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Old 10-05-2018, 07:04 AM   #1
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2002 AmTran pusher engine/trans removal/replacement

Really general question, Iím converting a ~30í AmTran t444e/t545 pusher. The transmission fluid is bright and stamped as rebuilt in 2013, engine has just over 200k miles/ 11.2k hours and runs great. Iím considering changing the gears to lower cruising rpms etc. I know the the 545 is not the best transmission etc and my engine has a lot of miles so at some point in the future both may need a replacement or rebuild. I also understand the t444e has to be removed to be rebuilt. I plan to keep the bus indefinitely and do some slight mods to lower the high point of the rear engine compartment for a loft bed.

So I want to get an idea of how involved/difficult/costly is it to remove/rebuild the drive train? Does the back of the bus body have to be cut open or anything?

It looks like the transmission just drops out the bottom... what about the engine?

Thanks!
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Old 10-05-2018, 10:40 AM   #2
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It's all of those things involved/difficult/costly.

What's your RPM and top speed now?

What's your plan with the bus light travel or full time over the road rig?

How far along are you in the conversion?




Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogue1bus View Post
Really general question, Iím converting a ~30í AmTran t444e/t545 pusher. The transmission fluid is bright and stamped as rebuilt in 2013, engine has just over 200k miles/ 11.2k hours and runs great. Iím considering changing the gears to lower cruising rpms etc. I know the the 545 is not the best transmission etc and my engine has a lot of miles so at some point in the future both may need a replacement or rebuild. I also understand the t444e has to be removed to be rebuilt. I plan to keep the bus indefinitely and do some slight mods to lower the high point of the rear engine compartment for a loft bed.

So I want to get an idea of how involved/difficult/costly is it to remove/rebuild the drive train? Does the back of the bus body have to be cut open or anything?

It looks like the transmission just drops out the bottom... what about the engine?

Thanks!
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Old 10-05-2018, 11:34 AM   #3
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Planning on weekend/vacation use for now. 3-4yrs I want to plan a 2-3month cross country trip. And after that trip Iíll see where things take me. The conversion is hard work and I want to maintain the investment (my time and effort) long term, which is why Iím wondering how everything on the bus works and how to maintain and replace the mechanical systems in the future. IE does the back of the bus need to be cut open to replace/rebuild the engine?


So far Iíve got the basic maintenance caught up, 95% of surface rust (which was light except on the fuel tank) rehabbed, the seats/floor out and 95% of the subfloor finished. Other maintenance issues I have to run to ground are:
-the instrument cluster cuts out sometimes
-fuel gauge inoperable
-unidentified frontend clunk while turning (I suspect a suspension component)
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Old 10-05-2018, 11:47 AM   #4
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I don't know a lot about the rear engine bus. But I am 99.9% sure northing will have to be cut. The engine either comes out the back or the bottom.

Basic maintenance meaning your oil change fuel filters coolant flush etc. If you can do all that yourself then your already half was there.

Sounds like a grounding issue maybe on your dash problems.

My advice is live with the bus like it is for now. If you totally can't stand it then maybe looking at swapping in a trans or gear set.

EDIT: I can get my bus up 68-70MPH at 2500RPM floored and I have MT643, but frankly it's kind of scary, something that big going that fast. It's a 41ft bus. There is no rush your driving your house down the road. Slow down take your time and drive at 55MPH and enjoy the trip.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogue1bus View Post
Planning on weekend/vacation use for now. 3-4yrs I want to plan a 2-3month cross country trip. And after that trip I’ll see where things take me. The conversion is hard work and I want to maintain the investment (my time and effort) long term, which is why I’m wondering how everything on the bus works and how to maintain and replace the mechanical systems in the future. IE does the back of the bus need to be cut open to replace/rebuild the engine?


