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Old 04-24-2016, 07:31 PM   #1
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Breaking down?

I'm looking into getting a short bus (E350 with a Powerstroke 7.3). I understand the engine is pretty solid and will go to the moon and back, but I'm still worried about the bus breaking down on the road.

I've looked into RV roadside assistance and there's no problem with them treating a skoolie like an RV from what I see.

But where things get murky is....what happens if I'm 1500km (I'm Canadian) from home and absolutely can't get my bus fixed for whatever reason?

Does anyone know of a roadside assistance with an option of a tow home?

Thanks!

P.S: I should mention I'm interested in Canada AND the U.S.
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Old 04-24-2016, 07:57 PM   #2
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yikes!! I think your overthinking this, my fellow Canadian , roadside will only tow you to a nearest repair shop, you should have no problems getting a 7.3 fixed at any diesel shop, or worst case a ford dealer, just have a good credit card. worst case take your stuff out and remove the plates and leave it, start over when you get back home.
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Old 04-24-2016, 11:25 PM   #3
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Ahh, the most important tools in case of catastrophic breakdown: a screwdriver to remove the license plates and a backpack to carry your lunch as you walk away!

gbstewart is right; nearly anywhere on the continent it's hard to be more than a few hundred km from somebody who can fix whatever might break. Roadside/towing coverage is only set up to get you that far. In the worst case it's replacement of a whole engine or other drivetrain component, or substantial body work. If that can't be done near wherever the breakdown happens, chances are you'd be having it hauled to the nearest scrap yard rather than hauling it back home. I haven't heard of any towing coverage that offers to haul it home from anywhere. That's potentially a many thousands of dollars expense.
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Old 04-25-2016, 12:10 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by family wagon View Post
Ahh, the most important tools in case of catastrophic breakdown: a screwdriver to remove the license plates and a backpack to carry your lunch as you walk away!

gbstewart is right; nearly anywhere on the continent it's hard to be more than a few hundred km from somebody who can fix whatever might break. Roadside/towing coverage is only set up to get you that far. In the worst case it's replacement of a whole engine or other drivetrain component, or substantial body work. If that can't be done near wherever the breakdown happens, chances are you'd be having it hauled to the nearest scrap yard rather than hauling it back home. I haven't heard of any towing coverage that offers to haul it home from anywhere. That's potentially a many thousands of dollars expense.

treat your bus like a sem-truck out on the road.. when you are going to travel a long distance, keep the phone number of some breakdown assistance companies handy.. also keep some names of 24 hour service plaza's available too.. esp general service and for your band of chassis.. \

our busses are big trucks under neath the body.. so keep in mind what the chassis is.. "Thomas bus" probably wont get you as far as "International S3800 chassis with DT466" with a thomas body..

also keep your tire sizes listed and easy to find. even something as simple as getting a flat will rewuire a service call.. front tires are called "steer".. rear are called "drive".. often if a service truck knows what tire you have they can come out, sell you a tire and put it on, right along side the road...

none of this will be cheap.. if you are on a shoe-string budget, think of a plan B if your bus does break down...

each time you stop your bus for a fuel stop or a rest stop. .do a FULL PRE TRIP inspection on it just like you did when you started out...

open the hood.. visually look for fluid leaks, frayed belts, rubbed hoses, etc.. check your coolant in the bottle (dont open the radiator if you have a cap).. Check the oil level.. measure the temperature with a temperature gun of your hubs.. early signs of bearing failure show up as high temperature...

check your tires visually and either with a pressure or learn how to use a tire bat (im still learing this one)...

start your bus and check your transmission fluid if there is a stick within reach.. listen for any unusual sounds (squeals, chatters, etc)...

if you discover smething that could be an iminent breakdown.. begin to take care of it while safely stopped. dont just take off and "hope it lasts"..

its also not a bad idea to carry a complete set of belts with you.. most importantly are the Fan / water pump belt and the Air compressor belt...

if one breaks it oftentimes rips the others off their pulleys...

of course keep a fire extuingisher or two., first aid kit, some tools, and cones or flairs.. ..a lot of this stuff you owuld likely already have in a camper so make sure its all there and good to go..

-Christopher
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Old 04-25-2016, 05:29 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
Treat your bus like a semi-truck out on the road.. when you are going to travel a long distance, keep the phone number of some breakdown assistance companies handy.. also keep some names of 24 hour service plaza's available too.. esp general service and for your band of chassis..

Our busses are big trucks under neath the body.. so keep in mind what the chassis is.. "Thomas bus" probably wont get you as far as "International S3800 chassis with DT466" with a thomas body..

