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TheGreenMachine 08-23-2014 11:13 AM

New to Skoolies and future conversion.
Hey there everyone! My name is Matt! I'm 26 and live in north Texas
I've lurked around as a guest on this site for a few months now and finally decided to create an account. Why?

Because I purchased a bus!!! HAHAHA!... and everyone thinks that I an crazy.

My goal will not be some simple RV conversion, but a fully off-grid veggie-fueled home/training center.I will come back and post pictures after a few other posts.

The Bus I managed to acquire was located in Slidell, Texas. I live in Denton, TX
It is a 1996 flat faced Carpenter bus on a Spartan chasis with a 5.9L Cummins. 69,000 Miles showing on the odometer.
I paid a whopping $2400.00 for it via an auction.

It needed two new batteries and started right up. I was blessed with a free full tank of gas, clean title and papers. The bus was an extra that the school district used if they needed it, but they had just purchased a new bus, so this one was for sale. It started right up and was ready to drive.

Expect pictures and updates as I go along. I can dedicated about $1500 a month to the conversion and hope to have things set within 3-6 months. I also look to start a crowd funding campaign since I intend to use the bus for an educational reason... I want to teach workshops about living off-grid. Having everything from solar, veggie fuel, rainwater collection, composting and a greenhouse right on board are the major goals of mine.

I hope to trade ideas and absorb so knowledge from many of you.
This should be fun!

GreyEagle 08-23-2014 03:51 PM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
Congrats on the bus...... sounds great!
and best of luck in the future.

gmarvel 08-23-2014 11:52 PM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
Welcome to the crazy and fun world of school bus conversions. You will love the adventure. It sounds like you have a great plan already worked out. One thing I have learned in doing my conversion is details, details, details. If you miss something important, you might have to redo some of your work. So, think it out and look through this great site to see the mistakes we have all made as we converted our buses. Learn from our successes and our bloopers!!

Also, expect the unexpected. You will find problems on your bus that were not initially or easily seen until you started the conversion. Every old school bus has them. It is how you deal with it that counts. If you see rust, not ignore it and just paint it over. It will still be there eating away at your conversion. Also, insulate, insulate, insulate. You can never have enough!!

Good luck on your new adventure and enterprise.

bansil 08-24-2014 06:00 PM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.

bansil 08-24-2014 06:01 PM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
oh................and WELCOME

TheGreenMachine 09-04-2014 02:07 PM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
So, this is my second post.

I'm having some trouble fining out the exact coolant and oil I would use for my engine.

I spent four days removing the bus seats and part of the old flooring. There is rust underneath but most of it is surface rust so far. As I drive it back and fourth to the power outlets in the place that I am storing it, the gravel dust on the bottom breaks loose and I can see how the undercarriage looks.

I'm not sure If I can post the video link here, but I timelapsed the first three days and took a picture of the bus after the seats had been removed. I intend to be filming the entire ordeal with several iphones and GoPros.

Here is the link to the video. ... uxc-c2Dpvg

charles_m 09-05-2014 01:22 AM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
Rock on Green!
My old bus was named Simple Green, I love green buses!

I would recommend Rotella 15W-40 for your diesel (and most of our other members' engines as well). Unless you've got an old 2-stroker, there's no better oil I know of for an HD Diesel...

As for the coolant, what color is the stuff you've got in there? I STRONGLY recommend you flush, or at least change, the coolant you have in there if you're unsure about when it was last done. Improper coolant maintenance kills more diesels than infrequent oil changes. Ask anyone. Healthy cooling systems are ESSENTIAL to a healthy engine.

If you're not flushing or changing the coolant, the kind you will need to use depends on the color (type) of coolant in there. If it's RED, only use RED (extended life) coolant, if it's green, only use Green coolant. I think yellow is a kind that can go both ways, i.e. you can mix it with green or red coolant.

And, just in case you're a noob to all this, make sure you only mix your coolant with distilled water, DONT USE TAP!!! it has minerals that could build up, plus, if it's fluoridated, it might enable the government to reprogram your brain and control your mind :wink:

Either way, if you are going to drain or flush your system, I would recommend going with extended life coolant, and make sure you change your coolant filter while you're in there!

Not tryna preach, but I've seem lots of great engines ruined by bad cooling system practices! Its a sad sight...

Best of luck on your veggie conversion, I had a great time doing mine with great results, I'd be happy to share any of my knowledge with ya! I love using old aluminum semi saddle tanks for veg (bolt em to your chassis under the body skirts--my last one held 150 gallons and only cost me $300 from a semi salvage yard ;)

charles_m 09-05-2014 01:23 AM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
I should say, that really, any 15w-40 oil made for diesel engines will work just fine... I just happen to like Rotella ;)

TheGreenMachine 09-05-2014 09:55 AM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
Thanks guys, and Charles, I will definitely be asking some questions about the veg system. I can build just about anything and work great with electronics and other systems. When it comes to auto mechanics though... :shock:

thjakits 09-05-2014 10:53 AM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
Hey Greenmachine,

great to have enthusiasm for what you plan, BUT I think you should review the thread/post of someone on here (F*** Me if I find that post... :( ) specifically about Veggy Conversion. The main problem today seems to be, that your "Free Source" doesn't exist anymore.
It seems that Used cooking oil is a raw material now and people get paid good money for it these days!

