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Old 10-29-2017, 09:55 PM   #1
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T444 AT545 combo is a slow turd

Test drove a 1996 International 7 window bus today with the 7.3l and Allison AT545 today. Everything about the bus was perfect and fit my bill for a bus conversion except one thing.

Terribly SLOW! I put it in "D" and basically floored the pedal. The way out was a long, curvy uphill and it was a total turd. The engine runs good and transmission shifted perfect, but man is this bus slow accelerating. Eventually I hit the top speed of 64 MPH on this bus which is not bad at all, but getting there was a chore.

You could say that this is not a total deal-breaker, but acceleration could be better. At least I know it will never explode

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Old 10-29-2017, 10:34 PM   #2
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You are driving a 14,000 pound vehicle with 170 to 190 hp , it is not going to be fast
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Old 10-29-2017, 11:22 PM   #3
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Try a 6 cylinder Dodge full size van.
Was this your first time driving a school bus?
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Old 10-30-2017, 08:46 AM   #4
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Not my first time driving a bus. I actually State Inspect several of them a year at work, but these are 07 and up DT466 models which are way more powerful. This was my first time driving a T444 210HP bus.
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Old 10-30-2017, 08:52 AM   #5
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Not my first time driving a bus. I actually State Inspect several of them a year at work, but these are 07 and up DT466 models which are way more powerful. This was my first time driving a T444 210HP bus.
I guess its all relative, then.
My 6 window is only 175 hp and it feels pretty quick for a bus.
But I've had forty footers before this. I bet that 7 window with 210 hp feels like a sportscar compared to my shorty.
Top speed is either electronically or gearing limited. My 175 hp bus with 545 has a 4.10 rear and the top speed is set at 75 in the computer.
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Old 10-30-2017, 09:15 AM   #6
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its all relative.. to me, the 444E and 545 in a shortie are decent.. if thats a 210 then its pretty decent combo. though I didnt think they pt 545's behind the 210 HP variant.. is that whats stamped on the valve cover is 210?

it may be there is something wrong with it also..

the later engines you are drivng are also equipped with lcokup transmissions.. thats where the big difference comes in.. but still I dont expect to go fast in a school bus... if i want to go fast I'll drive my 450 HP Hemi pickup..

does that bus have a J1708 diagnostic port on it? if so and you are resonably close to Columbus, i could bring my scanner and we could make sure its putting out all it can.
-Christopher
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Old 10-30-2017, 09:24 AM   #7
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I did not notice or look for a diag port. I have a Prolink at work I could check it with but the bus is 3 hours away. The engine is stamped 190 so I was wrong on that and the owner said its a 545 tranny. I should have got more pics and doubt you can see the tranny in the second one.
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Old 10-30-2017, 09:41 AM   #8
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the 190HP with 545 is a very common combination. thats what my red one was before I swapped transmissions.. and its a shortie.. its not fast but ive never felt like it was unsafe slow..

as torquey as a DT-466? not hardly.. your newer 466's by 07 were 210s or 230s and lockup allison 2000 transmissions. those are definitely a much higher end combination.

there was a guy who made tuners for the pre-1997 444E's that would bump them up.. but you have to be careful of the AT545.

another piece ofthe puzzle is that the electronic modulators they starting using on those AT545s in the mid 90s were prone to failure. if that goes bad then you will always be shifting too early (and as i found out damaging the transmission).. if you have your foot to the floor and its not runing itself right up to near redline befre shifting, then theres a decent chance that part is bad..

while the engine rated HP peaks at 2300 RPM, reality is the turbo spools hard between 2300 and 2600 so that extra couple hundred RPM make a difference esp once in next gear as your turno stays spooled..

ive noticed that in mine alot since ive put in the new transmission.. I have been tuning the shift points and shift quality around the turbo spool
-Christopher
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Old 10-30-2017, 09:56 AM   #9
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Well the price on this bus is in my budget and I really like it. I understand it's not gonna be fast and don't want fast, but it's just sluggish accelerating. It was nice actually talking to the person who drives the bus every week and he was honest. What I really like about this bus is.....

