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Old 08-01-2020, 03:25 PM   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: Minneapolis
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Year: 2001
Coachwork: Blue Bird (Shortbus 4 window)
Chassis: GMC Savana 3500
Engine: 6.5L Diesel
Rated Cap: 20 passengers
The Bus That Shall Not Be Named

(Heads up: This is a long one. Thanks for all the help thus far, everybody! We've been lurking pretty heavily on this site and it's been an invaluable resource for us noobs.)

A few years after hatching the plan to travel the country in a bus, my partner and I bit the bullet and bought ourselves a bus!

Up until that point, weíd been very financially responsible during quarantine, but I guess we were really just saving it up for one big one.

One night, my partner said there was a bus for sale on an auction site and showed me a picture of this little grey turd of a short bus. The listing noted transmission issues (specifically, it only went forward), but otherwise everything looked promising. We set a max bid of $800, which combined with a worse case scenario on the transmission, put us under 3 grand.

So did we make the trip out to see our potential purchase for a closer inspection? Nope, we bought it, sight unseen. So much for financial restraint.

Just like that, we were the proud owners of a 2001 GMC Savana 3500 short bus, with a body built by Blue Bird. Originally sold in Chicago, then its way to North Dakota, and following its retirement from ďofficialĒ school bus life, it found use carting around a little league team. A very respectful team at that; the inside was immaculate. I almost felt bad tearing it all out. Almost.

We found out the transmission needed to be rebuilt, but everything else seemed tip-top, so we had that work done before we started tearing out its insides.

The workís been going pretty well so far. Weíve encountered an absolutely minimal amount of rust and corrosion in and under the bus. It looks like there was enough water coming in through the bolts securing the seats to corrode some of the galvanization, but altogether itís been in surprisingly fantastic condition.

Weíve got the floor cleared off and we hit most of it with a wire wheel, so weíre close to the preparation, hole filling, and re-covering phase of the flooring. We just finished removing all of the rivets in the ceiling with an air chisel yesterday (RIP my shoulders) and started on the wall rivets. Our goal is to get the floor treated, painted, and ready to build on before heading out to Montana to get some help from my partnerís wood-working, tiny-home building dad. Weíre getting pretty close, so Iím trying to get everything in line to help us complete that work.

Being somewhat perfectionists, I think both of us wanted to get everything ďjust soĒ on the bus prior to asking about any of this. Namely, we also wanted to determine a name for the bus, but Iíd like it to be a female name while my partner seems intent on a male/masculine one. In the interest of getting this bus done sooner than later, weíve abandoned as much of the perfectionism as we can and weíre here with a laundry list of questions that we couldnít find answers to here with all you smart and resourceful folks.


Questions

What is this black tar-like substance on the ceiling/roof of the bus? Do we need to get rid of it? Do we need to expand the coverage to include the entirety of the roof?

Do we need to eliminate all blemishes on the floor in preparation for chemical cleaning and rust inhibitors? In simpler terms, does it need to be all shiny silver or do we just need to scratch everything up?

The top (inside) of the wheel wells is covered in some kind of sticky substance and is remarkably able to withstand a wire wheeling. Any idea what this crap is?

Iíve seen a lot of people pull up the guard for the fuel filling...inlet? Inlet. Is that necessary on all builds? Is it necessary on ours?

We want to flush and fill the radiator, but I canít find a drain plug to save my life. Iím mechanically inclined, but very much inexperienced with automobiles. Every 2001 GMC Savana/Chevy Express 3500 how to video Iíve found shows features that my particular engine does not share. One showed a drain hose on the passenger side with a petcock to facilitate draining, but I found neither on mine. Another pointed to the bottom of the driverís side of the radiator for a drain plug, but the only thing I was able to locate was a plastic plug with indents that facilitate installation only, but nothing to remote it. Notches with grooves that quickly recede to the cap level. Looks like something meant to go in and stay there indefinitely. Iím guessing this has something to do with the bus having additional hoses to accommodate the rear heater, and possibly one more. I pulled the heater and installed a short loop, but Iím stuck here with draining. So close and yet, so far. (Also, I should mention that the engine temp has been totally fine when Iíve driven it on and off highway. BUT as far as we can tell, itís been about five years since there was any maintenance done on the thing, so weíre doing some of this stuff to give us a start of a maintenance schedule, and to eliminate anything that could cause problems down the road.

On sort of the same topic, the fan for the dash controls sounds like itís working, but there is nothing coming out of any of the vents, on any setting. I havenít Googled this at all, but seeing as Iím on a roll with questions, I figured Iíd throw this one in here in case anybody else has experienced this.