I believe you would be better of to look for ways to improve the existing engine you have towards better mpg, better emissions, etc. - Diesel Engines are rather delicate when it comes to fuel quality, so you don't want to mess too much with it, other than improving it.
Google water injection for Diesels, etc.....

Here you go to find ALL and EVERYTHING on Skoolie about Veggy/Biodiesel/etc. - :


Good Luck !

thjakits 8)

crazycal 09-05-2014 11:56 AM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.

Originally Posted by bansil


TheGreenMachine 09-05-2014 04:48 PM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
Oh yah! i forgot that my second post was approved. Here are some pics...

when I find where I saved the removal pics I will link those too.

TheGreenMachine 09-08-2014 11:10 AM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
Working on the floors. There is a bit of surface rust.

5.9l Cummins engine.

Tango 09-08-2014 11:20 AM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
Congrats & welcome --- Great those Cummins. But I can't tell from the pic if it has a turbo or not. Doesn't appear to. If not, look into adding one along with an intercooler. They make an already fine engine even better.

And maybe I missed it, but what tranny do you have? That alone can make an enormous difference in both mpg and how much power gets to the ground. the new generation Allisons are pretty amazing.

TheGreenMachine 09-08-2014 01:35 PM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
Not sure TBH. I left the previous owner a message and will be calling him with some questions in a few.

Ponyracer 09-08-2014 01:53 PM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.

Originally Posted by Tango
Congrats & welcome --- Great those Cummins. But I can't tell from the pic if it has a turbo or not. Doesn't appear to. If not, look into adding one along with an intercooler.

Its a turbo, that pipe sticking straight up and going towards the front with the funny clamps is an intercooler pipe.

I have yet to see a cummins without a turbo, was that a bus thing? All pickups were turbos, 91-92 were not intercooled but still had the turbo, just ran lower boost numbers.

Good buy on a good looking bus!

bansil 09-08-2014 03:29 PM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
yup what he said, looks like mine but dustier :mrgreen:

mine has more of the diesel wet look :lol:

TheGreenMachine 09-23-2014 09:55 AM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
So i'm about to drop into search and see what i can find forum wise, but I thought I would make a post here.

I'm aiming for an off grid build with solar panels and a greenhouse style back end. Is anyone familiar with a solar system that is ideal for rv's and can be added too? I'm thinking about starting at 250w and moving up to 1.5kw or higher in the end space permitting.

I was curious is anyone reading this had experience with a good efficient system. Thanks!

r_w 09-23-2014 12:27 PM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
Nothing that special about a skoolie install other than the racking. Build it to hurricane specs, you can't drive that fast.

It is a battle between panel size and $$/watt. Shipping is the killer on the panels and a local source or a big order or group buy really helps. Solar Bob has good practical advice on mounting, shadows, etc., but some of the technology he says is too newfangled isn't anymore (or on the verge of being proven).

My plan (more of just a daydream at this point) is to leave a walkway in the middle of the bus the width of the hatches (with lightweight grated decking for shade and traction) as my access to clean the panels, then run two rows of panels full length (or until the money runs out). Up off the deck just enough to make air space for a safari shade. Sloped to the side slightly so water will run off and hopefully take most of the dirt with it.

That big of a swing in wattage means you will probably be replacing some parts along the way. Or maybe you want to run two systems--buy a small system right now and then use it as an engine battery system when you buy a bigger house battery system.

When you get that big, you need to start thinking about diversion loads. In the winter, I would run extra heat wherever to burn up spare power--engine and tranny heaters, water tank heaters, etc. Summer is trickier. 09-23-2014 01:21 PM

Re: New to Skoolies and future conversion.
250 watts is a good start, don't see how you can have too much power, your charger will take care of topping off your batteries and keeping you from overcharging (think alternator - driving all day doesn't hurt your batteries) . I plan to install as many watts as I can fit up there once we get a roof rack built. 250 watts is only a little over 22 amps for an hour, that should be good for lights and water pump for a day if you get prime sunlight (110 amps total on an ideal 5 hour of sunlight charge, I'd like to have 4 of those for an even kilowatt. Also, think about panel voltage, 48 watt panels will require smaller wire sizes/longer runs without voltage drop issues. Your charge controller will convert different voltages into the 12v your rv systems need. Batteries are the other issue here. While I'd love to go with Lifelines' AGM batteries (no maintenance), they're close to $700 a piece for 6V/400AH batteries (I was planning for 6 - 6V/400AH for a total of 1200AH at 12V) but I came across these the other night: , (6) 2V batteries is 12V and they have a longer life (of course you gotta perform maintenance on them and they need to be in a ventilated compartment.

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