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Old 12-18-2019, 05:19 PM   #1
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Getting started - Buying a Bus

Hello Gents and Ladies,


First, I wish there was/were a thread or 20 on Buying a Bus. I've gleaned a lot of information from a few forums but I wish there was a place the Noobs, like me, can go to gather info on what to look for in a bus and other stuff like. If you go for a longer bus, you reduce the number of National Parks where you could camp. Or today for example, I learned that roof raises can be a bitch on Thomas Buses due to the slight angle inward from the window to the roof (+/- 6). And of course the big ones like engine, trans, year built -mechanical/electrical, mileage, mpg, top cruising speeds, etc.


Which leads me to #2, I'm actively looking for a bus now. I've gathered that mechanical is better so I'm looking for 1990 to 1998, avoid dt466e Maxx Force, T444E - not sure exactly why, any 8 cyl., Caterpillar due to proprietary, hard to get parts, Mercedes - too expensive. Leaves me with Detroit and Cummins are good. 6 cyl. in line all good. Check!


My personal preference is a dog nose. I'm not keen on FE heat and noise or RE tail swing. My floor plan calls for 30 ft. behind the driver's seat. Meaning that I would be looking at a 72 pass. bus or 12 or more windows. Each window is roughly 2.5 ft long. But I'm willing to give on the 30 ft. by a few feet to be able to get into a few more Parks. Eleven windows means roughly 65 pass. Which increases my buying pool. Check!



Tranny's - no, not That kind of Tranny!! LOL I've gathered that Allison kind of corners the market for the most part. AT545 is **** (although I see tons of then, which makes me think they can't be all bad) but I digress. Allison 1K, 2K And 3K, particularly the 3060 are all good. Check!



Rust - search under body, wheel wells, below rear windows for bubbling paint. Run from rust!

Check!


Tires - expensive! Buy a bus with good tires or be ready to spend $$$ Check!



Year built/Mileage/MPG/hours on engine and the going rate?



Rough estimates of cost in part or the entire conversation? I have seen quite a few half, part and whole conversions for sale. Makes me think they weren't fully informed on what to expect, financially, economically, socially, who knows?? All that barring major life changes that don't allow then to complete the project.



Hook-ups or Solar? Tons of questions there! I'm planning a 6 lithium battery bank, about 2100 watts of panels, all the fixings, controller, battery monitors, fuses, inverter.



Generator - gas/propane -



Propane tanks for what appliances, dryer, heater, water heater, fridge, stove??



Floor plans, storage downsizing considerations??


So many questions before even buying a bus. I know that many of these things are discussed throughout the forums and I greatly appreciate it!! One forum I don't see is titled "Buying a Bus" or 1st actually should be "Before you get started" LOL


As always, Thoughts comments, corrections additions are always welcome!
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Old 12-18-2019, 05:32 PM   #2
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You're doing yourself a huge disservice by removing the DT466E from the desirable list. It is in fact one of the most desired engines. The AT545 is a great transmission for it's intended use, stop and go school traffic that never sees 55mph. Because of that it is in more buses than any other trans. The schools that need buses for other than just school routs end up with buses with better options. Most of us want to hit the road and get where we're going, not drive 1000 miles at 55mph, at least I don't.

With a dog nose, you'll need a full 40'er if you want 30' behind the driver.
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Old 12-18-2019, 06:00 PM   #3
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You're doing yourself a huge disservice by removing the DT466E from the desirable list. It is in fact one of the most desired engines.

Hey Marc,
Thanks for your input! I didn't completely discount it because I was under the impression that the "466e Maxx Force" is the one to avoid. Hopefully you can clear something up for me. I understand that a DT466 is different from the DT466E. But someone in a thread was trashing the dt466e Maxx Force. Then there's a Navistar? Besides the original dt466, what's the deal with 466e, Maxx Force and Navistar??



Thanks in advance!!
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Old 12-18-2019, 06:00 PM   #4
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I agree on the DT466(E), but I'm biased.....

I think a rust free bus with a crappy engine/combo is better than a rusty unicorn. Not that I'm saying you should buy the first rust free bus you find, but it's just a requirement in my mind.

Cost to convert is just so variable - how fancy, what sort of materials, will it be used for full time or just a few weekends here and there.

Just take each project at a time and check out the various sub sections in the forum for specific questions.
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Old 12-18-2019, 06:07 PM   #5
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All those engines were made by Navistar - The kicker is the years....

