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Old 11-29-2013, 11:34 PM   #1
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Introduction - '86 GMC Short Bus

Been lurking for awhile, finally decided to join up.

After several motorhomes, and a pop-up trailer, the wife and I sat down to really identify what we wanted, and the minimum we needed, to take our family of 7 camping. We found a Wayne Lifeguard 23' school bus in WA, and decided to take a look. This was it.

The previous owners had picked it up at a Forest Service auction, it had been used as a logger transport (called a 'crummy' here in the PNW). We got the full story on how filthy the thing was, there was over an inch of sawdust, bark and chain saw oil on the floors. They stripped and cleaned and painted the inside with a cream cabinet enamel, removed most of the seats and also painted the outside '86 GMC metallic blue with a wide white accent stripe over the front fenders and between the rub rails. Very Bon Aventure looking. Then they built some convertible bench seating that doubles as beds when opened up. The final gotcha' for us was the four eye-hooks in the ceiling, from which a Vietnam era folding litter is hung. No plumbing, no LPG, and only a second battery as far as RV additions. This thing is made to camp. It is now registered in OR as an RV, and while it's not the cheapest route, it does remove some restrictions on strapping all the kids down for interminable hours during road trips.

The bus itself is pre-wheelchair lift, so no gaping holes and dead space inside, the dual panel front door has been replaced by a custom built single door and the bus itself has a factory rear bench all the way across the back. This means...this bus has a trunk! There is an area in the very rear under this seat and all of the camping gear stows here so as not to take up floor space inside. Perfect for our needs. There is a front and rear upper storage bin and an emergency exit door just behind the driver's seat. The windows have either been replaced, or turned 90 degrees, I'm still not sure which, but they open side to side, not up and down.

I will get photos up eventually, but we really don't plan to do much to it besides enjoy it. I do plan on adding a small genset, and an RV inverter panel. I'd like to be able to use shore power when it's available. General plans are simple upgrades, some better seat belts to mount child seats to, probably a stereo system of some sort, LED lighting and better tires. I've been considering residential style in-floor heating, low current draw and easy to install (but not cheap). I've also been eyeing the 'fireplace' style space heaters as well. There is a perfect spot under the dash to mount one of these.

We prefer dry camping, and we're not really interested in the thousands of amenities we're trying to leave behind when we go camping. Even so, here in OR it can and does get wet, and a warm, dry, and secure place to sleep is what this bus is really about.

There is a tree-fall dent in the roof up near the front that will need to be addressed, and the rear safety glass window in the Emergency Exit is cracked. As far as the body, that's about all that's 'wrong' with it. Totally functional as it is. It sleeps 6 easily and seats about 15.

The 'L' section of the tailpipe fell off on the way home from WA to OR when we bought it, and that's where we got it's name. Drivetrain is a 350 gas engine with a 4spd, odometer says 98K. Front rims have been upgraded to 20" but the rear duallys are still 18.5 split rims. Looking for a set of Budd/GM Motor wheels for the rear (come tax time). Single 30 gallon fuel tank, the engine governor is functional, and top speed is maybe 65mph. Fuel mileage, after sitting for many months, was about 6mpg on a 150 mile trip home.

Really enjoy the site, some amazing craftsmanship here. Gleaning ideas and very interested in the various insulation upgrades folks have done.
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Old 12-02-2013, 02:26 PM   #2
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Re: Introduction - '86 GMC Short Bus

welcome
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Old 12-02-2013, 09:05 PM   #3
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Re: Introduction - '86 GMC Short Bus

Here you go, one photo anyway.

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Old 12-05-2013, 06:37 PM   #4
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Re: Introduction - '86 GMC Short Bus

Is there a section here on stock electrical stuff? I'm very curious to sort out my switch panel. I did some troubleshooting over the summer, but didn't label things very well. I've got some upper running lights that are shorting out, and disconnected them.

Electronics/electrical guy for a living, so while it's time consuming, I actually enjoy that rat's nest.
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Old 12-05-2013, 07:17 PM   #5
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Re: Introduction - '86 GMC Short Bus

Welcome! Boy-you must be a close family to camp 7 in there!
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Old 12-07-2013, 11:45 AM   #6
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Re: Introduction - '86 GMC Short Bus

Awesome size bus. You might want to move this too the short section.
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Old 06-04-2014, 04:47 AM   #7
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Re: Introduction - '86 GMC Short Bus

How do I move this post? Is it an admin request?

When we picked it up, I kept thinking it was an '86, but it's actually an '81.

Had the exhaust replaced, from the muffler all the way out the rear bumper. The shop did a great job, pulled the manifolds, checked for cracks and surfaced them. New gaskets, manifold bolts, and put a slight dump at the end, so it's even with the end of the rear bumper. Probably got another 15hp, and the odors and weird heat from up front are gone. It was worse than I'd originally thought, and this HAD to be addressed, especially with little ones on board.

