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Old 08-26-2017, 01:16 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Conneaut, Ohio
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Year: 2004
Chassis: International CE 300
Engine: DT466E
Rated Cap: 71 passenger / 12 window
To bus, or not to bus... that is the question...

Hey y'all... looking into the possibilities. My wife and I want to travel again. We spent most of 2013 in a motorhome, but the problem we're finding these days is that motorhomes are generally not set up to the kind of specifications we'd want. The only way to get around that is to customize one, which is probably best done by getting a bus. We'd probably aim for a mid-sized bus if we went that route.

The motorhome was diesel, and gave us a lot of expensive trouble on account of being diesel. Maybe I'll start out with a question. Is there any compelling reason NOT to buy a gas-powered bus?
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Old 08-26-2017, 01:44 PM   #2
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Cost to operate and maintenance. If your last diesel was troublesome, there was something fundamentally wrong with it. A normally maintained diesel will outlast a gas motor by a large factor. A gas motor is fine for lighter weight, short haul vehicles but you really need the torque of a diesel to move big loads efficiently. There are many ($$$) good reasons why virtually every large commercial vehicle in the world is diesel instead of gas.
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Old 08-26-2017, 01:52 PM   #3
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+1 on diesel. Don't know what you had but your experience was not typical. Common motors like the T444E and Cummins 5.9 are very easy to live with and have easy and inexpensive parts you can get at any parts shop. Gas is fine for a bus that sits in one place but if you're planning to roll your wheels it's a bad deal.
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Old 08-26-2017, 06:10 PM   #4
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I bought my first (diesel) bus with about 40k miles on a rebuild. If I recall, about 450k on the bus.

I put about 250k miles on it. I spent less than $6k in maintenance and repairs INCLUDING oil, belts, filters and hoses. That does not include tires.

I put almost 200k miles on my last diesel truck and, other than normal periodic maintenance/wear items, the only repair I had done on it was to replace a cracked fuel filter cap. If I had realized that it was the cap and not the housing I would have fixed it myself.

Also, look at the fuel mileage factor. I get almost 10mpg in my 40' diesel bus. Basically the same bus was offered with a 454 gas engine. Mileage? About 4mpg.

If you want to park it and use it primarily as a stationary home then go gas.

If you want to drive it then go diesel.

Just my $0.02

Good luck on your quest.

S.
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Old 08-26-2017, 06:34 PM   #5
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thus far ive run a collective 25K miles on my 2 busses and havent any issues with the 'diesel" parts of them.. I have done some major upgrades to both of them.. but they were voluntary.. i havent had the engines apart on either.... the closest would be replacing a water pump and an oil pump on my 444E. .. really they werent bad.. I replaced them since I had the radiator and fan already out to do upgrades...
-Christopher
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Old 08-26-2017, 07:32 PM   #6
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I don't know how old (or new) your diesel motorhome was, but ...

School buses are designed and engineered for long life and low maintenance. They have to be by their very nature. Newer diesel engines with all this EPA emissions equipment tend to have the most problems (and the same is true for buses, motorhomes, trucks, road tractors, you name it). Go with an older, non-emissions bus and you should have many miles of relatively trouble-free service.
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Old 08-26-2017, 09:17 PM   #7
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Conneaut, Ohio
Posts: 180
Year: 2004
Chassis: International CE 300
Engine: DT466E
Rated Cap: 71 passenger / 12 window
I do appreciate the info. My wife's mom drove school buses for 15 years and she has some helpful hints too, so maybe I'll get good info in the end no matter who sources it.

The RV I had was a 1996 Ford E-Super Duty chassis with the 7.3L Navistar/International "Power Stroke" turbo diesel engine. When I bought it in 2013, it had 62,xxx miles on it. It had sat for about 8 years, amassing only a few hundred miles in that time. But, it did seem to run well, so I bought it.

After a few thousand miles, it blew its alternator... not a huge fix, but a real pain in the butt because a blown alternator is an immobilizing breakdown once the battery runs down. By 72,000 miles, it started intermittently hiccupping and stalling as I was driving. Ultimately, the problem was a camshaft position sensor, and it cost $700 to fix... between the one mechanic that couldn't figure out the problem (even though I suggested that from my research, it was probably the camshaft position sensor) and the one that fixed it.

