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Old 01-10-2016, 12:25 PM   #1
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Anyone care to lodge a defense of the 5.9 or 444 for a full size bus???

Hello Everyone!

Based on reading more forum posts than could possibly be good for someone, I'm fairly well versed in engine differences but still have some lingering doubts/question.

I really like what I've heard about Detroit Diesels, but I haven't had much luck finding buses with them (other than Crowns which are out of my price range), plus it sounds like its harder to find people to service them. That leads me to the Cummins 8.3L and DT466, both of which are what I have been focused on finding. I'm planning on a full size bus and cross country trips, and a bigger engine just makes sense to me. The reason I'm writing this is that I keep finding buses that meet all of my other qualifications that have either 5.9s or 444s. I was wondering if people with those engines (or experience) have thoughts or opinions regarding their value. For the record, speed is of no importance to me...


As for transmissions, I want an automatic transmission. I hear Allison transmissions are the best but I'm still a little lost on which models are the best. What about the MD3060? or the MT643? Any that should be 100% avoided? We've had a hard time finding good threads on this, so if you are aware of some links would be great too!
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Old 01-10-2016, 12:49 PM   #2
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If you want a DT466 or 8.3, just wait until you find one because you will get a MT643 or MD3060. The first is a 4 speed and the second is a 5 speed but computerized. Someone will soon say that they know of a guy that knows a guy that got the sixth gear opened up. There is one person on here that did it.

If given the choice, I would chose a 5.9 over a 444 in a bus. I have never had one in a bus but have had them in pickups and vans. 2x 5.9 and about 10x 444. I would hold out for what you want.
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Old 01-10-2016, 12:52 PM   #3
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5.9 > 444

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Old 01-10-2016, 02:38 PM   #4
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I guess I'm the odd man here, I have t444e with the 545 tranny, I have no concerns in taking my full size bus anywhere, so far I put more then 20,000kms of road trips with out problem. I did replace all my injectors this year and it really made a big difference. one thing with the 7.3 or t444e is parts are all over the place to get, there's lots of people that can work on them if need be, I would buy another one with no problem. as for the tranny it works for me, but I have not driven any other type other then 545, which again im happy with.
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Old 01-10-2016, 04:49 PM   #5
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Our DT360 with at AT545 is slow and underpowered, but has no trouble getting us everywhere we want to go. Eventually. It's a very reliable engine. The AT545 trans shifts very hard between 2-3rd, but apparently that is expected.

Some parts for DT360 have been discontinued. I'd definitely recommend the DT466. It's what I thought I had bought from the lying school district garage, and if I ever convert another one it will be a 466.

I've also dismantled and reassembled it using only the manual, so it's super easy and accessible for overhauls. These buses are designed to be overhauled without removing the engine, and it has access from inside and outside the bus.
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Old 01-10-2016, 07:45 PM   #6
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A 5.9 is a very good engine, particularly the variants with the bosch p-pump in them. I dont like the 24v version as much as the 12v. With an aftercooler, they can easily make a bus move well.

The 444E is a budget motor that I think is really good and strong motor for what it is, but I find them hard starting in the cold and harder to troubleshoot issues on than a DT466. They also use glowplugs, which I dont like. The 5.9 and dt466 do not use glow plugs.
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Old 01-10-2016, 08:09 PM   #7
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Hmm, based on what I'm hearing I think I'll be holding out for the DT466. It seems to show up a lot in the buses I like anyway, I just haven't been able to find one that is 'perfect.' I have an offer I'm waiting to hear back about on a bus I absolutely love minus the fact it has hydraulic brakes. If the guy accepts the price I threw out, I may have to make that sacrifice...

@charles_m What is the alternative to a glow plug that makes the DT466 (and others) start better than one with one? Also, what do you not like about them? I'll look into this more now...
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Old 01-10-2016, 08:36 PM   #8
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Hey PigPen, you a Deadhead?
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Old 01-10-2016, 11:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazycal View Post
Someone will soon say that they know of a guy that knows a guy that got the sixth gear opened up. There is one person on here that did it.
In case the second overdrive (sixth gear) is something near and dear to your heart: do as porkchopsandwiches did and buy a Thomas. Nobody has been known (here at least) to get anywhere with asking Blue Bird to sign off on a 6-speed tranny calibration.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PigPen View Post
What is the alternative to a glow plug that makes the DT466 (and others) start better than one with one?
Can't speak to one style starting better than another, but the alternative to glow plugs is grid heater. It's an electric heating element mounted in the engine's intake for pre-heating air on its way in before and shortly after starting the engine.

I had a "transit style" (bah! flat nose! ) Blue Bird with a 5.9 engine in front. It was too slow for me; maybe I'm impatient. But one thing I will say for it: I overheat before that engine would. In that 1991 'Bird it had a massive radiator and fan that easily dealt with the grades we climbed. Just had to be patient; sometimes 20 MPH was all we could get. On more level terrain it had no trouble holding 65 MPH.
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Old 01-11-2016, 12:46 AM   #10
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Not all engines use preheating devices. My bus has no glow plugs or grid heaters. Just the design of the engine doesn't require it. I have never owned a DT466 that was hard to start in the cold. Every T444e I've owned wont start unless you heat the block and double cycle the glow plugs and have a strong battery. I really dislike HEUI systems and computerized engines for skoolies. They are expensive to repair and troubleshooting is difficult. A new, well running t444e is a strong(ish) engine and gets great service life in many applications, but it doesn't have a lot of the things that I love about a DT466 or 8.3 Cummins. If it was a terrible motor, there wouldnt be so many of them on the road, but in my opinion, there's better options out there.
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Old 01-11-2016, 06:47 AM   #11
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Hot rodders have always said you can't beat cubic inches. The same applies to school buses.

