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Old 10-18-2016, 11:42 PM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 156
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Saf-T-Liner MVP ER
Engine: CAT 3126
Arrow Check Out This Estimate

Money, money, money... If I were made of it, I would be living in a mansion and not a bus--but that doesn't mean I'll treat my bus any less nicer than I would the mansion. In fact, I'll probably treat it better, because I understand the value of money... which brings me to the following service quotation for a recently purchased 1999 Thomas RE:
Preventative maintenance ■ $500
Replace oil sending unit ■ $ 52 + $100 parts
Replace muffler hanger ■ $125 + $ 28 parts
Replace front main seal ■ $364 + $160 parts
Replace dryer filter ■ $104 + $275 parts
Steam clean engine; check with dye ■ $208 + $ 16 parts
Shop supplies ■ $ 79

Total:  $2,050
Hoo boy! Well... I'll start with the obvious. The muffler hanger. I could "fabricate" one easily and install it myself. I'll have to ask what "preventative maintenance" entails, but I get the feeling it doesn't require a team of five Benjamins to do it. The front main seal is not the head gasket. It's for a slight oil leak. Likewise for the steam cleaning and dye check. It's to determine the oil leak's origin... I guess they are assuming at this point it will be the front main seal.

Obviously, I would have liked to have done all this before buying the bus but couldn't.

So... I guess my question is: Is this estimate really as high as I think it is? What should I tell the service manager in order to lower the price?

Maybe I'm just a cheap bastard...
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Old 10-19-2016, 12:49 AM   #2
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Maybe see if he will sell you the parts (or source them elsewhere) and do the work yourself, for the things you're able to do...

Preventive maintenance.... probably will entail an oil/filter change (and unlike your car engine, these bus engines take GALLONS of oil, not quarts), fuel filter check/change, trans fluid/filter check/change, air filter check/change... possibly a brake check/adjustment but not sure if that will fall under PM.

So yes, $500 isn't all that unreasonable.... PM on my big rig ran me more than that.

You could probably do most of the PM tasks yourself with the proper sized tools... filters on trucks and buses are rather larger than their automobile sized counterparts. You just want to make sure to have the proper amounts of fluids to refill the systems... but be prepared for sticker shock on the fluids.... my big rig took 11 GALLONS of oil at $15/gallon so that was $165 just for the oil, but it was a MaxxForce 13L inline 6 diesel engine with a huge oil pan. Don't quote me on this but I think most bus engines are probably in the 5 to 7 gallon range. My MBE906 takes approximately 6.5 gallons including what's in the filters.
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Old 10-19-2016, 03:32 AM   #3
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Just do it yourself. not to save money but to get familiar with it. I find servicing new equipment not only lets you get a feel for it. It lets you make it easier to fix next time. you would be surprised what just having all the bolts threads buffed and lubed when it goes back together. The fact you will have to build a tool kit that actually has what you need. having a 20 or 40 ton jack and blocks cut out and stored to lift it up to fix some thing else later. Seeing what bolts and nuts are being used so you can grab a few of each for your tool kit at the box store.
Invaluable in my opinion.

A muffler shop will be a lot less if its welded. if its bolted and clamped thats just turning a wrench.

I have this crazy rule replace every part that is coming off that is a wear part.Belts hoses etc. If you have radiator out have it flow tested its usually a free check if you drop it off for a day. Simple test they no how many GPM it should flow and they pump water through it and make sure it flows that many GPm. my parents had radiator and muffler shop growing up so I use to do these all the time.

I'll trade you all that work if you'll pull out my seats.
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Old 10-19-2016, 06:34 AM   #4
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i got everything on ebay except the fluids. i got the entire gasket set for 100 bucks, 3 of mine were leaking, now i have the rest just in case. get a can of engine cleaner and rinse off with a hose[no pressure].any auto parts store will rent you the tools if you need them. do it yourself. while your at it for some piece of mind send in a oil sample.
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Old 10-19-2016, 07:24 AM   #5
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Their labor rate looks to be $52 an hour which, is quite cheap. Depending on what PM actually includes $500 seems reasonable. The parts prices seem a bit high. If you have a front engine bus, the front seal labor seems a bit low.

If those are "book times" find out if they are going to charge actual time or book time. I'm also guessing that they have a minimum of one hour charge based on the oil sender labor. If charging actual, will the jobs that take less time be lumped together? I once worked for a shop that charged book time, it wasn't unusual for me to get paid for 80 or more hours a week. When I had my own shop, I charged actual time, book was used for estimates.

I closed my shop before that "shop supplies" charge was even heard of. That is some arbitrary percentage of something, probably labor, and has nothing to do with the actual supplies used on your job. In my ancient mind, that is part of the cost of doing business that should be considered in your pricing and not something that is added to the bill. It always gripes me to see it on a bill.