The undercarriage was a really swell surprise. There appears to be a factory layer of rubberized something covering pretty much all of the non-moving parts on the bottom of the bus. It looks to have started peeling somewhat recently, but there is zero corrosion on the exposed parts. Weíre planning to spray the everloving **** out of the bottom with a pressure washer (after plugging the bolt holes, of course) and then using a wire wheel on anything stubborn before we apply a new layer of rust preventative to the underside.

I've read on here about getting "bad diesel," but I'm not sure what that means exactly, nor do I know how to avoid that. How do I avoid that?
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Old 08-01-2020, 04:15 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frankles View Post
What is this black tar-like substance on the ceiling/roof of the bus? Do we need to get rid of it? Do we need to expand the coverage to include the entirety of the roof?

Is it alongside the ribs, after removing the interior ceiling panels? Yes? it is sealant for between the individual roof panels. Leave it, ok. Add more, naw. Just paint the roof with good oil based enamel paint (or your choice of roofing paint/sealant) and call it good. ME? I stay away from that rubberized roof paint stuff.


Quote:
Originally Posted by frankles View Post
Do we need to eliminate all blemishes on the floor in preparation for chemical cleaning and rust inhibitors? In simpler terms, does it need to be all shiny silver or do we just need to scratch everything up?
Probably not shiny, but scratchy. Read the instructions on the product you use.



Quote:
Originally Posted by frankles View Post
The top (inside) of the wheel wells is covered in some kind of sticky substance and is remarkably able to withstand a wire wheeling. Any idea what this crap is?
Grime from driving over fresh ashphault, or corrosion inhibitor sealant.


Quote:
Originally Posted by frankles View Post
Iíve seen a lot of people pull up the guard for the fuel filling...inlet? Inlet. Is that necessary on all builds? Is it necessary on ours?
IDK that one. sorry.


Quote:
Originally Posted by frankles View Post
We want to flush and fill the radiator, but I canít find a drain plug to save my life. Iím mechanically inclined, but very much inexperienced with automobiles. Every 2001 GMC Savana/Chevy Express 3500 how to video Iíve found shows features that my particular engine does not share. One showed a drain hose on the passenger side with a petcock to facilitate draining, but I found neither on mine. Another pointed to the bottom of the driverís side of the radiator for a drain plug, but the only thing I was able to locate was a plastic plug with indents that facilitate installation only, but nothing to remote it. Notches with grooves that quickly recede to the cap level. Looks like something meant to go in and stay there indefinitely. Iím guessing this has something to do with the bus having additional hoses to accommodate the rear heater, and possibly one more. I pulled the heater and installed a short loop, but Iím stuck here with draining. So close and yet, so far. (Also, I should mention that the engine temp has been totally fine when Iíve driven it on and off highway. BUT as far as we can tell, itís been about five years since there was any maintenance done on the thing, so weíre doing some of this stuff to give us a start of a maintenance schedule, and to eliminate anything that could cause problems down the road.
Remove the lower radiator hose at the radiator to drain it. May need to remove some underbelly gravel/dust panels to get to it.
Wanna do a really good super dooper job? Don't think you need it, but you could remove the radiator entirely, and flush it with a garden hose, then turn it upside down, and use a garden hose at high flow to back flush the whole thing out.
If you drain it first and there is no gunk in that lower hose or the bottom of the radiator, then no need to flush it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by frankles View Post
On sort of the same topic, the fan for the dash controls sounds like itís working, but there is nothing coming out of any of the vents, on any setting. I havenít Googled this at all, but seeing as Iím on a roll with questions, I figured Iíd throw this one in here in case anybody else has experienced this.
"sounds" like it works? What sounds? clicks in the switch? vents opening/closing behind the dash? A/C compressor kicks on, and you can hear it in the engine idle?
Gotta have the wiring specs, but likely just a bad fan switch(?)


Quote:
Originally Posted by frankles View Post
The undercarriage was a really swell surprise. There appears to be a factory layer of rubberized something covering pretty much all of the non-moving parts on the bottom of the bus. It looks to have started peeling somewhat recently, but there is zero corrosion on the exposed parts. Weíre planning to spray the everloving **** out of the bottom with a pressure washer (after plugging the bolt holes, of course) and then using a wire wheel on anything stubborn before we apply a new layer of rust preventative to the underside.
My sister's old 1980s Toyota Tercel 4◊4 had that. I thought the same thing: great! I put a jack under the car, and it went "crunch". The little tears in the rubber let water in and hold it there.



