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Old 11-07-2013, 02:11 PM   #1
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Stuck in first, literally and figuratively

How's everybody doin? Profbrady here, I've been lurking around the forums and counting down the days to pick up my bus! An auction, a flight, a one way rental car, and $2700 later, I'm on the way back from Tennessee to California. Well, sort of.

First off, here's the specs:
1998 amtran international FE FC with a DT466 and Allison 545. 11 window 66 passenger, 154k miles.

Picked up the bus yesterday in Fayetteville (2 hrs south of Nashville) and drive it the first two hours of the journey. What a blast! The bus seemed to run fine, though appears to be governed at 55. parked overnight at a Love's truck stop to rest up and really put some miles on it today. Problem is, it won't seem to shift out of 1st. Ugh. I can't go much faster than 15mph and even using the manual 1,2,3 transmission controls doesn't seem to do anything. The rpm's go up to about 2500 and with the pedal to the floor, it seems like the tranny just format want to react.

Love's pointed me to a Truck Repair yard about 20 miles away. After the 1.5 hour drive to get here, they're not of much help. Guy just looked at the bus and said "only thing we'll do is put a new transmission in it". No willingness to check it out, have a look, anything. I called the school district where I picked it up from and they're of no help. They described the bus as being in perfectly fine running condition.

I'm pretty much in the middle of nowhere at the moment, outside of Columbia, TN, and weighing my options. I thought maybe one of you guys might have a suggestion!

Did I screw something up between last night and today? Flip the wrong switch, push the wrong button? I can't quite figure out why it was running just fine yesterday, and today it's gone haywire. Anything I should try? Transmission fluid seems fine from what I can tell, dip stick reads full. I've got some mechanical ability, a wrench and screwdrivers with me, but may be out of my element! Any hot tip son how to get service without going broke? There are one or two more diesel mechanics that I could snail my way to, but this one didn't leave me hopeful.

Thanks you guys! I really was to get this thing home and do a first post full of great photos and anecdotes... Still will, but gotta deal with the getting home part first!

-profbrady
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Old 11-07-2013, 07:50 PM   #2
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Re: Stuck in first, literally and figuratively

Damn! That sucks.... I really wish I had some idea's for ya but I truly do not. It sure does sound weird that things were fine yesterday but today it's broken. Gotta be an electrical issue. A relay, solenoid, something stupid. I'm gonna do a little internet searching and see if I come up with anything. If you do get it shifting, don't shut it off..... point it west and hammer down! Good luck.

pulled from an quick internet search:

Resolved Question:
I HAVE AN AT545 ALLISON TRANSMISSION IN A 1999 MODEL YEAR INTERNATIONAL (NAVISTAR) SCHOOL BUS. ITS PROBLEM IS IN THE UPSHIFTING TO A HIGHER GEAR. FOR EXAMPLE, IF IT IS PLACED IN THE '' DRIVE'' POSITION AND THE ACCELERATOR IS DEPRESSED, IT USUALLY STAYS IN ''FIRST'', ''SECOND'' OR ''THIRD'' GEAR. SOMETIMES IT SHIFTS TO THE ''DRIVE'' POSITION IF ONE ''PLAYS'' WITH THE ACCELERATOR PEDAL. THERE ARE 5.43 VOLTS ON THE POWER (TAN) WIRE GOING TO THE SOLENOID ON THE TRANSMISSION. WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Heavy Equipment
Expert: Allisonforeman replied 3 years ago.
Hello and thanks for using Just Answer,my name is XXXXX XXXXX X would like to help you with your question. The newer model AT 545 uses an electric modulator instead of a vacuum or mechanical style modulator. The modulators function is to let the transmission valve body know when the throttle position is above 60% throttle or so. When the system is operating properly there will not be any voltage until the throttle is opened 60% or more,"then there should be a full 12 volts".If there is voltage at all times"although 6 volts is somewhat low"the transmission will not want to shift at part throttle conditions". A simple check you can do is to disconnect the connector at the modulator and test drive at no more than 1/2 throttle,if the transmission now shifts the relay is probably failing. If the transmission is the original,I would suspect a stuck governor. It is located on the drivers side toward the rear of the transmission behind a cover with 4 bolts on it,you can remove the governor,hold the weights in and shake it up and down,you should hear the valve inside move up and down freely,if it is stuck it could also cause your concern,"Although I would still address the voltage at the modulator too"
I hope this information helps ,Let me know if you need any further information.
Bill
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Old 11-07-2013, 09:49 PM   #3
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Re: Stuck in first, literally and figuratively