Size of the bus
Condition (some rust/no major rot)
No roof hatch (no water leaks)
No handicap door/lift
New tires (recap drives though)
New exhaust front to back
New rear brakes/rotors/calipers
New batteries
New alternator
Pa Inspected
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Old 10-30-2017, 10:01 AM   #10
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I have to say I like my shorty with a 444E, ive run 17,000 miles on it since i got it a little over a year ago.. I drive it more than my car.. I havent had any failures on my 444E internally.. it did like to run hot on hot days at full speed.. my fan clutch was crappy.. I upgraded to an electric one and a higher output fan blade.. at the ame time since it was in pieces i changed a water pump and oil pump.. neither were bad so wouldnt have had to..


PA, like Ohio is pretty strict on inspections so if it doesnt have much rust then id think its a good solid machine!!
-Christopher
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Old 10-30-2017, 10:42 AM   #11
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I agree with Caddy. Without seeing it, it sounds like a pretty good machine. The sluggishness can very likely be overcome with a tuneup, maybe run some injector cleaner and add a few turns on the smoke screw.

You can always upgrade the tranny later (I'm not a 545 hater, just think there are much better options out there). A close ratio 6 speed would help on both ends of the pulling range plus take care of that lockup thing.
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Old 10-30-2017, 10:26 PM   #12
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I looked at another bus today in Erie, Pa and it was a rust bucket, so I will pass on that one. I also found 3 at a local junkyard in Ohio, but they were also very rusty and had mechanical issues.

I might just pull the trigger on this shorty! I have no idea what I am getting into, but it's going to be the experience of a lifetime.

Wish me luck!
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Old 10-30-2017, 10:39 PM   #13
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Find one that you feel good about and go for it!
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Old 10-31-2017, 04:13 AM   #14
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Be picky. Get the shorty w/ the DT466 you want. She's out there.
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Old 10-31-2017, 07:24 AM   #15
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All the other ones I have looked at so far have been sitting, need work, cost more and have rust. Remember that 6 tires will cost $6000.00 I have also seen a few already converted busses, but I really don't want to undo want someone else has done. It's better to start with a clean slate. I can deal with the low power because I am used to driving my Geo Metro anyway.
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Old 10-31-2017, 07:39 AM   #16
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All the other ones I have looked at so far have been sitting, need work, cost more and have rust. Remember that 6 tires will cost $6000.00 I have also seen a few already converted busses, but I really don't want to undo want someone else has done. It's better to start with a clean slate. I can deal with the low power because I am used to driving my Geo Metro anyway.
Don't ever let anyone charge you six grand for new tires.
I can get a brand new set of six for $1500.
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Old 10-31-2017, 07:44 AM   #17
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I agree look for the bus you want!.. just keep watchign the auction sites.. also look at other auction sites other than just govdeals and publicsurplus. onlinepros has busses from time to time in texas.. 422sales richie brothers, I even found a rust free shortie in North dakots I almost bought.(till i realized my friend really didnt want it and I dont need THREE busses). it was a 2006 oil field transport bus with original 72k miles.. sealed transit windows and A/C, it sold for 1800 bucks..

I put 6 Name brand (uniroyal) tires on my DEV bus last year for under 3k (still a lot but not 6k).. you can get chinese tires for even less... that bus uses 11R22.5's .alot of people have good luck with double coin, my red bus has sampson tires on it and they seem pretty good. however there are a lot of busses out there which have tires that you can get a good few years out of before you need to replace them..

I had my red bus out last night (T444e) and stomped it from a dead stop, it seems like there is one spot at which acceleration feels slow, when you get into early 4th gear.. around that 40 MPH range up till about 50 or so.. my converter locks up halfway through my 2nd gear.. if you want a reference point for this other bus I can disable the lockup, run it up to speed and take a video if you like, gives you an idea of whether that bus really is super slow (maybe something wrong) or just par for the 444E course.
-Christopher
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Old 10-31-2017, 12:31 PM   #18
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I meant $2000 and not $6000 for tires.
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Old 10-31-2017, 02:34 PM   #19
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Just chain the geo metro to the back up against the bumper with a brick on the go pedal. Should give you some good get up right there. Paint it pink you'll get and extra 10hp out of it
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Old 11-01-2017, 05:41 PM   #20
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I meant $2000 and not $6000 for tires.
One good thing about the 444 is that a good running engine can be bought for less than your tires should the need arise. They're a dime a dozen.
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