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Old 02-20-2016, 05:40 PM   #11
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In the coach world most older buses used high end stainless steel for the lower panels and suspension parts. It was highly resistant to rust and would hold up over a long period of time.

Greyhound would rarely let go of a coach that had less than 5 million miles. The engine and transmission may have been swapped out six or eight or more times. As a consequence the engine compartments were designed and built to swap out a power package in less than eight hours.

These days many coaches are available used with a lot less miles. This is being driven by air quality rules that basically prohibit the commercial use of 2-cycle diesel engines and pre-2007 engines in most urban area. The whole state of CA is off limits to the commercial use of 2-cycle diesel engines and pre-2007 engines. It is also being driven by the fact insurance companies do not want to insure for commercial purposes buses much more than 15-years old. Which works out to most buses are leaving commercial service with less than 1.5 million miles.

Since buses do not have to be built to last 30-years and 3 million miles or more the components used are not nearly as heavy duty. Which is why some 20-year old buses are nothing but junk but there are a bunch of 40- and 50+ year old buses still out there doing a great job.

Most newer coaches use a lot of plastic of one kind or another. It saves on weight and the cost of manufacturing. But it doesn't lend itself to longevity. Van Hoole pioneered a lot of those design features which is why so very few older Van Hoole coaches are still on the road--water got in between the plastic and steel framing that has caused a lot of VH's to die of rust cancer.

The European designed coaches also use European designed electrical systems. They may use US designed engines and transmissions that use 12-vdc to run but the rest of the coach uses a 24-vdc system most US technicians find to be an odd way of doing things. Believe me when I say you do not want to have an electrical gremlin in a European designed 24-vdc electrical system. Even if you understand the system it can bankrupt you very quickly and never find the real underlying problem. The MCI, Prevost, and Flxible/Dina 24-vdc systems can be challenging enough.

Another real problem with any of the coaches is getting any sort of parts or service for them. MCI is not too bad with Prevost a close second. But parts availability for any of the others is difficult at best. And even though most use Detroit, Cat, or Cummins engines with Allison or ZF transmissions they rarely can be serviced in truck shops even if they are certified Detroit, Cat, Cummins, Allison, or ZF qualified shops. VH is especially bad about writing additional lines of code into the operating systems that can not be read by standard shop computer interfaces.

Any bus conversion can be a money pit. If you want a really large money pit add a third axle and European design.

At the end of the day a lot of what will drive your choice on which bus to purchase is how you intend to use your bus. There is not a road in this country a school bus doesn't travel to and fro at least twice a day. There are a lot of roads in this country that have height, weight, or length restrictions that will restrict the travel of a coach. But if your goal is to spend a lot of time traveling on interstate highways a school bus, even a school bus set up to do trips at highway speed, may not be your best choice.

Good luck and happy trails!
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Old 02-20-2016, 06:31 PM   #12
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In regards to disc brakes, disc brakes do a great job of breaking and can usually do the job better than drum brakes.

The disc system that IHC uses on their hydraulically braked chassis is far superior in every respect compared to the drum brakes they used next to forever in the past.

But the air disc brakes used on trucks and buses have had a lot of teething problems with not all of the problems worked out yet. Most of the 45' motorcoaches use disc brakes on at least the steer and tag axle. Some use discs on all three axles. Some Type 'D' school buses use air operated disc brakes as well. Unfortunately they have had a history of not releasing completely or properly causing the brake lining to get hot enough to catch on fire resulting in the bus burning down to the axles. This happened not to long ago in the Portland, OR area to a bus that was transporting a school band--everyone got out without any injury but the bus was a total loss including all of the instruments that were in the luggage bays.