The 5.9L and the T444(E) are great engines for what they are. There just isn't a lot there.

Max HP for both is about 250 HP but the torque numbers are not anything close to what you will find in a 250 HP DT466 or 8.3L. Which is why the small engines are great on the flat and get real pokey on the grades.

Yes an MT transmission is better in all respects than an AT transmission. But given reasonable care and understanding the limitations the AT transmission will go a lot of miles without any problems.

Depending upon who originally spe'c'ed the bus and where the bus saw service you will find some buses with the 5.9L or T444(E) with the MT transmission just like you will find some low HP versions of the DT466 and 8.3L with the AT transmission.

Don't take the word of a salesman about what is in the bus. Crawl under and check the data plate on the side of the transmission and the engine to determine what exactly is in the bus.
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Old 01-11-2016, 10:39 AM   #12
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The biggest thing in which bus to choose is what your plans are for it. That'll be the deciding factor.

On average, your larger engines will have heavier drivelines, axles, and brakes. That's all worth something so those busses will typically cost more. But the cost is worth it IMO if you're going to be traveling with it regularly. If you aren't going to travel with it regularly you can get by with something a little less power and reliability.
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Old 01-11-2016, 12:10 PM   #13
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Hey PigPen, you a Deadhead?
Yes and no. Yes in the sense that my wife and I love them, no in the sense that we've never got to see them. I'm hoping Dead & Co do some more shows, even though I don't know how I feel about John Mayer. Ripple is like kryptonite for my daughter (6 months now) no matter how fussy she is, from the time she was a baby that song puts her to sleep like magic.

Anyway...interesting points on the different preheating options (or lack thereof). Is there anyway to easily tell if a bus would have a mechanical DT466, like based on the year or model? I've found quite a bit of buses with the DT466 and owners that don't know which one it is. A lot seem to get turned off when I ask for them to check things like that, which is frustrating. They're mostly mid to late 90s models...
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Old 01-11-2016, 12:35 PM   #14
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Well one way to tell is if the badging has an "E" or if its a 98 or later.
If you look up pics of "E" 466 engines and mechanical ones, you'll learn to visually tell the differences.

My love of the Dead has a lot to do with my love of buses.
I got to see the Grateful Dead in 1995, it was awesome. Caught a Further show or two after Jerry died and some Ratdog, but honestly I could care less about any "new" Dead ventures after about 98 or so. The scene isn't what it was, either.
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Old 01-11-2016, 05:38 PM   #15
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Gee, all the rave I've heard over the past years for the 8.3 is making me think of cashing in.
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Old 01-11-2016, 06:08 PM   #16
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Its good, for sure. A bit heavier and beefier than a DT466.
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Old 01-11-2016, 06:51 PM   #17
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I was quite content with my 545 on the drive back from Maine 18 months ago. Sure, I'd like to replace it with a 3060, but right now slow and steady is fine with me. As for the 444E, parts availability is a bonus, as is the ability to attach a ScanGauge or other electronic scanners to see what the power plant is putting out at any particular time.

Additional note-
I know a few people think that if it's electronic, it's going to be expensive to fix. But remember this-
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Old 01-11-2016, 07:30 PM   #18
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@EastCoastCB Yea, I've always kinda felt I missed the boat which is why we never went to any recent shows.

Regarding buses again, I'm the type of person that would be happy with anything but will obsess over the decision for weeks ahead of time trying to make it perfect.

Then there's the part of me that just loves how Crowns look and wants to impulsively buy this and drive into the sunset...
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Old 01-11-2016, 08:12 PM   #19
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It seems like I'm a bit late, but oh well.
We have two t444e and they seem alright. They start and run consistently, and they make good speed on the flatlands. They don't accelerate too quickly witch is a function of three things
1) it's a bus
2) the jumps in my 5 speed are too wide
3) tuned to 175 hp
We have never had them on a hill, but they'd be awfully slow, that's fine by me though.

I disagree that they are hard to start. Last spring when we fired them up for the fist time after them sitting for ~5 months with the glow plug cycle run twice, they started up really easy. It was still -15 Celsius.
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Old 01-15-2016, 11:55 PM   #20
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[QUOTE=cowlitzcoach;132972]Hot rodders have always said you can't beat cubic inches. The same applies to school buses.

Horsepower is what is needed and not cubic inches!!!


Max HP for both is about 250 HP but the torque numbers are not anything close to what you will find in a 250 HP DT466 or 8.3L. Which is why the small engines are great on the flat and get real pokey on the grades.

The 5.9 cummins is by far the best engine over the 444, and the 466. It takes a little tweeking for the 12 valve but they are simple and for under $1000 you can have them at a nice 350hp. The 24 valve is a little more complicated in the sense that it is electronically controlled, and a programmer will boost you to the 375hp range. If driven nice they will also get you 15 to 20 mpg.
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