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Old 02-04-2017, 02:49 PM   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2015
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Exclamation Greetings from the Charlie Bus!

Howdy y'all! My wonderful girlfriend Erin and myself (Ivan) started our schoolie journey over a year ago. We purchased a 1993 Navistar International Harvester Thomas Built Carpenter Classic Style 7.3L IDI School Bus... (that's a mouthful)
As far as progress I'm going to keep this part short and sweet. We've completed most of the major carpentry e.g. framing, flooring, walls, cabinets. We've insulated the floors and walls with R30, laid romex for the electrical, and installed both EZ top bubbles. So far engine wise all we've had to do is get some new EverStart H8 900 CCA batteries, replace a very faulty and elusive glow plug relay, and that's the bulk of what we've done so far.
Just gotta say that Erin is the master carpenter and planner of this project, and I take care of most of the grunt work, heavy lifting and detail work. She's the brains and I'm the brawn some would say.
Now onto what we're working on. We are currently deciding where to put our ecotemp on demand water heater so we can decide the most efficient way to do the plumbing. Then we'll be installing the stove top, sink, water tank, and pump. After that we'll install the breaker box, outlets, and lighting. We have acquired some solar equipment and are waiting to purchase our inverter to install everything. So far we have 2x100W renogy panels, a bayrite digital current meter, and a renogy digital charge controller. We are going to purchase two more pannels for a total of 400W. Oh yeah, and we have a fantastic fan that we need to install as well. And that's basically where we are.

Aside from all that, I do come to these forums with a problem...
We believe we may have blown a head gasket during our last trip. During the 8hour long trip, around the 5 hour mark, the engine started to heat up past 230. I was driving behind the bus in our car and noticed that every time she would hit an upward incline, the tailpipe would put out white smoke. So fast forward a few weeks when it's time to make another trip. We've topped off our fluids and oil this time, changed a fuel filter, and went on our way. Less than 20min in the engine starts to heat up real quick. Erin had the good hunch to turn around, and I'm glad we did because that tailpipe was putting out more white smoke and was doing it as soon as the key was turned.

Help y'all! We would like to know of ways to troubleshoot this so we can know for certain if it's one of the gaskets.

Muchos gracias amigos!
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Old 02-04-2017, 03:23 PM   #2
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Winlcok, WA
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The 6.9/7.3/T444 in all of the different variations over time had one weakness. And that was you didn't want to get them hot. Getting them hot tends to encourage head gasket problems.

I think you have already diagnosed your problem.

At this point you have three choices.
  1. Have your current engine rebuilt or replaced by a rebuilt engine.
  2. Swap your current engine with a take out from a donor at a junkyard.
  3. Get another bus to use as a donor or to become your new build.
Regardless of what you do it is going to cost you $K's.
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Old 02-04-2017, 04:12 PM   #3
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Join Date: Nov 2016
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In my mechanical experience white smoke means blown head gasket but they are replaceable don't know where you would get one or how much work it would be on a bus I'm used to working on cars
I believe the correct method to diagnose would be a cylinder blow by test which requires a tool that lets you pressurize the cylinder and see where the air comes out although I wouldn't bother the white smoke is a dead giveaway


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Old 02-04-2017, 06:56 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
The 6.9/7.3/T444 in all of the different variations over time had one weakness. And that was you didn't want to get them hot. Getting them hot tends to encourage head gasket problems.

I think you have already diagnosed your problem.

At this point you have three choices.
  1. Have your current engine rebuilt or replaced by a rebuilt engine.
  2. Swap your current engine with a take out from a donor at a junkyard.
  3. Get another bus to use as a donor or to become your new build.
Regardless of what you do it is going to cost you $K's.
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheHex View Post
In my mechanical experience white smoke means blown head gasket but they are replaceable don't know where you would get one or how much work it would be on a bus I'm used to working on cars
I believe the correct method to diagnose would be a cylinder blow by test which requires a tool that lets you pressurize the cylinder and see where the air comes out although I wouldn't bother the white smoke is a dead giveaway
Well dang, thanks for the speedy reply y'all! That's some serious info cowlitz, we definitely don't want to have to do anything that extreme, but I assume it isn't wise to just replace certain parts unless they're going to be new, am I right? What if we were to acquire new parts from our local international dealer?
And thanks for the info about the cylinder test hex, I will keep that in mind.
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Old 02-04-2017, 11:45 PM   #5
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If you go to the trouble of taking the heads off you would want to do a valve job, check the valve guides, and do a pressure test on the heads.