Also keep your tire sizes listed and easy to find. even something as simple as getting a flat will require a service call.. front tires are called "steer".. rear are called "drive".. often if a service truck knows what tire you have they can come out, sell you a tire and put it on, right along side the road...

None of this will be cheap.. if you are on a shoe-string budget, think of a plan B if your bus does break down...

Each time you stop your bus for a fuel stop or a rest stop. .do a FULL PRE TRIP inspection on it just like you did when you started out...

Open the hood.. visually look for fluid leaks, frayed belts, rubbed hoses, etc.. check your coolant in the bottle (don't open the radiator if you have a cap).. Check the oil level.. measure the temperature with a temperature gun of your hubs.. early signs of bearing failure show up as high temperature...

Check your tires visually and either with a pressure or learn how to use a tire bat (i'm still learning this one)...

start your bus and check your transmission fluid if there is a stick within reach.. listen for any unusual sounds (squeals, chatters, etc)...

If you discover something that could be an imminent breakdown.. begin to take care of it while safely stopped. don't just take off and "hope it lasts"..

Its also not a bad idea to carry a complete set of belts with you.. most importantly are the Fan / water pump belt and the Air compressor belt...

If one breaks it oftentimes rips the others off their pulleys...

Of course keep a fire extinguisher or two., first aid kit, some tools, and cones or flares.. ..a lot of this stuff you would likely already have in a camper so make sure its all there and good to go..

-Christopher
This needs to be a sticky. I'm guessing that the old-timers know this, but as a noob this was advice I needed to hear. Thanks, Christopher!
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Old 04-25-2016, 06:02 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the advice so far! This has somewhat reaffirmed my choice to start with a short-bus (preferably E350 with a 7.3). It also makes getting tires easier and there are lots of mechanics familiar with an E350 chassis, I'm sure. Plus I'm not very experienced as an auto mechanic.

Maybe one day I'll be able to graduate to a big boy 40-footer
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Old 04-25-2016, 07:14 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by kargofab View Post
Thanks for all the advice so far! This has somewhat reaffirmed my choice to start with a short-bus (preferably E350 with a 7.3). It also makes getting tires easier and there are lots of mechanics familiar with an E350 chassis, I'm sure. Plus I'm not very experienced as an auto mechanic.

Maybe one day I'll be able to graduate to a big boy 40-footer
i think an E-350 chassis is a great choice to start out... as you say it can be service by pretty much any shop that can service a ford. most pf what you find under its hood will be very similar to what you find under the hood of your Pickup truck or standard van...

you can even buy parts for them(the Van part) at auto zone, advance, napa, etc for many things.. so you have a better chance of fixing something along the road yourself for less money.

they usually still have dualies for wheels, however you can carry a spare, and with some knowledge and a good heavy jack you can change your own flat similar to what you are used to.

I "BELIEVE" (someone please confirm) that a more "regular" towing service can tow an E-350 based bus as well.. you likely wont need the 'Top gun" towing services...

-Christopher
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Old 04-25-2016, 11:14 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
treat your bus like a sem-truck out on the road.. when you are going to travel a long distance, keep the phone number of some breakdown assistance companies handy.. also keep some names of 24 hour service plaza's available too.. esp general service and for your band of chassis.. \

our busses are big trucks under neath the body.. so keep in mind what the chassis is.. "Thomas bus" probably wont get you as far as "International S3800 chassis with DT466" with a thomas body..

also keep your tire sizes listed and easy to find. even something as simple as getting a flat will rewuire a service call.. front tires are called "steer".. rear are called "drive".. often if a service truck knows what tire you have they can come out, sell you a tire and put it on, right along side the road...

none of this will be cheap.. if you are on a shoe-string budget, think of a plan B if your bus does break down...

each time you stop your bus for a fuel stop or a rest stop. .do a FULL PRE TRIP inspection on it just like you did when you started out...

open the hood.. visually look for fluid leaks, frayed belts, rubbed hoses, etc.. check your coolant in the bottle (dont open the radiator if you have a cap).. Check the oil level.. measure the temperature with a temperature gun of your hubs.. early signs of bearing failure show up as high temperature...

check your tires visually and either with a pressure or learn how to use a tire bat (im still learing this one)...

start your bus and check your transmission fluid if there is a stick within reach.. listen for any unusual sounds (squeals, chatters, etc)...

if you discover smething that could be an iminent breakdown.. begin to take care of it while safely stopped. dont just take off and "hope it lasts"..

its also not a bad idea to carry a complete set of belts with you.. most importantly are the Fan / water pump belt and the Air compressor belt...

if one breaks it oftentimes rips the others off their pulleys...

of course keep a fire extuingisher or two., first aid kit, some tools, and cones or flairs.. ..a lot of this stuff you owuld likely already have in a camper so make sure its all there and good to go..