Quote:
Originally Posted by syke
Damn! That sucks.... I really wish I had some idea's for ya but I truly do not. It sure does sound weird that things were fine yesterday but today it's broken. Gotta be an electrical issue. A relay, solenoid, something stupid. I'm gonna do a little internet searching and see if I come up with anything. If you do get it shifting, don't shut it off..... point it west and hammer down! Good luck.
Hey Skye, thanks for the moral support and info search! After posting, I crept along to the other truck mechanic within reach, and while waiting for someone to take a look at it, found that same article online. The governor was actually pretty easy to get to - just as described. That being said, it was in perfect operating condition... I was hoping to find something I could just smack with a wrench to repair. Ultimately, I think you're exactly right - electrical demons! They've been the bane of my existence with every vehicle I've ever owned. Sudden, mysterious, illogical problems - those are the electrical demons' specialty. Tough to diagnose without a voltmeter (and an inability to locate the modulator).

Long story short, I'm at the Days Inn for the night and have a tow scheduled to Nashville in the morning. Clarke Power Services have assured me on the phone they can solve the problem - they just may be a few days backed up. Yikes. Plus, they're website makes them look expensive. Well, a decent bus in SoCal would set me back at least 6k, so I may still be ahead of the curve. Plus the catfish next door at Jumbo House is pretty awesome. Staying as positive as I can manage while I anticipate the prognosis tomorrow.

Above all, I've GOTTA get this thing home to beat the naysayers. I wanted adventure, I guess I got it!

I'll post updates with hopes they may come in handy for future searchers.
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Old 11-07-2013, 10:51 PM   #4
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Re: Stuck in first, literally and figuratively

Good luck,my post earlier didn't post....mmm...it was more simple than what has been posted.

Have you disconnected the battery for say ...1/2 hr? I would assume no computers anywhere,but hell...its a free check

It should be cable activated

Maybe a blown fuse in the conglomorate of shiat wire that is factory on the driverside outside

Goodluck and...........welcome to the site....if you were less than 1 state away I would give you a beer and dinner....cheers
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Old 11-08-2013, 09:40 AM   #5
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Re: Stuck in first, literally and figuratively

Appreciate that, Bansil... I'll have to take a rain check! Still expecting I can make this thing road worthy enough to have a few cruises around the country.

Disconnect the battery, nope, didn't try it... damn. I'm past the point of no return with having the bus towed - driver's picking me up with the bus already attached in just a few minutes. If nothing else, I can always give that a shot first thing in Nashville. And yup, that mess of wires and fuses may be the culprit. Did the best I could to check it out but couldn't find any obvious culprit. From what I can gather online, and comparing numerous Allison PDF's, I'm thinking the modulator is a vacuum actuated unit. So I guess it could be an air leak...

I figure if these guys at Clarke Super Power Service Emporium can't look at it straight away, I'll pull it around the corner and tinker with it, or try to find a budget roadside provider.

Another day and another shot at it!
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Old 11-08-2013, 08:24 PM   #6
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Re: Stuck in first, literally and figuratively

I really hate hearing this kind of stuff.

Like others theres nothing I can really offer to tap or hammer on to make it better. But I would offer a few things to maybe investigate.

1) As for a repair shop I would look for someone that is an Allison service center. I think that would cut some of the guessing out of the equation.

2) I would contact the school district and see who they use for their tranny service. Maybe they have mobile service?

I really hope you get this resolved with out having your wallet beaten to death.


