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Old 11-16-2018, 05:01 PM   #1
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Gutless T444E and AT545

Well...we just took our first test run in our 1999 International mid bus with the above engine and transmission. We went camping in West Virgina for several days. We quickly realized this bus is gutless when it comes to uphill power. If we got up to 35mph going uphill we were doing well. I never expected the bus to be equivalent to a diesel truck but I thought it would have a bit more power. This kind of nixes our plans to convert this bus into a home and travel around out west. If it can barely handle the hills of WV, how will it get through the passes of the Rockies?

The bus has good bones. Zero rust and about 80k miles on it. Is already partially converted. So what now? What can we do to increase power or make it better for climbing mountains?

A transmission swap and/or rear end swap is what first comes to mind. We dont mind spending $3-4k to make that happen. We have $6k in the bus as is. So to spend that extra money to make it mountain worthy is a good investment for us. We would have to have a shop do the work since we dont have the knowledge to do something like that.

What are your opinions? Thanks in advance!20181111_161229.jpeg
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Old 11-16-2018, 05:31 PM   #2
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Whatís your rpm at 55mph on flat ground?
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Old 11-16-2018, 05:33 PM   #3
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In your boat

I have the same year bus with what is most likely the same transmission + motor.



The tranny ID plate is gone and 2 diesel mechanics couldn't ID the thing. I have the 210hp engine and I have to say that it sounds nice when it's running. I pressume I will have to blow up the transmission, then replace it or buy a different bus. The diesel mechanic was glad to hear me ask if he would put in a new transmission.



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Old 11-16-2018, 06:34 PM   #4
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Whatís your rpm at 55mph on flat ground?
I dont know off the top of my head but I would guess about 2500. The governor was removed by an Internatonak dealership so it will could faster. But that's too fast for the engine to spin.
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Old 11-16-2018, 06:35 PM   #5
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I have the same year bus with what is most likely the same transmission + motor.



The tranny ID plate is gone and 2 diesel mechanics couldn't ID the thing. I have the 210hp engine and I have to say that it sounds nice when it's running. I pressume I will have to blow up the transmission, then replace it or buy a different bus. The diesel mechanic was glad to hear me ask if he would put in a new transmission.



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MOAR POWER. Mine is the 190HP version
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Old 11-16-2018, 06:45 PM   #6
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I dont know off the top of my head but I would guess about 2500. The governor was removed by an Internatonak dealership so it will could faster. But that's too fast for the engine to spin.


Thatís what mine does too, t444e/545 with 5.29 gears.

Depending on how steep the grade is, 35mph maybe normal I dunno. But if the engine is spinning 2500 and your bus is only going 35 then itís the slip in the transmission, I read on this forum that someone added a transmission cooler to their 545 and it really helped reduce the amount of slip on uphill grades.

Iím expecting / hoping for 40-45 uphill with 75% throttle and low slip. But Iíll back the throttle off till the rpm/speed match up without much slipping to avoid excess transmission heat and poor fuel economy. If I have go 35 sometimes so be it.
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Old 11-16-2018, 06:57 PM   #7
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MOAR POWER. Mine is the 190HP version

I hacked the computer and changed the EFRC and HP up to 230.. im putting a pyro gauge on it and a bigger turbio before I drive it far.. but I swapped my AT545 for an allison 1000 in 2017.. best thing i ever did..



right now at the low torque EFRC and 230 HP.. my red bus will Haul Ass..

-Christopher
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Old 11-16-2018, 08:37 PM   #8
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I have the same bus size and engine/tranny combo with 4.78 gears. When I first drove it through the mountains in Pennsylvania, I thought this bus of mine is just going to be a slow turd up the hills. I have the 210 HP engine and was able to turn off the road speed limiter. I also disabled the EBP system and straight piped the exhaust. This made a difference, but guess what. It's still a slow turd on the hills.

I have learned to live with it and not upset or regretting the bus I bought because this is a very reliable and proven drivetrain. Took me awhile to learn how to drive my bus properly and the more I drive it, the more satisfied I am with it. I can cruise at 60 mph at 2500 RPM all day long and know it is totally fine.
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Old 11-16-2018, 10:18 PM   #9
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Johnny did you bump yourself up to 210 from 175?

