of the work on weekends.
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Old 02-07-2017, 05:34 PM   #13
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So I tried to post this once before but it got lost in the aether. Sorry if it double-posts!

Cool write-up about bike touring tent programing!

The best tool for ripping up the floor is a shingle scraper. Here's a g__gle image.

Depending on how aggravated you are, it might not be worth buying for a small area like yours. Is there a tool library in Toronto?

I don't know canada, but down here if you re-register as an RV, the insurance and DMV fees go down -- no exaggeration -- 90%.

As for mechanical: the 7.3 Powerstroke (aka the International d444e) is a pretty solid engine up to about 300K. To be ready to fix 95% of problems with this engine, make a kit of these three things:

Engine Oil: Oil is vital to all engines, but the d444e especially needs enough proper oil in the right weight for your climate. This is because in addition to lubrication, the engine oil in this engine opens the fuel injectors. Its a complicated but pretty reliable system called HEUI. Bottom line: a very common no-start is just that the engine oil is low! Always carry extra!

Maxi-Fuses: There is one in particular, under the driver's side battery, that goes out all the time. Number 20 I think. This one controls the fuel filter heater AND the fuel lift pump. Why? I don't know, it's dumb. But if you have a crank no-start, and the "wait to start" light doesn't come on, it's this fuse.

Crank Position Sensor: This is a cheap, vital sensor that fails all the time and will stop you dead even if you have fuel and compression. It's one hold-down bolt on the lower passenger-side front. Carry an extra and familiarize yourself with changing it before you're stranded. Easy roadside repair, or expensive tow and mechanic diagnostic.

Keep up the good work!
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Old 02-07-2017, 09:42 PM   #14
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Great stuff, but please...size your pix down to something that can be loaded in less than fifteen minutes before posting!
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Old 02-09-2017, 08:18 AM   #15
Mini-Skoolie
 
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@Tango, Sorry. The pictures were a few mb's each, now they are closer to 200kb. I resized all of the images using ImageMagick on Fedora in one command (mogrify -resize 1024x1024 *.* for anyone interested). If only there was one for removing rivets.

@yeggs Nice post, thanks for writing it! That scrapper is EXACTLY what my dad thought would work well and we were looking for it in the Hamilton Tool Library (yes, we have a tool library! I got my angle grinder there, impact wrench (didn't use), air compressor (didn't use), paint sprayer (will use), and a light). Bought some cut off discs at Canadian Tire, and some gray spray-can primer. I also think I could get lower rates here if titled and insured as an RV...part of my issue has been needing to get insurance to drive it home from where I bought it (before it is a converted bus obviously) but maybe now I can hold out until I meet the minimum criteria for re-titling it then shop around for another quote. They'll need pictures and an appraisal probably but that can be done now.

...and that other info is invaluable. I haven't heard about that yet and I will definitely commit this to memory and get some oil, fuses, and a crank sensor. I did a bunch of research on the 6.0 after learning it can be a POS (but bulletproofed for $4k-10k) and that the 7.3 is a lot more reliable. I bought the 7.3 on more of a whim (was seeing two other busses, this one was already called for but I bought it on the spot because it met my needs perfectly) and haven't heard much other than it's better than the 6.0.

So, my awesome dad has been going to work on the bus in the Wal-mart parking lot this week in his spare time. Apparently a trucker came to see what was up and thought it was cool.

He just told me he managed to remove ALL of the wooden flooring (I think he used a crow bar)...that must have been some hard work, that floor is a PITA and I'm happy it's gone. Thanks dad! He has also bought a can of Tremclad gray primer to spot test it with a brush vs. our spray-can primer...he says he shows a lot better.

Here are some pictures, before the entire wood floor was removed, that he sent by email:




To remove the rest of the floor, he needed to remove the floor heater you see in the pictures. He shut off the valves underneath the bus and thinks it should be okay to drive. Any second opinions?





It was raining pretty heavily that day, so my dad spent some time looking for leaks. He only found one near the front passenger side:



Hopefully painting the roof helps seal this up (thinking of doing the roof with a white elastomeric paint for insulating properties), and that metal will probably come off so I'll look at sealing the interior with silicone before adding insulation.

That's all for now! Thanks for looking
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Old 02-09-2017, 10:01 AM   #16
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"Only one leak"...??? You may have found a miracle bus! Looking good. Keep the pix coming.
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Old 02-09-2017, 11:55 AM   #17
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You should also carry a spare serpentine belt. They're cheap and easy to replace on the t444e if one breaks going down the road.

Easiest way to get the right belt is to take the one on the engine off and measure it to make sure you get the correct length...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tango View Post
"Only one leak"...??? You may have found a miracle bus!
It probably just hasn't rained hard enough yet...
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Old 02-09-2017, 02:30 PM   #18
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are the serp belts prone to break? I should also probably get one and toss it in the bus.. they come in a lkot of different lengths depending on options ordered..
-Christopher
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Old 02-09-2017, 03:05 PM   #19
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I have never carried extra regular V-belts and I have never had a problem that kept me from getting home.

I always carry an extra serpentine belt because when they go everything stops.
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Old 02-09-2017, 04:40 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
are the serp belts prone to break?
-Christopher
Not necessarily, but as cowlitz said when one breaks you're dead in the water without another...
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