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Old 10-27-2016, 03:26 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
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Getting my skoolie soon. Last minute thoughts

Hey guys,

I posted a few days ago as an introduction. I dunno if I have this in the right sub or not but I kinda wanted to hear some peoples opinions.

I am going to get my bus this weekend and keep having conflicting thoughts. I am excited to get into the project. Here is the deal:

There are two buses I am looking at.

Bus 1) 01 freightliner thomas 64 pass cat3126 motor auto trans air brakes 180k miles

This bus has a remarkably clean body and starts right up. It runs smooth, shifts well and has a lot of get up and go on the test drive. engine bay looks clean, no obvious leaks. will need some new tires.

Bus 2) 00 international amtran 64 pass dt466e motor auto trans air brakes 180k miles

This bus also as a pretty clean body but not as clean as the Thomas. The back door will either need some metalwork or replacing due to rusty bits. Needs a jump to start. Engine runs ok, no knocking, miss or other immediate red flags. It really feels gutless. It takes a long time to get it up to 55 even on more or less flat ground. I used to drive route trucks with the same engine and trans and the bus feels like its a loaded truck.

I was all set to go with the freightliner. out of all the buses I have looked at or test driven it is probly the best overall. However, the lack of information here and the hate party these things seem to get on the forum are making me have second thoughts. All the information on trucks and buses with this set up more or less say the same thing - keep clean oil and there wont be much problem. Is it really that much of a problem? I mean I have looked at 15 or so buses now and it still actually RUNS the best out of all of them.

Let me know your thoughts below please. Could use some good council.
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Old 10-27-2016, 04:15 AM   #2
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It's not that the CAT is a bad engine, as such..... lots of people run them many thousands of miles without a hitch. The trick is gonna be getting parts for it if you need them.... and heaven help you if you're out in the middle of nowhere on a Friday afternoon or evening when it decides to throw a tantrum. You won't be able to get a part for it until at least Monday, if it needs something more than a belt or a filter, and it's gonna cost you quite a bit.

It's not like with a DT-360 or DT-466 in the Internationals, or the Cummins engines, where you can get parts pretty much anywhere you go.

My bus has a Detroit-built Mercedes engine in it and I'm in the same boat. But I went with it anyway because it's a strong engine for the bus it's in and, like the CAT, there are plenty of people who run them many thousands of miles with no problems at all. The main caveat of the MBE series engines is they are purported to use a lot of oil so will just have to keep a close watch on the oil level. Granted mine has only traveled about 400 miles since I've had it but the oil level hasn't changed by any significant amount. It's something I will have to check before I start a long trip, and at every fuel stop until I see what the rate of consumption is, then if there's any significant change to that it will be an indication that not all is well.

The advice about clean oil pretty much applies to ALL diesel engines, not just the CATs. You don't want a lot of gunk getting in the oil, causing extra wear on the piston rings and other moving parts, and possibly clogging up oil galleries in the block and other places.

At the end of the day, as long as you take care of your engine (keep the oil clean, as much so as you can, don't run it too hot, make sure the fluids are all full, etc), there's no reason you can't run that CAT engine for many more miles. Again, taking care of the engine applies to ALL diesels, not just the CAT engines. Factor that in, as well as parts availability and your own observations when you drove it, when deciding if you want to go with it or keep looking until something with a DT or Cummins engine comes available.

I'm sure others will chime in with their own opinions.... some may well agree with me, others I'm sure will not. Just gather as many viewpoints as you can, THEN make your decision.
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Old 10-27-2016, 05:31 AM   #3
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dont get a rust bucket no matter what. cat motors are great engines, parts are pricey. don't get in a hurry to buy a bus,lots of them out there. good luck
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Old 10-27-2016, 06:13 AM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by superdave View Post
dont get a rust bucket no matter what. cat motors are great engines, parts are pricey. don't get in a hurry to buy a bus,lots of them out there. good luck
I have been steadily looking for a few months. That freightliner is the Cleanest bus I have seen. I was/am ready to pull the trigger on it but got a little spooked when I visited the drivetrain section and the top post was "Do Not buy a Cat bus"
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Old 10-27-2016, 07:48 AM   #5
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Add those new tire prices into the equation. They are about $475.00 and up.
You said:


will need some new tires.
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Old 10-27-2016, 08:22 AM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
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Yeah it will need tires. I was looking at those. I may know a guy who can get me better pricing. Plus there is a local auction house that will be selling a pile of them in like two weeks or so. Figured I would try my luck there and see what I can rustle up before going to the store.