I sold it with just under 75,000 miles. The guy who bought it told me that on his drive home, it was gulping a quart of oil every 100 miles. It never did that for me, but it was a really bad oil leak for him, and he said that his mechanic said it may have been the "high pressure oil pump". A bit of research yielded that that was a repair likely to cost over $2,000. This on top of how it needed an oil change every 3,000 miles... and since it had a huge oil capacity, that oil change cost $80 or so.

I had a diesel 1996 Chevy Silverado that I bought with 147,xxx miles on it. That truck ran quite nicely for a long time but it had its share of big problems. The pump mounted driver went bad... that was a "we barely made it home" problem... fortunately my next door neighbor was able to do that job so I didn't pay as much for labor... the part was three figures. The injection pump went bad... several hundred dollars for a remanufactured pump and a couple hundred for labor. I don't know... every engine needs work... but when the "diesel only" stuff is outrageously expensive and requires that I use a specialized diesel mechanic (who aren't exactly "all over the place"), it makes me yearn for gasoline. I will say this much, though... I sold it with 217,xxx miles and it was running like a top at the time. I did a lot of trips with that truck and it returned good fuel mileage for its size.

I'd do diesel again if it were the best choice. My mother-in-law said that the Cummins engine is the best... seems to echo what I've heard for the past 15 years or so.

Here's my next question...

Why did y'all choose a school bus for conversion, rather than using something like a motorhome that was built to be a motorhome? What advantages did you find that a school bus offered which a standard motorhome just couldn't provide for you?
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Old 08-27-2017, 05:18 AM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
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Posts: 61
Hi there. I have not built my bus yet. But for me it is a must. First I want a wood burning stove, and a full size frig. A shower is must also. In a bus if the bad crash should happen, you will probably walk away. In a motor home you get splinters. Many reasons for a bus, and cost is a big factor.
JM2C.


Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post
I do appreciate the info. My wife's mom drove school buses for 15 years and she has some helpful hints too, so maybe I'll get good info in the end no matter who sources it.

The RV I had was a 1996 Ford E-Super Duty chassis with the 7.3L Navistar/International "Power Stroke" turbo diesel engine. When I bought it in 2013, it had 62,xxx miles on it. It had sat for about 8 years, amassing only a few hundred miles in that time. But, it did seem to run well, so I bought it.

After a few thousand miles, it blew its alternator... not a huge fix, but a real pain in the butt because a blown alternator is an immobilizing breakdown once the battery runs down. By 72,000 miles, it started intermittently hiccupping and stalling as I was driving. Ultimately, the problem was a camshaft position sensor, and it cost $700 to fix... between the one mechanic that couldn't figure out the problem (even though I suggested that from my research, it was probably the camshaft position sensor) and the one that fixed it.

I sold it with just under 75,000 miles. The guy who bought it told me that on his drive home, it was gulping a quart of oil every 100 miles. It never did that for me, but it was a really bad oil leak for him, and he said that his mechanic said it may have been the "high pressure oil pump". A bit of research yielded that that was a repair likely to cost over $2,000. This on top of how it needed an oil change every 3,000 miles... and since it had a huge oil capacity, that oil change cost $80 or so.

I had a diesel 1996 Chevy Silverado that I bought with 147,xxx miles on it. That truck ran quite nicely for a long time but it had its share of big problems. The pump mounted driver went bad... that was a "we barely made it home" problem... fortunately my next door neighbor was able to do that job so I didn't pay as much for labor... the part was three figures. The injection pump went bad... several hundred dollars for a remanufactured pump and a couple hundred for labor. I don't know... every engine needs work... but when the "diesel only" stuff is outrageously expensive and requires that I use a specialized diesel mechanic (who aren't exactly "all over the place"), it makes me yearn for gasoline. I will say this much, though... I sold it with 217,xxx miles and it was running like a top at the time. I did a lot of trips with that truck and it returned good fuel mileage for its size.