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Old 10-19-2016, 07:49 AM   #6
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Year: 1991
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Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
I recently had a complete full service done at a shop on my newest bus... they charged me $900

oil change / filter
fuel filter
air filter
trans fluid change / filter
diff fluid change
hub oil change / new plugs
coolant change / filter / SCA
lube chassis
new wiper blades
inspect brakes
inspect and adjust parking brake.
ran diagnostic on computer (noted no codes)
inspect and adjust tire pressure..

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Old 10-19-2016, 08:22 AM   #7
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By shop manuals and study them . Read the diagnosis sections. Stand there and look at your engine and familarize your self with every part. Feel each hose and determine where it goes. Lay underneath and just lay there and gaze and look where all the lines go. Remember what you see. Any leaks starting? As Cadkid said. Buy your own tools. Do your own grease jobs and oil changes. etc
Read every thread on this forum and others about your engine and tranny.
Without learning and being able to change parts is imperative to not be a victim of repair shops on the road.
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Old 10-19-2016, 08:47 AM   #8
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"Preventative maintenance $500" - gave me an image of a guy pulling out the air filter and spraying it with the air hose. lol
I would get a list of what "Preventative maintenance" is ?? Most of that stuff is usually pretty easy to DIY.

I think it is a good practice to put dye in the oil and try to narrow down the leak. Leaks can be tricky I have replaced the wrong gasket a few times.

Exhaust work can be a pain many times you need a torch, grinder, multiple trips to the hardware store.

Some mechanical stuff I have no problem paying for.
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Old 10-19-2016, 08:54 AM   #9
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Location: Richmond Virginia
Posts: 932
Year: 1984
Engine: 366 Big block Chevy! :) w/ Stick shift
I NEVER pull apart anything on a motor to fix an oil leak unless it is pouring out.
Motors leak, i consider it a plesant reminder to keep a close eye on the oil and amazingly some leaks fix themselves; the GMC was about 2 quarts a month for nearly a year and miraculously sealed itself. Gone!

Those repairs and PM are all the fun things that help me connect with the machine.
Those are the jobs i enjoy (barring oil leak chasing) I always feel good after pampering a machine, however....

Some people do NOT enjoy that sort of thing and it is best to pay someone to do it.
I rarely pay anyone to do anything because i enjoy doing stuff myself. Even made tools to change motorcycle tires myself (wont touch a vehicle tire change)

But again the question i ask myself is "Will i enjoy this?"
If it is going to make me miserable then saving money to make myself miserable is hardly a consolation; no pockets in a shroud/ i can't take it with me. What better use of money than to avoid frustration and misery?

Except when paying a mechanic to risk them shafting me or not doing a good job will bring me even more misery.

Also anything over $500 would make me wait and get a second/ third estimate.

Funny the feelings i feel at the thought of paying someone to put their grubby mitts on a machine i adore! lol
Good luck! How cool that you reached out here and invited guidance before handing over your money.
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Old 10-19-2016, 09:25 AM   #10
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Location: Columbus Ohio
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Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
I do both.. work on things myself and also pay people to do it depending on what it is..

changing oil for me is a big mess... then I have to cart it and dispose of it, and all in all I dont save enough $$ doing it myself vs having it done that i dont worry about it..

repairs? different story... I love to tear things apart, repair, and learn, and fix-up..

changing fluids is awful to me , not because i get greasy but just because I dont learn muich doing it, and everything around me gets messy and I spend more time cleaning up buckets, pans, and rags than i do working...

replacing parts though, I learn stuff about my engine, save a good bit more $$ doing it.. and I enjoy it... so I tend to find myself making my own repairs alot more..

I used to freak about oil leaks... any oil leak... coming from a background of building hotrods, I was into making nice shiny engines that I wanted to stay shiny.. yes i pulled an engine once to replace a seal that left an oil spot nightly half the size of a dime..

naturally when i got a bus I started to freak because of a few spots of oil on the ground every night... till a friend of mine said "dude these things will run forever even with a small leak... just look at the SEMI parking lots anywhere you go they are covered in oil.. and those guys drive a million miles"....

I dont worry about small leaks anymore... sure if they are easy to fix like a valve cover gasket or around the stick, etc I'll fix em but otherwise i dont worry..

and if I were to rebuild a motor i would likely make sure it didnt leak oil after it was put back together...

its a diesel.. its commercial.. im in the habit of pulling the stick every morning Plus every fuel stop when im on a trip..

certain oil leaks i would take note of.. anyrthing around the turbo.. as an oil leak around the turbo (esp if it leaks oil into the intake) could cause a runaway and destroy the engine... excessive oil belching out the draft tube could indicate possible broken rings or compression issues... excessive oil in the air-brake tanks could foul up the air brake cylinders or indicate the compressor is going bad..

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Old 10-20-2016, 07:49 AM   #11
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Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 156
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Saf-T-Liner MVP ER
Engine: CAT 3126
Thank you all for the feedback. I've read each of your replies and will re-read them while waiting for a response from the service coordinator.
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