Quote:
Originally Posted by frankles View Post
I've read on here about getting "bad diesel," but I'm not sure what that means exactly, nor do I know how to avoid that. How do I avoid that?
Diesel with contaminants, likely water.
Shop at bigger, nicer truck stop gas stations. Truckers have financial backing by large corps that have lawyers on staff...
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Old 08-01-2020, 04:27 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by frankles View Post
Iíve seen a lot of people pull up the guard for the fuel filling...inlet? Inlet. Is that necessary on all builds? Is it necessary on ours?
I mean, its function is to prevent people (meaning kids with pocket knives - or maybe angle grinders these days) inside the bus from damaging the inlet pipe. I'd leave it in place unless it's in the way of some part of your interior build (I'm leaving mine in place and building the DIY toilet around it), and even then I wouldn't remove it until I was ready to build something over it. Not that you'd be super-likely to damage it, but it's not impossible in a construction environment.
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Old 08-01-2020, 11:50 PM   #4
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Location: NW Illinois. Savanna on the Mississippi
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Might I suggest the gender neutral name Pat
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Old 08-03-2020, 12:32 AM   #5
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Location: Minneapolis
Posts: 5
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Blue Bird (Shortbus 4 window)
Chassis: GMC Savana 3500
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Rated Cap: 20 passengers
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mountain Gnome View Post
"sounds" like it works? What sounds? clicks in the switch? vents opening/closing behind the dash? A/C compressor kicks on, and you can hear it in the engine idle?
Gotta have the wiring specs, but likely just a bad fan switch(?)
First of all, thanks for your answers. My fussy mind is at much more ease. Grammar schmammar.

So I turn the dial on the fan controls from off to the lowest or highest setting, with the engine running, and I can hear the fan turn on inside the dash. But nothing comes out the vents. It doesnít seem to make a difference if I change it to dash/floor/defrost.
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Old 08-03-2020, 11:53 PM   #6
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Chassis: GMC Savana 3500
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Might I suggest the gender neutral name Pat
That name always reminds me of that skit on SNL. I donít hate it.
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Old 08-04-2020, 12:03 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frankles View Post
First of all, thanks for your answers. My fussy mind is at much more ease. Grammar schmammar.

So I turn the dial on the fan controls from off to the lowest or highest setting, with the engine running, and I can hear the fan turn on inside the dash. But nothing comes out the vents. It doesnít seem to make a difference if I change it to dash/floor/defrost.
Hopefully, a rat didn't make a nest in there and block the passage.
But I would bet that the vent controls are not "manual" - i.e. moved with a push-pull wire. Rather, they are electric or vacuum powered. The vacuum comes from the vehicle engine. At this point, I think you need to take it apart and find out what is back there and how it works, or hopefully someone else can come along who has that type of vehicle and knows about that problem...
Aloha!
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Old 08-04-2020, 12:05 AM   #8
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Then again if it was merely a vent-control problem, the air should be coming out somewheres.
Maybe it IS a rat's nest.
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Old 08-04-2020, 04:14 AM   #9
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I found fust underneath three undercoating applied to the underside of our roof. It would be unwise to assume it's all good without removing it. It's easy to remove with an oscillating multi-tool.
Do your research on painting galvanized metal. You'll find using an alkyd (oil based) paint will saponify (makes soap) and lift over time. Better to use an epoxy primer or acrylic. I used Sherwin Williams Procryl and am very happy with it. It's not cheap but you get what you pay for.
Hope this helps.
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Old 08-06-2020, 04:32 PM   #10
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Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: Minneapolis
Posts: 5
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Blue Bird (Shortbus 4 window)
Chassis: GMC Savana 3500
Engine: 6.5L Diesel
Rated Cap: 20 passengers
Quote:
Originally Posted by sojourner View Post
I found fust underneath three undercoating applied to the underside of our roof. It would be unwise to assume it's all good without removing it. It's easy to remove with an oscillating multi-tool.
Do your research on painting galvanized metal. You'll find using an alkyd (oil based) paint will saponify (makes soap) and lift over time. Better to use an epoxy primer or acrylic. I used Sherwin Williams Procryl and am very happy with it. It's not cheap but you get what you pay for.
Hope this helps.
We were thinking of going with the TSP/rust inhibitor/paint method for the floors. Is that wrong?
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Old 08-08-2020, 08:21 PM   #11
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Chassis: MicroBird
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"Do your research on painting galvanized metal. You'll find using an alkyd (oil based) paint."

Your bus body is actually made of Aluminum on that model.. Shouldn't be any rust, just a bit of oxidation. Clean and scruff up the surface and paint with Rust-Oleum or similar.
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Old 08-08-2020, 10:42 PM   #12
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I’m pretty sure your dash is controlled by vacuum tube. I’d check for vacuum leaks before pulling the dash apart. Follow all the little vacuum tube/hoses around and listen or feel for a leak. It’s a simple fix if that is what’s causing the problem.
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