I notice a big difference running a low torque mode 230 tune. I haven’t. Climbed with it yet. I want my pyro up first . I need to learn the turbo and up pipe part numbers for the high torque versions so I can install them and run it at max 250 high torque
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Old 11-16-2018, 10:32 PM   #10
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install a trans cooler.

it was the biggest bang for the buck on my at545. i now keep up with traffic on hills.
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Old 11-16-2018, 11:26 PM   #11
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A big transcooler and use a temperature block so it doesn’t stay too cold in winter.

There are industrial size coolers, don’t use a simple car cooler it won’t be big enough
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Old 11-16-2018, 11:52 PM   #12
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If you're looking for trans-continental cruising and you want to go more than 35 up the steep grades AND have engine braking then I'd sell that 444E/545 bus on facebook for ten g's and upgrade. Just my 2 cents.
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Old 11-18-2018, 04:55 PM   #13
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If you're looking for trans-continental cruising and you want to go more than 35 up the steep grades AND have engine braking then I'd sell that 444E/545 bus on facebook for ten g's and upgrade. Just my 2 cents.

Yes we want to drive all across the country with it. We like the mountains so we will spend quite a bit of time out west. The bus has good bones so we really didn't want to sell it. Plus these mid sizes seem to be hard to find. However, if that's what we must do then we will. You really think it could sell for $10k?
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Old 11-18-2018, 04:56 PM   #14
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If you're looking for trans-continental cruising and you want to go more than 35 up the steep grades AND have engine braking then I'd sell that 444E/545 bus on facebook for ten g's and upgrade. Just my 2 cents.
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A big transcooler and use a temperature block so it doesnít stay too cold in winter.

There are industrial size coolers, donít use a simple car cooler it wonít be big enough

We will have to talk more about this over coffee...I'm not sure what a temp block is. Seems to me that our bus will at minimum need a cooler if not a transmission swap to be mountain safe/worthy.
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Old 11-18-2018, 10:29 PM   #15
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We really like the size of our mid-bus. Not too big and not too small. We would like to be able to still get off the beaten path once we make it out west and find great places to boondock. Not off road, per say. I just know a full size bus would be harder to get places.

I guess my question is: If possible, what can we do to our bus to make it more worthy for mountains? Just a good transmission cooler and call it a day? Or would a transmission swap be better? If so, whats the simplest swap to do? Like I said, we don't mind spending 3-4K to make it happen. Or, is our only good option to sell the bus and buy a larger bus with DT466?
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Old 11-18-2018, 10:57 PM   #16
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Gutless T444E and AT545

Quote:
Originally Posted by advRN View Post
We really like the size of our mid-bus. Not too big and not too small. We would like to be able to still get off the beaten path once we make it out west and find great places to boondock. Not off road, per say. I just know a full size bus would be harder to get places.

I guess my question is: If possible, what can we do to our bus to make it more worthy for mountains? Just a good transmission cooler and call it a day? Or would a transmission swap be better? If so, whats the simplest swap to do? Like I said, we don't mind spending 3-4K to make it happen. Or, is our only good option to sell the bus and buy a larger bus with DT466?


The lack of lockup on the 545 has no impact on off-road performance. Iím in the same boat except I have a t444e in my rig love the medium size etc. I think it will be cheaper and easier to add a transmission cooler and temp gauge. Then later if the transmission needs replacement you can replace with an Allison 1000 (which is a direct bolt up as I understand it from this forum, but the wiring has to be untucked)
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Old 11-19-2018, 06:26 AM   #17
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I did the 1000 swap in mine. Check out my thread called the RedByrd transformation in the short bus forum.. I detailed the swap.. some of the perils I went through no longer apply when it comes to making the speedo work, as I now know how to program the ECM with the 2 locked down parameters.

