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Old 05-16-2017, 05:21 PM   #1
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Join Date: May 2017
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Hello!

Hello everyone!

I'm so glad that I've found this site! I've recently become very interested in tiny houses, and the idea of school bus conversion sounds perfect for me, as the idea of towing around a traditional tiny house scares me- I'm not the most confident driver as of yet.

I was wondering if anyone could offer any advice for what to look for in a bus. I know I want one that is 7-8 windows, or around 30' or less in length. However, I'm not the most knowledgeable in regards to mechanics, so I don't know what kind of engine to look for, or what are red flags as far as purchasing goes.

Thank you in advance for any advice you can give!
Best,
Jennifer
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Old 05-16-2017, 07:46 PM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Irvine, CA
Posts: 28
Coachwork: Lookin for sub30' dognose
I'm also new (haven't purchased a bus yet) but I have done a bit of research and have a working set of notes. I'll copy-paste some of it below to save you some time in researching these things yourself:

Summary
Chassis Types

Type A - Short style cutaway. Based on a commercial van cab with a bus body attached. ~15-20 feet
Type B - Medium integrated/conventional, dog nosed. Basically a shorter type C. Engine is mounted in front under a hood. Easiest maintenance access. ~20-35 feet
Type C - Conventional, dog nosed. Engine is mounted in front under a hood. Easiest maintenance access. ~35-40 feet (40' uncommon)
Type D - Transit style, flat faced. Can be front (FE), mid, or rear (RE) engined. FE has greatest usable interior space for a given overall bus length but is worst for NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) on the driver . RE has the smoothest ride quality but a relatively high center of gravity and is the hardest to work on. All flat faced types have considerably more difficult maintenance access (Read: $$). ~35-40 feet (some mid length versions exist)

Busses commonly come in 3 different ceiling heights: 5'7'', 6'0'', and 6'3'' (Not sure if I have the exact numbers right). They can be distinguished in photos by looking at the top of the passenger windows compared to the driver side windows. The top of the passenger windows will either be below, level with, or above the top of the driver side windows, corresponding to low, medium, and high ceiling heights.

Diesel Engines
7.3L Ford/T444E (pre-2004) - Reliable, powerful, recommended
6.0L Ford (2004-2007) - Tempermental, however "Bulletproofing" upgrades exist which turn it into a reliable and strong performer. Do not buy unless you are extremely mechanically inclined and willing to get hands dirty. Non-bulletproofed (aka factory original) engines are prone to premature failure and expensive to fix.
6.4L Ford (2007-2010) - idk at this time
6.7L Ford (2010-current) - idk at this time

Cummins 5.9 - Reliable, sometimes underpowered for full length busses, recommended
Cummins 6.7 - idk at this time
Cummins 8.3 - Reliable, powerful, frequently recommended

DT466 - Reliable, powerful, frequently recommended

CAT engines - expensive to maintain and fix, not recommended

Gasoline Engines
idk at this time

Alternative Fuel Engines
CNG - while CNG is a very cheap fuel there are lots of considerations that come into play to really make it work (beyond the availability of CNG pump stations). Without going into too much detail I would say CNG is best left to municipal fleets with central fueling stations and maintenance and parts infrastructure. Not ideal for a single user that wants to be relatively independent from society.
BioDiesel - idk much at this time
Propane - idk much at this time
Full Solar/EV - potentially workable but extremely ambitious. While you might get enough battery capacity for 100-200 mile ranges, solar energy alone will not propel you much more than 50 miles per day (highly variable, extremely sensitive to weather)

In general I would shy away from alternative fuels unless you are particularly knowledgeable about the specific tech and are ambitious enough to put the effort in to make it work. There's a reason that these are alternative fuels - because they all have enough quirks and caveats in their current forms that if you just want something that runs (which is most people) diesel/gasoline is a much easier choice.

Transmissions
Allison MD3060 - reliable, frequently recommended
idk others at this time
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Old 05-16-2017, 09:57 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSTriton View Post
I'm also new (haven't purchased a bus yet) but I have done a bit of research and have a working set of notes. I'll copy-paste some of it below to save you some time in researching these things yourself
Oh my goodness, thank you so much! This was extremely helpful!
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Old 05-16-2017, 10:20 PM   #4
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Great stuff! Thanks for sharing that.
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Old 05-16-2017, 11:18 PM   #5
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Location: Willamina, Oregon
Posts: 4,410
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC 1000
Engine: 5.9
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I didn't know we were supposed to take notes.
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Old 05-16-2017, 11:26 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Irvine, CA
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Coachwork: Lookin for sub30' dognose
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin97396 View Post
I didn't know we were supposed to take notes.
Nobody has to, but it helps me keep track of information that's scattered across dozens of different sources, and it helps to strip out the chatter that inevitably fills forum threads. It's easier for me to create a personal reference source than to try to remember everything or having bookmarks to a hundred different threads, videos, wiki pages, etc.
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Old 05-16-2017, 11:56 PM   #7
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Location: Willamina, Oregon
Posts: 4,410
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC 1000
Engine: 5.9
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And it's quite accurate. It's a good way to say it all in one shot.
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Old 05-17-2017, 12:26 PM   #8
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Location: MD near DC
Posts: 758
Thank you! As the forum grows it becomes harder and harder to respond to all the newbies who ask "I don't know what I want. What do I want?" in some form or other. This is a great resource to point them to, although the advice to spend 100 hours reading all the back stacks is as applicable as ever.

One nit to pick; I'm not aware of any difference in (vertical) c of g between a FE and a RE class d bus. Can you cite a source for that?

Again, thanks!
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Old 05-17-2017, 02:14 PM   #9
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Location: Willamina, Oregon
Posts: 4,410
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC 1000
Engine: 5.9
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Aren't the RE buses actually taller to accomodate all that basement storage?
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Old 05-17-2017, 02:34 PM   #10
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Location: Eustis FLORIDA
Posts: 11,651
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Ward/AmTran
Chassis: International
Engine: dt466
Rated Cap: 78
Honestly the best resource for ME when deciding on what bus to buy was School Bus Fleet.
School Bus Fleet Magazine Forums
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