So far I’ve got the basic maintenance caught up, 95% of surface rust (which was light except on the fuel tank) rehabbed, the seats/floor out and 95% of the subfloor finished. Other maintenance issues I have to run to ground are:
-the instrument cluster cuts out sometimes
-fuel gauge inoperable
-unidentified frontend clunk while turning (I suspect a suspension component)
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Old 10-05-2018, 01:06 PM   #5
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Totally agree, I love the bus size, drives good and generally speaking Iím totally happy with itís systems even my 545 transmission.

Plenty of well documented reasons people dislike the 545 especially in a full size bus but I like it because.
-Cheap to rebuild/replace (I think, correct me if Iím wrong)
-performs fine in my 30í bus

* I donít want to change the transmission or drive faster per-say I just want to shift the gear ratio so I can cruise at 50-55 mph at 2100-2300 rpm, the bus has plenty of pep as is so I think acceleration would still be fine. And I would have a more optimal cruising rpm and continue the ease of servicing/remanding my current transmission.


Iíve been spending extra time and money being meticulous about the the body stuff, floor etc because I want long term durability/longevity and using the bus to travel will eventually result in major mechanical work so Iím trying to prepared mentally and fiscally for those future events but donít know enough about the buses systems yet.
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Old 10-05-2018, 04:27 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogue1bus View Post
Totally agree, I love the bus size, drives good and generally speaking Iím totally happy with itís systems even my 545 transmission.

Plenty of well documented reasons people dislike the 545 especially in a full size bus but I like it because.
-Cheap to rebuild/replace (I think, correct me if Iím wrong)
-performs fine in my 30í bus

* I donít want to change the transmission or drive faster per-say I just want to shift the gear ratio so I can cruise at 50-55 mph at 2100-2300 rpm, the bus has plenty of pep as is so I think acceleration would still be fine. And I would have a more optimal cruising rpm and continue the ease of servicing/remanding my current transmission.


Iíve been spending extra time and money being meticulous about the the body stuff, floor etc because I want long term durability/longevity and using the bus to travel will eventually result in major mechanical work so Iím trying to prepared mentally and fiscally for those future events but donít know enough about the buses systems yet.

I was a big fan of the AT545 till I wasted two of them (in different busses).. now one bus has a 6 speed allison 1000, and the other has an MT643..



Luckily neither of them left me far from home.. but the one in the tan bus. did just go without warning... it shifted 1-2 and 2-3 and then 3-??? never did that bus move under its own power again with that transmission.. glad I was 3 miles from home and not 300 or 1300. (I go on long trips in my busses)...

-Christopher
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Old 10-05-2018, 04:51 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogue1bus View Post
Totally agree, I love the bus size, drives good and generally speaking Iím totally happy with itís systems even my 545 transmission.

Plenty of well documented reasons people dislike the 545 especially in a full size bus but I like it because.
-Cheap to rebuild/replace (I think, correct me if Iím wrong)
-performs fine in my 30í bus

* I donít want to change the transmission or drive faster per-say I just want to shift the gear ratio so I can cruise at 50-55 mph at 2100-2300 rpm, the bus has plenty of pep as is so I think acceleration would still be fine. And I would have a more optimal cruising rpm and continue the ease of servicing/remanding my current transmission.


Iíve been spending extra time and money being meticulous about the the body stuff, floor etc because I want long term durability/longevity and using the bus to travel will eventually result in major mechanical work so Iím trying to prepared mentally and fiscally for those future events but donít know enough about the buses systems yet.
There are many reasons the 545 is not desired. Efficiency, reliability, and power. They all suffer with the slipping.
I've got one and its fine for now. First chance I get I'll swap it though. I just don't like the way they drive.
My bus only has 64k on it and its on its second 545.
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Old 10-05-2018, 05:12 PM   #8
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the 545 is a great stop N go transmission, they were generally extremely reliable in school bus scenerios.. the lack of lock-up is no issue when doping school routes as when doing route service within a neighborhood the transmission rarely goes above 2nd gear.. most of the lockup trans dont llockup till 3rd gear..