-Christopher
Definitely great points!
Reminds me of the Army's motor pool days, when checking all equipment for weekly and monthly maintenance....good times!

I'd also add road maps in paper form. You never know; if you run out of "all juices", those garmins and/or smartphones ain't gonna last forever.
On that point, if stranded for a long time, use your cellphones only for emergencies!

Question: any pointers on keeping a "fix-a-flat" can (found some on amazon for x-large tires), and maybe an air compressor? In your experience, have these items proven helpful during your travels?
Knocking on wood that nobody ever needs to find out, though...
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Old 04-25-2016, 11:14 AM   #9
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Are the cutaway buses any easier to insure than regular buses?
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Old 04-25-2016, 11:28 AM   #10
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I've seen a "regular" tow truck tow a 24' shuttle bus.

Here's a list of the spares & tools I bring along for our 7.3L:

Serpentine belt
Serpentine belt idler wheel
CPS (cam position sensor)
Glow plug relay
3 ton bottle jack
Breaker bar, extension & socket for removing lug nuts
A short pipe to slip over the breaker bar for extra leverage
A decent tool set w/metric & standard sockets
Several leveling boards
Two lengths of 4x4 lumber for wheel chocks
Duct tape
WD40

Two of us on this forum have had idler wheel failures out in the boonies. When that happens you lose power brakes, power steering, cooling, and alternator. The serpentine belt and idler wheel can be replaced at the side of the road if you have a 1/2" breaker bar to un-tension the belt adjuster and some common tools handy to remove the air cleaner cowl.

The CPS had a high failure rate in the early engines.

Glow plug relay failure is only an issue in cold temps.

If you get a flat tire on the rear you just drive slowly to the nearest tire shop. For a front flat I plan to drive a rear inner dually onto a couple of leveling boards so the outer tire is off the ground. Then I will remove the outer dually then use the bottle jack to remove and swap the flat front tire with the good rear tire, bolt everything back up and proceed slowly to the shop.

Duct tape is for things that move but shouldn't. WD40 is for things that should move but don't.
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Old 04-25-2016, 11:31 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
I "BELIEVE" (someone please confirm) that a more "regular" towing service can tow an E-350 based bus as well.. you likely wont need the 'Top gun" towing services...

I used to tow cars and trucks for a living. Not a great living, but that is off topic. I could put a F-350 dual rear wheel on the rollback of an International 433 to tow a pretty sizable distance. the outer wheels of the dual rear wheel setup would ride up the bed rails on the roll-back, but it would go down the road just the same. That old International was a dependable truck, but slow as molasses. Didn't matter what you were towing, it was always slow.

We also had two recovery trucks, an F-800 recovery truck and a SuperDuty Ford pickup based unit. We would haul anything and everything with the F-8, so long as we didn't have to worry about air brakes. The F-8 would haul the big bucket trucks for the telephone company without breaking a sweat. The telephone company motor pool folks would have to disable the air brakes on the trucks, as again, we wouldn't touch them.

I can't say what sort of equipment most tow shops would have, my experience is anecdotal at best. But the shops in my town would have multiple trucks for multiple purposes. I would suppose that our shop, with two trucks capable of moving your 350-based skoolie, would be the norm.

We would call our big-rig based buddies for anything that came through our shop that we couldn't pull. We would ask a slight referral fee from our partner shop, as they would do the same for calls routed through us. Small, btw, is being generous. Never much money in the towing business after you account for the cost of equipment, insurance and labor.

The big haulers would definitely be need to be called for the larger of our skoolie trucks, but the E-350 could probably be handled by most towing shops without much trouble.
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Old 04-25-2016, 01:08 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whiskeyjr View Post
I used to tow cars and trucks for a living. Not a great living, but that is off topic. I could put a F-350 dual rear wheel on the rollback of an International 433 to tow a pretty sizable distance. the outer wheels of the dual rear wheel setup would ride up the bed rails on the roll-back, but it would go down the road just the same. That old International was a dependable truck, but slow as molasses. Didn't matter what you were towing, it was always slow.

We also had two recovery trucks, an F-800 recovery truck and a SuperDuty Ford pickup based unit. We would haul anything and everything with the F-8, so long as we didn't have to worry about air brakes. The F-8 would haul the big bucket trucks for the telephone company without breaking a sweat. The telephone company motor pool folks would have to disable the air brakes on the trucks, as again, we wouldn't touch them.