I'd do diesel again if it were the best choice. My mother-in-law said that the Cummins engine is the best... seems to echo what I've heard for the past 15 years or so.

Here's my next question...

Why did y'all choose a school bus for conversion, rather than using something like a motorhome that was built to be a motorhome? What advantages did you find that a school bus offered which a standard motorhome just couldn't provide for you?
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Old 08-27-2017, 07:17 AM   #9
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Conneaut, Ohio
Posts: 180
Year: 2004
Chassis: International CE 300
Engine: DT466E
Rated Cap: 71 passenger / 12 window
Quote:
Originally Posted by 45acp View Post
Hi there. I have not built my bus yet. But for me it is a must. First I want a wood burning stove, and a full size frig. A shower is must also. In a bus if the bad crash should happen, you will probably walk away. In a motor home you get splinters. Many reasons for a bus, and cost is a big factor.
JM2C.
A wood-burning stove... fascinating. I can see logic behind not using propane... but a wood-burning stove? That wouldn't present a fire hazard?

The reasons why I'm considering a bus are as follows:

1) My wife and I are performing musicians. I remember having to load and offload our equipment from the Class C motorhome that we had in 2013... what a hassle that was. We had to store it on top of the over-cab bed, meaning even the heavy stuff had to be hoisted that high after squeezing it through the relatively narrow door. (I figure that with a bus, it could be loaded in through the back door. It'd still have to be hoisted, but the job would be much easier. Or, we could get a small cargo trailer and pull it behind the bus.)

2) My wife and I are quite tall. I'm 6'2" and she's 6'3". On top of that, she is a rather wide lady... has been for her entire adult life and probably always will be. When we had the Class C, she had to walk down the hallway sideways. The only way we got the shower to work on that RV was because it had a domed skylight above the bathtub, so our heads could go there as we showered. Most RV showers aren't tall enough for especially my wife to stand up straight, and we will need something with an uncommonly large footprint as well.

3) The biggest problem we had with the Class C was roof leakage. It seems that most RVs just don't get the whole roof thing correct. A bus, however, appears to have a riveted metal roof which seems nearly impervious to leakage.

4) We have our first child on the way, and he will need a seat with a belt which faces forward. I know that many RVs have that, but the belts are often hard to access and they seem somewhat flimsy. With a bus, we could keep at least one seat in so that the car seat could be securely fastened and my wife could sit next to it to attend to our son's needs as they arise.

5) A bus seems like it is constructed to be a huge roll cage. To my knowledge, they have metal beam construction. Most RVs are wooden frame construction, so even without water damage one would think that they would easily break apart in an accident.

6) We really like sleeping on our king-size bed. Most RVs have "camper queen" beds which are nowhere near large enough for two people our size and a dog (we slept on one for the better part of a year, so we know). Those that have king beds are enormous, expensive, and require the use of slide-outs... which is something that ought to be avoided if you are "boondocking" (camping without hookups, often in places like Wal-Mart, truck stops, etc). So, with a bus, we could do it up however we'd want.

7) With all of the windows that a bus has, we could get a good amount of airflow... more so and more easily than you can in an RV. Since we don't anticipate using our traveling rig in places where the weather will be all that cold whenever we do use it, I imagine that insulation shouldn't be much of an issue.

If any of y'all think that any of these are poor reasons to get a bus, let me know. My mother-in-law said that the downsides of doing what we'd want to do are the cost of the conversion (which I imagine can be mitigated if we do it ourselves, which I think we can do, mostly if not entirely) and the maintenance requirements of the bus. Maybe y'all could tell me if you know whether or not a bus requires more maintenance than a comparable diesel-powered motorhome. (If not, then at least I know what I'm getting into.)
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Old 08-27-2017, 08:08 AM   #10
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Texas
Posts: 61
Sonds like a bus with a roof raise is in your future. There many conversions on the forums here. Just have a look. You will see that a bus is rite for you.

I am shopping for a bus, and saving up to get the rite one. The Hurricane has hit here and hit hard. So the bus search is at a stop for now. Flood water every where. Good luck with the bus search.
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