the issue comes in when trying to run them on long road trips.. esp up and down hills. as EC mentioned, they get hot.. that constant converter spin makes lots of heat... heat kills transmission fluid..



you can put a bigger cooler on to help, you can run synthetic fluid which takes a higher temperature nefore it breaks down but ultimately its not a good transmission for long trips, heavy loads, or towing..



for sheer brute in a school bus the MT-643 is probably the most stout.. in comparison, the AT545 weighs about 375 lbs, the MT643 weighs about 700 lbs..



the soutness of the 1000 / 2000 come from newer designs and the lockup.. the sungear shell and inout shaft is heavier on the 1000 / 2000 than the 545.. and of course you gain lockup and an extra gear or 2..




-Christopher
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Old 10-05-2018, 06:17 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the good info!

Btw I forgot to say my cruising rpm at 55mph is 2550ish.

Good food for thought. Maybe I will switch to a different transmission when this one goes... I read there are a lot of technical issues changing to a different transmission type from the factory one, IE the electronics need some assistance to communicate with a different transmission etc.

Can anyone here address that? As in if I had a different transmission put in by a shop, how do I get it to work with my t444e? What is involved outside the mechanical side?

Anyways I feel pretty good about the 545 in it now, my bus is not a full size rig and I donít plan on making the build too heavy and donít plan on towing anything with it so Iím cautiously optimistic itíll last if Iím easy on it.
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Old 10-05-2018, 10:46 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogue1bus View Post
Thanks for all the good info!

Btw I forgot to say my cruising rpm at 55mph is 2550ish.

Good food for thought. Maybe I will switch to a different transmission when this one goes... I read there are a lot of technical issues changing to a different transmission type from the factory one, IE the electronics need some assistance to communicate with a different transmission etc.

Can anyone here address that? As in if I had a different transmission put in by a shop, how do I get it to work with my t444e? What is involved outside the mechanical side?

Anyways I feel pretty good about the 545 in it now, my bus is not a full size rig and I donít plan on making the build too heavy and donít plan on towing anything with it so Iím cautiously optimistic itíll last if Iím easy on it.
Your 545 isn't electronic.
55mph at 2550 rpm means you have low gears in the rear.
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Old 10-05-2018, 11:40 PM   #11
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Your 545 isn't electronic.

55mph at 2550 rpm means you have low gears in the rear.


Exactly, so I think Iíll change um out and be all set
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Old 10-08-2018, 07:38 PM   #12
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Go with a Cummins

I would recommend going with a ISB 5.9 of 6.7 and an MD3060. You could buy a doner bus from an auction for cheap with a rusted out body, pull the drive train and scrap the rest for cash. The Powerstrock 7.3 (T444) engine you have is OK, but it has its issues.

The tranny will loose so much power and fuel due to the lack of a lock up torque converter. The computer for the MD3060 is not that hard to wire in, just time consuming and if you are planning on keeping this bus for long term travel, its well worth the investment.

These desirable drive trains are non emission units as well, no egr, no after treatment too.

Some of my ranting, sorry. Hopefully it helps.
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Old 10-08-2018, 08:00 PM   #13
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I would recommend going with a ISB 5.9 of 6.7 and an MD3060. You could buy a doner bus from an auction for cheap with a rusted out body, pull the drive train and scrap the rest for cash. The Powerstrock 7.3 (T444) engine you have is OK, but it has its issues.



The tranny will loose so much power and fuel due to the lack of a lock up torque converter. The computer for the MD3060 is not that hard to wire in, just time consuming and if you are planning on keeping this bus for long term travel, its well worth the investment.



These desirable drive trains are non emission units as well, no egr, no after treatment too.



Some of my ranting, sorry. Hopefully it helps.


Right on. Thanks for the great info!

