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Old 10-05-2016, 04:17 PM   #1
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Will you help me find a bus spacious enogh for 4

Hello, newbie here to the nomadic life on wheels, and was wondering for a family of 4 two being toddlers. what types of buses would you recommend to be best in accomadation with spaciousness, and where is a decent place to start looking online. We will be remodeling the inside of course, but this is an investment for life on the road. what would you recommend in the category of can-do-it-yourself repairs. Assistance would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 10-05-2016, 07:08 PM   #2
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School buses come in four different types which relate mostly to size.

The most common school bus on the road is the Type 'C' bus. Visually it will have the engine in front of the windshield under a hood with the service door behind the front axle. Because the hood looks like the hood off of a truck made by the same company the Type 'C' is known as a conventional. Some call it a dog nose.

The most expensive school bus on the road is the Type 'D' bus. The engine might be in the front (FE), the rear (RE), or in the case of a few Crown or Gillig schoolcoaches the engine is in the middle under the floor. Visually it will have a flat front with the service door in front of the front axle. The Type 'D' is also known as a transit. FE's are known as forward controls, and RE's are known as pushers.

For your purposes the only buses you should be considering are either a Type 'C' or a Type 'D' as they are the largest school buses available. Type 'C' buses can have up to 13-rows of seats and Type 'D' buses up to 16-rows of seats. The Type 'D' FE has the most interior space available for living space as the engine is next to the driver leaving the whole back of the bus open for living space. The Type 'D' RE is preferred by a lot of people because the heat, noise, and smell of the engine is 40' away from the driver's seat. The RE with a rear engine also does not have a driveline running the length of the bus which allows for pass through under the floor luggage compartments.

A Type 'D' 13-row bus will be anywhere from 5' to 8' shorter than a Type 'C' 13- row bus as the Type 'C' has the engine sticking out in front.

There is a lot of discussion about what the best power package should be in a bus. It all comes down to what you intend to do with the bus.

If you do not intend to travel very far having an underpowered slow geared bus would be a good choice. But if you intend to travel a lot of miles with short timelines to get somewhere a bus with big HP and highway gearing would be a much better choice. It is much less expensive to purchase a bus that has from the factory high HP and highway gearing than to upgrade HP and gearing later.

About the only transmission available for the last 30-years has been an Allison automatic of various different models. Starting in about 1997 the Allisons changed to overdrive transmissions which are preferred. Previous transmissions were either AT, MT, or HT models. The MT and HT models are preferred over the AT.

Engines in school buses have been from various OEM's with Cat, Cummins, IHC, Mercedes-Benz, and Ford of Brazil. All of the companies have made some really good engines, some really bad engines, and some okay engines. For your purposes stay away from any V-8 configuration--most of them do NOT pull as well on hills and they don't get as good fuel mileage as inline engines. Of the inline engines it is best to stay away from M-B and Ford of Brazil engines--not because they were bad engines but parts and service are difficult at best and impossible in the back corners of the country. Probably the two engines that everyone would choose would be the Cummins 8.3L/ISC or the IHC DT466/530 engines--big HP and very long lived. The Cummins 5.9L/ISB and DT360 are great engines but as every hot rodder knows, you can't be cubic inches. Cat makes great stuff. The downside of a Cat engine is Cat uses a lot of proprietary parts and pieces which means you have to go to Cat or an authorized Cat dealer to get parts and service--they don't call it Caterpillar gold for nothing.

There are only three OEM's of school buses still in business. Much like Ford vs. Chevy vs. Mopar discussions you will find proponents for each company. My personal preference is IC first, Thomas second, and Blue Bird third.

As you look at buses try to keep in mind what you are planning to do. IC has had the high roof standard with 12" windows since about 2001. Thomas and Blue Bird still have 9" windows standard with 12" windows optional. 3" can be very important if you are tall. In pictures you can tell which is which by the top of the window line in relation to the top of the service door and the driver's window. If the line is even then it has 9" windows. If the line steps up from the service door and driver's window then it has 12" windows.

Regardless of make, model, power package, or size the most important thing to look for is rust. If it has rust, regardless of how inexpensive it might be, walk away. You will spend a lot of $$$ fixing rust and it rarely can ever be completely contained.

