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Old 08-11-2020, 08:19 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2020
Location: Lake Forest, California
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Choosing a Mechanic Question

Look who decided to come home with us last night! 26' 1991 Thomas International DT360 (198K miles) with an Allison transmission (unknown type). She’s heading to the shop today, and then the fun begins (we’re still fuzzy on where that fun will occur, but where there’s a will . . .). She hails from Arizona, easily did 70 on the freeway, and survived dirt roads, rough roads, the highway, and a pit stop for diesel all with flying colors.

We have a million questions, but I’ll start with the most relevant: the first truck center we called yesterday suggested we'd be better at one of two international shops in the area, due to the "age of the vehicle." Unfortunately, both are well over an hour away. We do have a very local truck center willing to look her over, BUT would it be a mistake to choose a general truck mechanic vs one that's an international dealer? Normally, we equate a dealer with paying more.

Thanks so much! We are SO excited to finally be doing this!
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Old 08-11-2020, 09:44 AM   #2
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Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Stanardsville, Virginia
Posts: 104
Year: 2006
Coachwork: International
Engine: DT466
Rated Cap: 30
I got a mechanic from a local school district to help me. They are off work right now and more than willing to help. Plus they work on buses all the time. I have had great luck. Congrats on the bus!
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Old 08-11-2020, 12:29 PM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2020
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Love that idea! I just posted in our local Facebook moms group to see if anyone or their spouse happens to be in that situation! Thanks for a great outside-the-box solution!
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Old 08-11-2020, 12:36 PM   #4
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Join Date: Jan 2020
Location: Stanardsville, Virginia
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Year: 2006
Coachwork: International
Engine: DT466
Rated Cap: 30
Actually, mine has even come to my house to help with issues I couldn’t figure out. He helped with disconnecting wires, alarms, battery issues and explained everything about the engine, other bus parts and fluids that I would need to know. Great for me cause I have zero mechanical knowledge and he didn’t charge me a ton.
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Old 08-12-2020, 08:53 PM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Apr 2016
Location: Godfrey ON
Posts: 34
Year: 2004
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TCF
Engine: 5.9 Cummins
I suspect a lot of people aren't going to like my answer.

Hit and miss - but good luck.

Been in the wrenching business since Reagan was around.

(Many?) modern dealers IMO are without a clue. They don't even employ proper licenced mechanics - just "factory trained" techs who are trained to follow flow charts and swap out expensive parts until the problem goes away.

In fact the manufacturer doesn't even often provide the information required for the dealer to repair a particular component. It's all about replacement, and the mfgr actually makes a huge profit from the dealer..

Recently did a $150 job previously quoted at $7000 and still made a tidy profit for an hour's work.

Look hard and long for the toothless ol' frig. Sure, lots of hacks milling about, but as well a lot of old guys who know their stuff, damned the proprietary 101 pin connector, with still some integrity.

Personally I would consider the dealer a last resort.
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Old 08-13-2020, 02:06 AM   #6
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Join Date: May 2016
Location: Georgia
Posts: 2,076
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: IH
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 14
From the sounds of it, you got one that's in good condition already. Much of the stuff to check you can - and very much should - do yourself. Raise the hood. Check the oil. Check the trans fluid (some require the engine to be running), also check the color, it should be a bright red. Brown usually indicates burnt. Check the coolant reservoir and see if it's full (Do not open it if the engine is hot!). Check the brake fluid (if it has hydraulic brakes). Check the steering fluid. Check the belt(s). Turn on all the lights and 4-way flashers and check those, low and high beams. Tap the horn, check the wipers. Give the front and rear springs a look, are any cracked or broken? Look around and see if anything looks loose or broken that probably shouldn't be.


If you have air brakes, see if you can see the brake shoes, and how much is left on them. The minimum is about 1/4" in the middle (the ends don't wear down nearly as much). Some air brake systems have splash shields so you won't be able to see the brake shoes easily.



How much tread in on the tires? You should be able to tell easily if "This tire is almost brand new" versus "This one's about half worn", and "This tire's almost bald." Get a tire pressure gauge - one of the trucker types that can read a minimum of 120 PSI. (I find having the end "straight" instead of angled make it easier for me to check an inner tire). Those tires typically run between 90-110 PSI of air pressure and anything below 85 should be considered flat. (There is much debate about running a lower pressure for a smoother ride especially on the rear axle when lightly loaded, that's a subject for another thread at another time.)


At this point you will have done about 90% of what a shop would have done and saved yourself a bit of money. I am assuming you have no drivability problems, the steering seemed fine and brakes were good and strong.


I used to train truck drivers in one of my previous jobs, and my pre-trip inspection routine was basically a game of "Let's see how many defects we can find with the truck", whoever found more won. Not all defects will put a vehicle out of service (for example, that battery door latch may be broken but a bungee strap will hold it closed for now), but they may things you can either decide to fix, give a low priority or simply live with and not bother fixing (such as a non-working A/C).
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