Edit: I forgot to mention both buses are the same price. The tires will cost more. It if it's a better buy on the frame and motor... It will be worth it in the longer run. Right?
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Old 10-27-2016, 09:23 AM   #7
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While I am not a Cat knocker, there is no comparison between the engines. The 466 is vastly superior. Another option is to keep looking until you find as many of your wants and needs in one bus at the right price. Tires can be a deal killer for many people. By the time you multiply several hundred bucks each times six...it nearly adds up to a rebuilt engine. Just sayin'...
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Old 10-27-2016, 10:16 AM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
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I'm not sure I can get behind the vastly superior statement. Yes the parts for them are everywhere, which is convenient and a bit of a money saver. My real hangup is that all of the dt466 engine buses I took out were gutless. Struggled to get to 55. Most were significantly rustier. I'm not in a super hurry but it would be awful nice to pick one up soon. I have a vacation soon I can work on it and more importantly: the window is closing to be able to buy a bus without going through a million times the hassle you do now. Pa doesn't let you title it as a truck, you have to have a business in order to title it as a bus, you can still title as a motorhome for now but Harrisburg seems to randomly reject that with increasing frequency.

This is all somewhat frustrating.
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Old 10-27-2016, 10:33 AM   #9
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You can buy a bus with great tires as easy as buying one with bad tires. Great deal if you can buy good tires at an auction. Why are those tires at auction?
I am for the DT466. You can do things to get a bit more power out of the bus. Yes it might sacrifice a 100,00 in future wear miles you will never drive.
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Old 10-27-2016, 10:33 AM   #10
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heres the thing... everyone here likes the DT-466 for a couple reasons..

1. it is a very common-style diesel engine.. there were many many made.. in fact the Maxx-force DT which just went out of productrion last year was a form of the DT-466

the HEUI system on the DT-466E is nearly the sdame as it is on the T-444E which also happens that the T-444E is like a powerstroke ford 7.3.. so that means theres lots of online information about troubleshooting its' electronics..

international gives away the software to read the computer in the DT-466E.. cat does not.. with either engine to troubleshoot the computer you would buy a rather pricey interface box.. with the cat you'd have ot buy software also..

if you wear out a DT-466E it can be rebuilt with a simple cyloinder sleeve kit...


OK onto the transmission.. in the DT-466E bus what transmission is under it? that can make a huge difference in how the bus drives.. if the DT-466 has an AT545 in it then it will defiitently dog out.. (though most have MT-643 or 2100's) also when you say it barely gets to 55 it could be you run out of gears.. what are your RPM's when you hit 55? is it around that 2400-2500 range? if so you are at the high limit of a DT-466..

the Cat-3126 is typically a higher torque / higher horsepower engine than the DT's.. yes it may be more expensive to repair... however there are ma ny many thousands of school busses out there with the 3126's in them.. and trucks too... freightliner used a ton of them... others know more than me about whether you have to wait till monday if you break down on a saturday... but freighliner garages are everywhere.. and may very well have some parts..

so I would look at the transmissions in both and report back...often that is the sticking point of a school bus that wont go fast enough... the gearing...

would I buy a Cat? i sure wouldnt have after I read the hate on this forum... oh yeah just like the hate for the AT545... I would now after ive learned that the Cat isnt the end of the world... oh and io own two AT-545's that run me down the road just fine..

theres a ton of good information here.. however I like to think alot of it is situational.. each of us wants to do something different with our bus.. and each drivetrain most likely has a perfect fit for certain situatiions, budgets, and mechanical abilities...

-Christopher
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