I can't say what sort of equipment most tow shops would have, my experience is anecdotal at best. But the shops in my town would have multiple trucks for multiple purposes. I would suppose that our shop, with two trucks capable of moving your 350-based skoolie, would be the norm.

We would call our big-rig based buddies for anything that came through our shop that we couldn't pull. We would ask a slight referral fee from our partner shop, as they would do the same for calls routed through us. Small, btw, is being generous. Never much money in the towing business after you account for the cost of equipment, insurance and labor.

The big haulers would definitely be need to be called for the larger of our skoolie trucks, but the E-350 could probably be handled by most towing shops without much trouble.
isnt one of the reasons the "top-guns" hav e to be called for the larger skoolies is to keep air pumped into the service valve of the air brakes? obviously if you blow a rear brake cylinder you are screwed anyway but in generalI was thinking no one would tow an air brake bus because of the fact that at any time the spring brakes could apply unless air was pumped in?

-Christopher
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Old 04-25-2016, 01:39 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
isnt one of the reasons the "top-guns" hav e to be called for the larger skoolies is to keep air pumped into the service valve of the air brakes? obviously if you blow a rear brake cylinder you are screwed anyway but in generalI was thinking no one would tow an air brake bus because of the fact that at any time the spring brakes could apply unless air was pumped in?

-Christopher
Hey CADILACKID, who are you? Lol, it seems that you know a lot and have a lot of experience, thank you for very wise and honest information.

J
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Old 04-25-2016, 01:59 PM   #14
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Hey CADILACKID, who are you? Lol, it seems that you know a lot and have a lot of experience, thank you for very wise and honest information.

J

ha! im just a long-time Hot-rodder, former professional HVAC engineer, current Biz Partner and telecom developer... for fun I build stuff.. (HVAC, circuits, software, hardware, etc)..

Bus-wise I drove them empty for a delivery company many years ago... always been fascinated by school busses.. (just ask my poor junior high and high school bus driver...)..

I like to learn and believe in sharing information and learning new stuff on things I dont know.. trust me I have LOTS to learn...

first car I ever owned was a french diesel car.. first motor I ever rebuilt.. and along with it learned all about the BOSCH mechanical fuel injection it had..

-Christopher
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Old 04-25-2016, 02:20 PM   #15
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Not that it's any difficult thing to maintain air pressure in the towed vehicle... that's standard operation for tractor trailer rigs after all. Probably it's rare to have air brakes on anything light enough to be handled by the smaller hauler, so it doesn't make sense to spend money equipping the lighter hauler for operating an air-braked trailer/towed. Likewise for the training of the driver of the lighter hauler, who'd practice the skills only infrequently and be more prone to making a mistake even if the towing truck were equipped.

I had to have my skoolie towed once and chose to flat tow it. Keeping air in the brakes wasn't hard at all; we just had to pull over about every 5th time the brake was used to recharge the air tanks with a portable compressor.
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Old 04-25-2016, 02:24 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
isnt one of the reasons the "top-guns" hav e to be called for the larger skoolies is to keep air pumped into the service valve of the air brakes? obviously if you blow a rear brake cylinder you are screwed anyway but in generalI was thinking no one would tow an air brake bus because of the fact that at any time the spring brakes could apply unless air was pumped in?

-Christopher
Two reasons to call the big guys, GCVW and Air Brakes.

You can, and a lot of outfits do, "Cage" the air brakes to release them for a tow. You can also put air from the lead vehicle through to the towed vehicle to compress the system and release the spring brakes.


Watch this video, it will enlighten you about the braking system.
https://youtu.be/Tj76w82IRTA

Our company did not want our drivers to be responsible for screwing this up, as we did not hire the sharpest folks around.

If the bus is light enough, our F8 could legally haul it if the air brakes were caged. We had a weight limit we could not cross as none of the drivers had CDL's.
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Old 04-25-2016, 02:45 PM   #17
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....first car I ever owned was a french diesel car.. first motor I ever rebuilt.. and along with it learned all about the BOSCH mechanical fuel injection it had..

-Christopher
Peugeot or Renault?
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Old 04-25-2016, 03:34 PM   #18
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Watch this video, it will enlighten you about the braking system.
https://youtu.be/Tj76w82IRTA
I feel as if I've been Rick rolled... but with fertilizer??
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Old 04-25-2016, 03:51 PM   #19
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Ditto. It seems there is, basically, advertising set up disguised as popular Skoolie links on a number of threads recently.
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Old 04-25-2016, 04:27 PM   #20
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I feel as if I've been Rick rolled... but with fertilizer??


I have no idea what went wrong.

http://youtu.be/BSqQTKs6v2A
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