Early DT466's were all mechanicals - HIGHLY desirable
around 1997 came out with the DT466E - Still desirable, only computer controlled engine.
2004-ish? - Still DT466E, but with less desirable emissions stuff. After that (2006?) came the MaXXForce DT, still based on the DT466E, but not nearly as good, Then they went full Maxxforce, which you REALLY want to avoid!

Could be off on the years.....

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Old 12-18-2019, 06:14 PM   #6
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I agree on the DT466(E), but I'm biased.....

I think a rust free bus with a crappy engine/combo is better than a rusty unicorn. Not that I'm saying you should buy the first rust free bus you find, but it's just a requirement in my mind..

Thank for your words of wisdom Dave! I was considering something along those lines the other day when I actually went to see and was actually ready to buy a bus. I saw a couple of buses with good bodies but they had AT545's. From my research, I've gotten to the point that I completely shut down, stop listening when I hear 545. Since I'm not "going to school and back" when I'm fully converted, I don't think it would be the right trans for me. Now, I saw a nice 2002 Bluebird with dt466E and Allison 2000 series but the lady wants $8000 for it!! She has a school bus business. Oh, what made me pause besides the price was that they were doing "maintenance" in the engine area. Something about an oil change. Made me think they were patching it to sell it. You know what I mean? Of course it's electronic, not like I'll be doing major repairs on it myself, but the major consensus is that mechanical is better. Your thoughts??
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Old 12-18-2019, 06:20 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by johnbloem1974 View Post
All those engines were made by Navistar - The kicker is the years....

Early DT466's were all mechanicals - HIGHLY desirable
around 1997 came out with the DT466E - Still desirable, only computer controlled engine.
2004-ish? - Still DT466E, but with less desirable emissions stuff. After that (2006?) came the MaXXForce DT, still based on the DT466E, but not nearly as good, Then they went full Maxxforce, which you REALLY want to avoid!

Could be off on the years.....

John

Damn! You just explained so much to me!! Thank you!! Thank you!! And thank you!! What are your thoughts on newer electronic as opposed to older mechanical. Is electronic ok if I don't plan on working on it myself?? I mean, a newer bus theoretically might have less problems, fewer miles/hours on the engine, more bells and whistles??


Thanks again!
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Old 12-18-2019, 06:31 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Grinn and Bare it View Post
Damn! You just explained so much to me!! Thank you!! Thank you!! And thank you!! What are your thoughts on newer electronic as opposed to older mechanical. Is electronic ok if I don't plan on working on it myself?? I mean, a newer bus theoretically might have less problems, fewer miles/hours on the engine, more bells and whistles??


Thanks again!
You're welcome!

Honestly, it really depends on how the engine was cared for in its previous life... Also, there are pros and cons to each side. As a general rule, if you take care of your engine, it will take care of you. Keep the fluids in good shape and change them at regular intervals. I've had my 1998 DT466E since 2016, put about 30-40,000 miles on it and it has treated me right...


Mechanical engines will be easier to work on as you don't have to deal with electronics, but electronic engines are easier to troubleshoot as the computer will usually tell you what is wrong. It really comes up to personal preference and what you are OK with spending or doing yourself...
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Old 12-18-2019, 06:34 PM   #9
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And just to add in - if you plan on doing more than city driving, no matter what engine you end up getting, stay away from an AT545 in a bus longer than 6 windows. I had one in my bus(9-window), and after 2 years of mountain driving and towing, it crapped out. Now have a MT-643 and love it! Nice and reliable.

John
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Old 12-18-2019, 06:37 PM   #10
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I get it. Like so many things in life, it all depends...! LOL It gives me something to think about because although I've worked on cars before, never a diesel. I don't know that I'll suddenly become a diesel mechanic. LOL But I can surely maintain, change oil, etc.


Thanks again for your W.O.W. (Words of Wisdom) LOL
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Old 12-18-2019, 06:41 PM   #11
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And just to add in - if you plan on doing more than city driving, no matter what engine you end up getting, stay away from an AT545 in a bus longer than 6 windows. I had one in my bus(9-window), and after 2 years of mountain driving and towing, it crapped out. Now have a MT-643 and love it! Nice and reliable.

John

New question, What does MT stand for? Is this a different manufacturer or still Allison?
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Old 12-18-2019, 06:44 PM   #12
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New question, What does MT stand for? Is this a different manufacturer or still Allison?
Still an Allison Automatic, just a different model designation... Honestly not sure what the MT stands for...