So you think I could have the transmissions swapped at a shop then re-wire the transmission myself? Seems like others have had a really hard time getting shops to get everything talking...

Also is the md3060 a direct swap or are there other components that need to be modified, ie mounts drive shaft etc.

What issues are you referring to with the t444?

Thanks
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Old 10-08-2018, 08:21 PM   #14
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Exactly, so I think I’ll change um out and be all set
You'll be all set at top end, but sacrifice low end performance by just changing the rear ratio.

Short answer for the trans swap, Yes, there will be mods needed. They are different lengths and so drive shafts and mounts and others might come into play.
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Old 10-08-2018, 09:21 PM   #15
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Exactly, so I think Iíll change um out and be all set
I've always had highway gears in the rear of all my buses. With a non-OD transmission its hard to beat full sized tires and 4.11 in the rear.
Here's my 190hp Cat with Allison 545 and 4.11 rear-

I've got 10R22.5's on this bus. I could lower my cruising RPM even more with 11R's.
I don't really need OD with this gearing so I'll be upgrading to a 643 eventually.
But since my 545 is new I'll run it till it breaks or till I can't stand it any more.
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Old 10-08-2018, 09:25 PM   #16
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Nice!!! Right in the "sweet spot" at 65!
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Old 10-08-2018, 09:27 PM   #17
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Nice!!! Right in the "sweet spot" at 65!
Yep, out on the highway or pulling from a stop the Cat purrs like a kitten!

They have fast, crazy traffic on the freeways around Atlanta so they geared it appropriately.

My other bus is a real speed demon too. 215hp DT466/Allison2500/5.29 rear.
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Old 10-08-2018, 10:35 PM   #18
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Quote:
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I've always had highway gears in the rear of all my buses. With a non-OD transmission its hard to beat full sized tires and 4.11 in the rear.

Here's my 190hp Cat with Allison 545 and 4.11 rear-



I've got 10R22.5's on this bus. I could lower my cruising RPM even more with 11R's.

I don't really need OD with this gearing so I'll be upgrading to a 643 eventually.

But since my 545 is new I'll run it till it breaks or till I can't stand it any more.


I just gotta figure out what rear end I have, and source some replacement gears. Iím wondering if the gears for my bus will be harder to find or more expensive since it a pusher, as in are they reverse gears etc...
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Old 10-09-2018, 07:52 AM   #19
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swapping out for a 3060 in a T-444E... you will likely need to find the auxilliary mounts for your frame to your engine.. you **MAY** be able to use the same flywheel and not need an additional Flexplate.. the bolt pattern in the flywheel for the 444E matches the 643 converter but im not sure about the offset.. I' can look in my books if you get serious about a 3060 swap...



a 1000 / 2000 swap would be much "easier" as no additional mounts are required.. you'll of course (as mentioned) need electronics.. maybe its another thread where i went into it.. (ive done a 545 to 1000 swap on a 444E and it works great but was a good bit of work)..


rear end gears.. as mentioned you'll gain top end but lose it on the bottom as far as torque... plus that slipping converter east you alive in power..



-Christopher
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Old 10-09-2018, 08:37 AM   #20
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Quote:
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swapping out for a 3060 in a T-444E... you will likely need to find the auxilliary mounts for your frame to your engine.. you **MAY** be able to use the same flywheel and not need an additional Flexplate.. the bolt pattern in the flywheel for the 444E matches the 643 converter but im not sure about the offset.. I' can look in my books if you get serious about a 3060 swap...



a 1000 / 2000 swap would be much "easier" as no additional mounts are required.. you'll of course (as mentioned) need electronics.. maybe its another thread where i went into it.. (ive done a 545 to 1000 swap on a 444E and it works great but was a good bit of work)..


rear end gears.. as mentioned you'll gain top end but lose it on the bottom as far as torque... plus that slipping converter east you alive in power..



-Christopher


I really appreciate it! Iíll keep you posted if/ when I do anything.
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