After doing all of that work, if you were to put those heads back on your old engine you run the real risk of blowing out the bottom end of your engine.

If you don't do a total rebuild/replace you are going to have $$$$$ repairs again soon.

If you do those repairs now it won't cost nearly as much as what it will cost 500 miles away from home with a big hole in the side of the block. BTDT.

The cost of the parts and pieces to fix a light/medium duty diesel engine like you have is not going to be cheap. While you can get a gasket set to do a quick and dirty repair for under $200.00 by the time you start purchasing new head bolts and testing/replacing the injectors your parts list is going to be pushing $500.00.

I am not trying to rain on your parade. What I am trying to do is to help you make some good decisions at this point.

When another running bus will cost between $3K and $5K you have to ask yourself if it is worth putting $6K-$10K into your old bus.
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Old 02-05-2017, 02:45 PM   #6
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Now don't worry about any parades, there's no good way to give this kind of news, but we appreciate your response nonetheless.
So, we are going to take your advice cowlitz, along with our mechanics, and just replace the whole engine block and water pump. *sigh* but with this will bring the extra comfort of truly knowing our engines capabilities.
I'm considering opening a new thread for the engine swap and all questions leading up to it.
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Old 02-05-2017, 04:12 PM   #7
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
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Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International S3800
Engine: DT360
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
Ok.. un less this head gasket wasseeping for a long time And steamed a piston/ broke the rings.. I dsont understand why not replace the head gasket?

I had an old peugeot diesel.. I was a teenager... it started losing coolant into oblivion... finally started blowing it out the overflow.. and one morning nmy engine started rough and belched coolant out the tailpipe..

I didnt test anything I just pulled the head off.. sent it to a shop ti have the valves worked.. the valve guy said "heay it looks like there is some metal in the head surface.. its not great but check the rings.. so I pulled the #3 piston and found a busted compression ring and a channel steamed in the piston...

I pulled the oil pan, and all the pistons to check them.. my dad bought me a bearing kit so I unbolted the mains.. and tapped them out.. (engine still in car)..

I ran a hone on the cylinders and repalced the one piston and used what peugoet called (rebuild rings).. put it all back together.. 1 new piston, new head gasket and a valve job..

that car ran for years as a daily driver for me and then another guy...

is the RIGHT way to fully rebuild the engine? sure it is...

will it likely RUN if you dont? id say good chance it will if the bad head isnt cracked or warped..

i would probably pull both heads since it was run 230 or above...

if I didnt have the money id replace the bad parts and run it..

if I had the money and planned to keep the bus for a long time id probably go get a Reman drop in 7.3 IDI and be done...

*NOTE* - your 7.3 IDI is a WHOLE different animal from the T-444E (7.3) and they are not compatible..

Navistar / international did make the 7.3 IDI for the ford pickups but I dont know if those are compatible with a bus application or not... thats a question for someone else..

-Christopher
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Old 02-05-2017, 05:30 PM   #8
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Hey, well thanks for that info Christopher, I wish we had time to do everything we could to save what we have. But that's actually our biggest concern, is time. We have to make a trip in two weeks from here (Marshall, TX) to Grants Pass, OR. So as much as I'd like to run through all the steps, and get all the parts and test everything (really I would) there's just no time, thankfully we are blessed with the funds to do whatever we need, but we are obviously still trying to save a buck without sacrificing time or a solid engine that we can count on. Essentially we're trying to avoid what cowlitz warned us about.


Quote:
Originally Posted by cowlitzcoach View Post
...if you were to put those heads back on your old engine you run the real risk of blowing out the bottom end of your engine.

If you don't do a total rebuild/replace you are going to have $$$$$ repairs again soon.

If you do those repairs now it won't cost nearly as much as what it will cost 500 miles away from home with a big hole in the side of the block. BTDT.
We're going to look first for a reman block. Would we be able to get a t444e for a swap? We have an AT545 trans. Or would we have to swap the trans too?
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