John
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Old 12-18-2019, 06:45 PM   #13
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Mechanical engines will be easier to work on as you don't have to deal with electronics, but electronic engines are easier to troubleshoot as the computer will usually tell you what is wrong. It really comes up to personal preference and what you are OK with spending or doing yourself...

Last question for tonight (hopefully) LOL Do the newer electronic buses have the same computer connection doodad under the dash/steering column? My brother gave me one of those things for my car.
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Old 12-18-2019, 06:54 PM   #14
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Last question for tonight (hopefully) LOL Do the newer electronic buses have the same computer connection doodad under the dash/steering column? My brother gave me one of those things for my car.
OBD-II -- no, that is for passenger cars
another type of connector -- yes, and the scanner can be got at an auto parts stores. Many types available now-a-days, and other threads here can say much more than I can about them


an electronic engine will generally run cleaner (why they switched) and have more power.
an all mechanical engine can be converted to run off vegi-oil
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Old 12-18-2019, 06:54 PM   #15
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Last question for tonight (hopefully) LOL Do the newer electronic buses have the same computer connection doodad under the dash/steering column? My brother gave me one of those things for my car.
Haha! No worries... The electronic connection in a passenger car/truck (ODB-II) is unfortunately different than what is in Medium Duty Trucks. Lots of Medium duty trucks (Specifically Navistar use a protocol called J1708 and has a 6 or 9 pin round connector.

Here's a pic/explanation...

http://www.skoolie.net/forums/attach...1&d=1576716810


J1939: New 9-pin standard used to bridge communications between vehicles and computers, yielding engine diagnostics for Medium and Heavy duty vehicles.



J1708: Old 6-pin standard, replaced by the J1939 but is still widely utlized, used to bridge communications between medium and heavy duty vehicles and computers.



OBDII: OBDII, short for On-board diagnostics, connects with the engine through the engine port located in the cab to provide diagnostic information. Almost all passenger vehicles use this standard.
Attached Images
File Type: png J1939-J1708-OBDII.PNG (111.3 KB, 20 views)
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Old 12-18-2019, 07:00 PM   #16
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OBD-
an electronic engine will generally run cleaner (why they switched) and have more power.
an all mechanical engine can be converted to run off vegi-oil

Thank you both Gents!



What would it take to convert to oil?


Geez! More questions!! LOL
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Old 12-18-2019, 07:00 PM   #17
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And if you can find a bus with the body style you like, that is rust free, and has a good motor for a really nice price, don't completely discount the AT545.
Sure it may go out in a few years of running over mountains with it and driving at highway speeds (I do 75 with my AT545).
But then do like Joe Bloem did and replace it with a MT643.


I got my bus for $2285. I looked at the same bus 2 weeks before for $5500, and would have paid it if I could have driven it. Even if I put another $2000 into a rebuilt MT643 with install, I'm still saving $1000, and spreading out the cost over time.


And I get a "new" tranny out of it!
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Old 12-18-2019, 07:07 PM   #18
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And if you can find a bus with the body style you like, that is rust free, and has a good motor for a really nice price, don't completely discount the AT545.
Sure it may go out in a few years of running over mountains with it and driving at highway speeds (I do 75 with my AT545).
But then do like Joe Bloem did and replace it with a MT643.


I got my bus for $2285. I looked at the same bus 2 weeks before for $5500, and would have paid it if I could have driven it. Even if I put another $2000 into a rebuilt MT643 with install, I'm still saving $1000, and spreading out the cost over time.

I see what you mean. I'm finding myself looking on Craigslist in other states for better prices. Down here most people (dealers) want $8K if not more. However, I did see a bus on Letgo for $3200 asking. With your logic, I'll use the bus or at least have it to start my conversion and what for the tranny to blow. Then get a rebuilt MT643. Is $2000 just for the engine or installed??
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Old 12-18-2019, 07:50 PM   #19
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Is $2000 just for the engine or installed??
You mean the tranny, not the engine, right?
hoping Joe can chime in on what he paid. I was estimating. Also in my case I could do all the labor myself. If you are willing to learn and willing to get a bit in need of a shower, the price drops.
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Old 12-18-2019, 07:54 PM   #20
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You mean the tranny, not the engine, right?
hoping Joe can chime in on what he paid. I was estimating. Also in my case I could do all the labor myself. If you are willing to learn and willing to get a bit in need of a shower, the price drops.

Yeah, sorry about that. I meant tranny. I don't mind getting dirty at all!! LOL
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