Doing all the lights this week. Ordered a couple hundred bucks worth of Weldon stuff from Unity. Got all the running lights replaced, both rear 7", and the front 7". The 4" stop/tails I ordered are the wrong part.

Been doing lots of ground checks, chassis ground is...um...stupid? haha...it is what it is, I guess.

If I throw up a photo of the switch panel, can someone help me find replacement switches? I think most marine style switches will fit, but I just don't know. I'm considering just making up a new one, but I like all the labels and lettering.

Having some weird charging issues and I've got the switch panel apart, it's a mess. Turn signals are pulling a major draw, but it looks like it's in the fuse panel or the truck lights, still tinkering with it. Family is ready to go camping. Now.
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Old 06-04-2014, 10:00 PM   #8
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Re: Introduction - '86 GMC Short Bus

Nice looking bus.

Old trick for tracing wires, attributed rightly or wrongly to the telephone company, though networking guys may use it today:

If you see a wire, and don't know where it goes, disconnect it and see who hollers!
(Skoolie variation - see what stopped working)

I've created a lot of billable hours in my day with a volt-ohmmeter and a yellow legal pad as tools.
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Old 06-05-2014, 03:49 AM   #9
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Re: Introduction - '81 GMC Short Bus

Quote:
Originally Posted by Redbear
I've created a lot of billable hours in my day with a volt-ohmmeter and a yellow legal pad as tools.
Well, this would be me this past couple of days. I've got all the running lights replaced, but I'm still having a charging issue. When I shut off the jumper box, it dies. Putting a full charge on the battery now.

Ran every parasitic check I know how to do, and I'm showing about .060mA draw no matter what. The battery just dumps when I key off. Drops to about 1.5vDC in a matter of minutes. I managed to put about a 10vDC charge on it, but almost ran the bus out of gas. Didn't matter, with both the neg & pos hooked up, I stuck a meter on and watched it drain. Since there is no identifiable parasitic draw on the negative side, it's time to move on to the alternator. I think the best I've ever seen out of it was about 12.8vDC, and that was only after I tightened the belts. Regardless, after running for 1/2 an hour, it DID charge the battery. I lifted the ALT output and checked the battery for drain again but discovered I'd bumped a switch for one of the heater fans, and of course it just dumped the battery. I get to do that test over again.



There is a Ford style starter solenoid in the electrical panel, and the BATT+ is mounted on one stud. Interestingly, there is a second hot lead on the same stud, and no other connections to the solenoid. Hmmmm. There are 6 switches that are hot all the time. Both wipers, two of the heater fans, the pass dome lights, and defrost. So these are running off the bus bar output right from the solenoid stud and always hot. There is a better way to do this. I suspect the solenoid failed at some point, and this was the 'fix'. I will test the solenoid tomorrow. My intent is to install a MASTER switch, and light it up with the ACC output from the ignition. This way, when the key is off, all the heavy draw accessories will shut off as well. Very useful with a curious, switch flipping 2-year old. When something comes on, especially the drivers heater fan, it squeals a bit on startup...and he usually takes off...haha...



In this photo you can see the distribution block (all the white wiring), and the top section of the hot bus bar (bottom of photo). The yellow wiring on the top right (from the bus bar to the distro box) are hot jumpers. Still haven't found the ACC input, but I will.

Discovered my rear stop/tail lights are Dominion, and almost impossible to find. I did order new lenses, but I need to probably pull the fixtures and clean them up really well.

Lots of clean up left, but I've got a mental handle on it now
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Old 06-09-2014, 09:52 PM   #10
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Re: Introduction - '86 GMC Short Bus

Quote:
Originally Posted by nukeday
Ran every parasitic check I know how to do, and I'm showing about .060mA draw no matter what. The battery just dumps when I key off. Drops to about 1.5vDC in a matter of minutes.
I would say the battery is toast. Six one-hundred-thousandths of one amp is barely enough to keep a clock inside a stereo counting out the time, or to keep a receiver for a keyless entry fob listening for commands. It should take almost a month for that little draw to run down a good vehicle battery.

If the draw was 6.0 ma, a fair battery might go down over a three-day weekend. I suspect that if you charge the battery, disconnect its wires 100%, it will still lose the "surface charge" you are seeing and drop off to nothing.

The alternator and regulator might not be bad if a bad battery is sucking up all the energy the charging system is capable of putting out.

To really tell what is going on in an automotive system, you really need three meters, but we usually only get one.
The first is the voltmeter, to find the system voltage.
Then you need two ammeters, measuring any two of the three items and calculating the third:
a. Battery amps, charge or discharge, or
b. Alternator output amps, or
c. Vehicle load amps.

If the battery charging or vehicle loads are drawing 160 amps from a 160-amp alternator, then low system voltage can be set aside as a problem until the loads stop sucking down the voltage and the alternator has some breathing room.
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