Good luck.
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Old 11-09-2013, 11:58 AM   #7
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Re: Stuck in first, literally and figuratively

OMG, I'm having flashbacks of my trip from TN to CA.

You have a DT466E for electronic fuel injunction. That's why I bought a 1997. The very last year of mechanical injection. It sounds like any suggestion may be too late since you already have a tow. A call to the local school maintenance yard with offers of cash for the transmission tech to do a service call would have been my first choice.

ETA, Bapos made the same comment in number 2. I guess great minds think a like.
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Old 11-09-2013, 02:57 PM   #8
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Re: Stuck in first, literally and figuratively

Well progress here, and though my wallet isn't exactly thrilled with me, at least things are moving in the right direction. Didn't even think to check with the school district as far as using their transmission tech; that would have been a good option! It'll be handy to have that in this thread for the future though.

Crazycal, figured it might sound familiar if you found this thread! I definitely read through your whole thread when I started thinking seriously about this bus, and have gone back and referenced it a number of times. Oddly, this bus was listed as a plain dt466, and the engine seems pretty clearly labeled that way too.. no E. I could be wrong and will check my photos when I get home. The date of manufacturers sometime in 97, I wonder if there are a few dt466s that were still being installed in the latter part of that year.

The latest: I got the bus up to Nashville on the tow truck. 450 bucks... note to self, get AAA sorted out! It took a few hours to get someone's eyes on it at the service center (Allison authorized, as you mentioned Bapos). In the meantime, I disconnected the battery, checked fuses and wiring, adjusted the mechanical modulator cable as best I could, and some general tinkering around. No dice. Eventually two different mechanics came and drove it around, sniffed the transmission fluid intently, and ran a few tests that I had read about it on the Allison website. For example, laying into the gas pedal with the parking brake on and transmission in drive to see how she reacts. The consensus seemed to be "this transmission is slipping like crazy, it's probably just about completely shot." All five people I talked to over there seemed to genuinely believe that 154k on the original transmission was a pretty good lifespan. If we're not seeing the signs of a dead transmission now, it's an inevitability soon. Unfortunately, they can't make a proper diagnosis until they get it jacked up and start taking things apart, which can't happen until late next week.

Soooo, I'm gonna leave the bus with these guys and am at the airport to catch a bus back to LA now. Yup, a bummer, but my spirits not broken. I'm buying the bus to take the band on tour (plus random road trips) so I knew I'd need to give some extra attention the that at545 to ensure it wouldn't leave us on the side of the road and having to cancel shows. Just didn't realize I'd have to do that so immediately! Well, no time like the present. Plus, yes it's a lot of coin, but let's face it- it's still absolutely incredible to me how cheap buses are.

In the likely event that it needs a new (reman) transmission, the service center said that would come in at about 2500, all in. Not great but it terrible. And that's for another at545. I mentioned dropping an MT643 in and they said that while that would be a better transmission, the cost would far outweigh the benefit. Didn't get a figure on that but maybe I should. Crazycal, are you still looking to replace the at545 you've got? Have you gotten any estimates on that?

Cheers, hope you and your buses are kickin ass!
iPhone at the airport, so typos/autocorrects, you know the drill...
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Old 11-10-2013, 06:46 AM   #9
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Re: Stuck in first, literally and figuratively

Be careful these tranny's need 2200/2400 rpm input speed to apply full pressure to the bands

Just because it's slipping is not a reason for it not to shift, especially after only sitting over night

Are you absoluluty sure you didn't. Do anything to it before hitting the sack or after getting up?


Maybe opened a door,hatch something weird?

How did linkage look?

Their is a forumn for school bus mechanics,owners try to google it
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Old 11-10-2013, 08:11 AM   #10
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Re: Stuck in first, literally and figuratively

I found this but didn't watch it.

http://schoolbusmechanic.blogspot.com/2 ... o-get.html



Go to the Professional Garage section and search, I bet it has been covered.

http://www.schoolbusfleet.com/forum/
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