Cooling is t the only issue, in the big mountains you want the ability for engine breaking on downhills. Esp if you are traveling heavy through the Rockies.
I 70 is by far worse than I 80 for serious grades. I drove I 80 this summer in a 40 year old gasoline bus with an AT540 so it can be done.. but I was careful on each hill. Regardless of the bus you have they are all busses and you can’texpect to haul ass in the mountains .. you still have to slow down what you get moving.. I drove both of my other busses all over the mountains in the east USA numerous times with 545s watching my temp gauge and both transmissions still ended up in the scrapyard. My other bus has a 643 now.

I’m glad to show you about trans swaps and help with the computers if you go the route of 1000 swap. I have jacks ratchets straps bars computer scan tools you name it that you can use if you want to do it.

The comment about a 1000 being direct bolt, it is if you get the right one, a gmc duramaxx 1000 is not the right one. A 2000 used from a school bus is one method to save some money over going new. I personally knew I’d be running many miles on my bus so I had a 1000 built to my specs . A 4th gen trans nets you 6th gear whereas most used school bus 2000s will be 5 speed. It’s still a .75 overdrive which is significant for sure.

Your 444e can easily be turned up to 210 hp, that’s a 5 minute job with my computer. Going higher would easily waste a 545... plus you need to start watching your EGT unless you swap your turbo too then you can go to 250. Which is as high as that engine is capable of. I ran mine up to 230 and that bus hauls. Now.. I also discovered a boost leak so I’ll be fixing that very soon and seeing where it goes from there .

Christopher
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Old 11-19-2018, 07:51 AM   #18
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We really like the size of our mid-bus. Not too big and not too small. We would like to be able to still get off the beaten path once we make it out west and find great places to boondock. Not off road, per say. I just know a full size bus would be harder to get places.

I guess my question is: If possible, what can we do to our bus to make it more worthy for mountains? Just a good transmission cooler and call it a day? Or would a transmission swap be better? If so, whats the simplest swap to do? Like I said, we don't mind spending 3-4K to make it happen. Or, is our only good option to sell the bus and buy a larger bus with DT466?

You have some real good responses from a few knowledgable people here, and willing to put money in it. Since you like the bus and it has low miles, and no rust I would say keep it.

Turning up the HP is easy enough, and adding a trans cooler is relatively easy, both good starting points.

Your comment about being like a truck, well school buses are built on truck chassis, so truck like it will be. Must say I do not feel the need for speed in the my bus. Did not expect that, I tend to be a pedal to the metal driver. It just puts me in a differant frame of mind driving the bus.
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Old 11-19-2018, 08:28 AM   #19
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ronnie has it right, the mentality changes.. while I know i can run hard in the busses, I set my cruise at 65 and just let it run. in my DEV bus I go 55-60. and just go.. I realize when going west from ohio.. there is a lot of boring flat miles until you get to places interesting, however the trick i have learned is to stop often, if I see a sign that looks interesting, i go there.. I stop, walk that small town, eat at that cafe..



my red short bus is only a couple feet longer than a dualie crew cab pickup truck.. so you can park a shortie in a lot of places..



back to replace the bus? DT-466 shorties are out there.. with allison 2000 transmissions, and they are beasts.. ECCB has one.. ive ridden it.. its a runner.. more and more busses with favorable transmissions do show up in the auctions and for sale now.. some get bid up, others dont...



the allison 2000 5 speed lockup transmission was introduced in the year 2000.. the allison 545 was discontinued after the 2003 model year.. you occasionally see 01 or 02 shorties with the 2000 trans. but many more 03/04 models with it. the 545 was a cheap budget trans option so it was picked.. and to be frankl, the AT545 is an excellent route bus transmission for stop n go, in town use. which is where most school busses, esp shorties are used.. shorties are not usually run on lot of school road trips.



-Christopher
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Old 11-19-2018, 06:59 PM   #20
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Gutless T444E and AT545

Iím trying to figure out what tranny cooler to add... how do I select the cooling capacity? Iím looking at this one for my 545, which is rated for 67k btu... I donít know how to tell what an adequate amount of cooling is for a bus..

Derale 15870 Hyper-Cool Extreme

[URL] http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004XONUA6/?tag=sheepdogsurvi-20[URL]
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