Probably the biggest problem for the owner of a bus with disc brakes is the cost of repair on them. For the price of installing two drums and two sets of bushings, bearings, seals, springs, and slack adjusters you might be able to purchase one caliper and one disc (not including installation). The price is coming down as more companies spe'c disc brakes. But until the price is approximately the same as what drum brakes cost now I think I will stay away from air operated disc brakes.
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Old 02-22-2016, 02:57 PM   #13
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Thanks Cowlitz, all good info. I agree that skoolies are designed to fit normal roads easier, and I have been looking at them for several years now with the idea of raising the roof to fit my needs. I was thinking that possibly regearing the rear axle if necessary might make interstate travel easier on the engine and myself. I do intend to do some long cross country trips but still want to get into those out of the way places that a skoolie is designed to fit. My ideal choice is a Class 8 truck conversion (i.e. Showhauler and similar types), but these are usually very pricey. So many choices..........
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Old 02-22-2016, 10:15 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post

Greyhound would rarely let go of a coach that had less than 5 million miles. The engine and transmission may have been swapped out six or eight or more times. As a consequence the engine compartments were designed and built to swap out a power package in less than eight hours.

Wanna '89 Eagle 15? It ready for its 3rd engine.
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Old 07-28-2016, 12:39 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
Eagles are amazing machines. Until the torsion bars have reached their limit, or corrosion sets in.
Amen Brother!!!!!!!

I would take a good Eagle over any other coach out there.

Unfortunately the torsionelastics are getting hard to find and expensive.
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Old 10-30-2016, 11:08 AM   #16
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That was my thoughts - a coach is a good starting point for the design..but the mileage and costs of parts is way up there. Scary.

I think of skoolies as cheap hippie age is showing LOL. But now that I drive one I have a different opinion - some things are still pricey (we have one at work with a bad radiator..$3,000 for a new one).

As for hiway...depends on the bus. Spent 4 hours on the PA turnpike with a 2013 international, 260hp cummins and no issues with speed or comfort at all.

As for brands..thomas are the cheap ones, bluebirds are good but my boss has issues with where they rust (harder to fix) and he prefers internationals.

How much of that pertains to what we'll use them for, I can't say. How they get spec'd out when bought is the issue - he orders his Internationals the way he wants, about $90k each. They come with air suspesion, air brakes, on-spot chains, the most powerful engines and many other details. ALL our buses are garaged.

A competitor buys off the lot 'last year' model thomas' for around $70k new. So no chains, no air horns, no perf ceiling (noise control w/ kids on board), backup cameras (so very dark interior mirrors). None of the buses are garaged and is common they are parked with the door open..critters DO get in. The paint gets more weather worn.

Here transits (door in front of wheel) are rare, 30 miles away another company looks to have nothing but transits.

And out of 15 buses we have only 2 over 100k miles. PA pretty much limits a buses age to 14 years so some never get a ton of miles on them. HOWever, compared to over the road coaches they are hard miles - all stop n go, kids on board.

Research I've done in the past says a lot of the coaches/city buses have stainless in them- lasts but you can't (realistically) modify/weld it. Limits what you can do or raises the costs as you have to pay someone to do it.

Drum vs disk..on a passenger vehicle yes, the front does the stopping..but on a big truck (aka bus) the rear does much of it. So disk's don't have the benefits that they do on cars.
Originally Posted by dgorila1 View Post
Thanks for the feedback on the coaches Morefire. I'm not impressed by Eagles. Prevost and MCI seem to be the industry standard for high end coach conversions, but I love the looks of the Van Hool...they have a modern look even with the late 90's models. From what I've read the later models also have disc brakes in front, which I think would be a plus.
My only concern in buying a used coach is they will already have 500,000 miles or more on them when bought used, so unless you find one where you can verify all the major components have been recently replaced/serviced (i.e brakes, air bags, tranny/engine, axles, etc), it's a potential pricey gamble with the purchase. Would hate to buy one and then have major repairs several months later which would cost tens of thousands of dollars. I do prefer coaches though due to more interior room and all the space underneath for installing the various systems, plus they ride so much smoother and faster on the highway than a skoolie.
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