Good luck and happy trails.
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Old 10-05-2016, 07:30 PM   #3
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Outstanding reply Cowlitz! I vote this becomes a "sticky" as it does a great job of giving newbies an overview of what is what in bus types and basic function.
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Old 10-05-2016, 07:57 PM   #4
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I definitely think this is a great guide!!

we ought to also include common drivetraisn and a suggested use for it..

ie T-444E / AT545 - good for flat ground travels 65 MPH and under..
ie DT-466 / MT643 - good for hilly travels 65-70 MPH and under.
ie cummins 8.3 / MD3060 - good for mlountainess travel at 70 MPH and under..

stuff like that.
-Christopher
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Old 10-05-2016, 08:09 PM   #5
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Add that a FE Type D has 4 interior wheel humps to contend with, instead of 2...
I guess a RE would also.
Conventional will only have 2 rear interior wheel humps.
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, please.



Also,
Something I noted... I HATED the smell of diesel exhaust! Hated the noise & rattle of a Diesel engine!
Until I bought my first diesel (this one)
It takes some getting used to, but it's not as bad as it was.
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Old 10-05-2016, 08:13 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
I definitely think this is a great guide!!

we ought to also include common drivetraisn and a suggested use for it..

ie T-444E / AT545 - good for flat ground travels 65 MPH and under..
ie DT-466 / MT643 - good for hilly travels 65-70 MPH and under.
ie cummins 8.3 / MD3060 - good for mlountainess travel at 70 MPH and under..

stuff like that.
-Christopher
I won't be driving mine 65-70... Not until I get more hours behind the wheel anyway. Can't explain it, but I don't feel "connected to the road". I guess because I haven't tested its limits.
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Old 10-05-2016, 08:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by milkmania View Post
I won't be driving mine 65-70... Not until I get more hours behind the wheel anyway. Can't explain it, but I don't feel "connected to the road". I guess because I haven't tested its limits.

I dont drive mine that fast either... its just spoeeds ive come up with (assuming gearing) that certain drivetrains are capable of as a ball-park to start at..

we all see the posts "bought a bus and it slows down on the hills.. or doesnt go fast enough" etc..

then we learn they have a T-444E / AT545 in a 12 row conventional going up the rockies...

put a T-444E / AT545 in a 6 row short-bus and drive it mainly on the flats with mild hills like apps, smokies, etc and its a fantastic and usually affordable combo to find...

pasrt of the issue here seems to be the one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to drivetrains.. when it really matters a ton what you are going to do with your bus and the type of bus you are going for.. no reason to send people on a goose chase for a big engine and an MD-3060 if all they want to do is taske their bus 10 miles each way to the lake and back every weekend.. or its a tiny home parked for months at a time..

on the same token we want to guide people into staying away from a 5.9 / AT545 when they plan to run their bus cross country all the time and want to do it at 65 MPH... in a full size bus...

I think of my own busses as examples.. my DT-360 / AT545 works great staying east of the rockies and running 55-60 on the highway.. running it at 65 and it works hard / runs against its rev limiter all the time and gets much worse MPG... its great for me because i dont need to get anywhere fast when im taking the skoolie out..

the new shorties T-444E / AT545 is geared taller and is a MUCH lighter short bus... its speed limited to 62 but that bus i can see easily running 65..

but like i mentioned earlier put that drivetrain in a 12 row and its gonna choke.. big time...


cowlitz guide is an excellent place to start for bus types and what each means and some of the pros and cond of each..

it would be kind of cool to have a "builder" of sorts that would suggest types of busses and drivetrains based on quiestions a user would answer about their intended use and size of bus...

-Christopher
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Old 10-05-2016, 09:03 PM   #8
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Thank you thank you thank you

Wow what a great community thank you all, i appreciate this so much, i feel i now have ground to stand on, moving forward
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Old 10-05-2016, 09:05 PM   #9
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GOD dang it your all just bus Geeks! where was this weeks ago when i asked if some one could tell me about the different buses and women out there on the market.
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Old 10-05-2016, 09:28 PM   #10
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Wrong??

Quote:
Originally Posted by milkmania View Post
Add that a FE Type D has 4 interior wheel humps to contend with, instead of 2...
I guess a RE would also.
Conventional will only have 2 rear interior wheel humps.
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, please.
I'm wanting a dog nosed RE!!! I know they're rare, but they must be out there somewhere!!
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