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Old 03-24-2021, 03:28 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
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Designing a rear deck

I did a search and found a few interesting threads on this, nothing technical though.

I'm extending the bumper of my shuttle bus about 28" and would like to put on a receiver. The current bumper will be reused, it just bolts onto the twin frame rails.

Any guidance on this exercise? I heard you shouldn't weld to the bus frame--hardened steel, brittle so welds will crack--I have no idea if that's made up or real.

I'm thinking of welding square tube perpendicular to the ends of the twin frame rails, then just welding more square tube to that.

Wall thickness of steel? Rules of thumb for sizing? Ideas for google search terms for doing this? Thanks all in advance.
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Old 03-24-2021, 05:17 PM   #2
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first thing to know when welding on a vehicle frame is to completely disconnect the computer.
you will get mixed opinions on here about actually doing it but it can and has been done.
are you a welder or are you taking it to a shop?
wire welding is not the best option unless you know what it takes to do structural welding or high pressure pipe welding.
bevels and fillets and fish plates and backer rings type stuff.
also tempering the metal.
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Old 03-24-2021, 10:34 PM   #3
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My first concern is reduced clearance by adding length to the bus.

Think about a street that dips a bit as you may be going up a driveway into a parking lot. As your front wheels start to go up the driveway, your new rear deck is angling closer and closer to hitting the street.

As long as you design the height of the deck to match the length of the deck to maintain good ground clearance in extreme road level changes, you should be fine.

But, the next problem is adding a tow hitch. To get a secure hitch, it seems you really have to extend the framing itself. I don't know if you did this if it needs to be rated or inspected to be considered safe to tow. Just something to think about.

Depending on what you are using the deck for, you may be able to get away with a fully foldable or hybrid permanent / foldable.

If you are NOT going to be storing things on the deck, it's just meant as additional space for when your parked and camping, then if you made it able to fold up against the back of the bus, you could put a tow hitch directly onto the bus as it sits.

If you are going to be storing things on the deck, then maybe make the deck only as long to hold those items, then fold up the other part of the deck.

Also, remember, If you are going to add a tow hitch, whatever you attach to that hitch adds more length. That brings you back to ground clearance when going over dips, etc., so the closer the hitch is to the current rear of the bus, the better.

Finally, the farther away the tow hitch is from the bus has a direct effect on turning and backing with a trailer in tow.

Solving these engineering issues for safety and most effective and ease of use will make your deck and tow setup more successful.

Best of luck.
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Old 03-25-2021, 04:10 AM   #4
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Steve made some good points, but to answer the question directly, if you want to have a tow hitch it should attach to the frame, so your frame needs to be extended, not just some tubing, so duplicate the frame material at least. The shuttle bus has pretty beefy frame rails.
I googled 'welding e450 frame', and found this quote which I take to be true, have heard it before.

"My information is a bit dated, but I doubt much has changed. I worked for Dana Corp. Parrish Pressed Steel from '84 into '91. That plant made auto and truck frames. The heat treated frames were for really big trucks, Mack, Freightliner, Peterbuilt, White, Navastar [International] etc. The heaviest [at that time] of the light frames was the F450 Ford, which was just a thicker version of the F350 mild steel frame.
"

So for a full-size school bus, the frame would be heat treated. The e450 just mild steel and can be welded without much issue.
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Old 03-25-2021, 10:27 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeNimble View Post
Steve made some good points, but to answer the question directly, if you want to have a tow hitch it should attach to the frame, so your frame needs to be extended, not just some tubing, so duplicate the frame material at least. The shuttle bus has pretty beefy frame rails.
I googled 'welding e450 frame', and found this quote which I take to be true, have heard it before.

"My information is a bit dated, but I doubt much has changed. I worked for Dana Corp. Parrish Pressed Steel from '84 into '91. That plant made auto and truck frames. The heat treated frames were for really big trucks, Mack, Freightliner, Peterbuilt, White, Navastar [International] etc. The heaviest [at that time] of the light frames was the F450 Ford, which was just a thicker version of the F350 mild steel frame.
"

So for a full-size school bus, the frame would be heat treated. The e450 just mild steel and can be welded without much issue.

Great find! I'll also dig some more to see what else is out there....[edit] and I also concur. Here's a summary of what I found: probably .240" mild steel (SAE low carbon hot rolled]. If bolting, use grade 8 bolts, not regular bolts; if welding use 7018 stick.

The twin rails that make up the shuttle frame are quite high off the ground, though not as high as a school bus. I do agree that adding length and a receiver will limit maneuverability. I'm planning on 28" of extension and keeping the receiver high (I'll use a drop hitch).
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Old 03-25-2021, 11:24 AM   #6
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Like you I am a do-it-your-selfer so I am sure you can design a workable rear platform. What I am not sure of is if you have the skill level to actually build the extension. I base this opinion on the sort of questions you ask. Check out some sites like gmupfitters.com and what ever similar site that exists for Ford and you'll have a pretty good idea what can and cannot be done. Before I started "building" vehicles I took a course in welding and did a lot of practice welds with both small and large wire welders before my first build. Welding came naturally to me but I still visit with professional welders to go over any major building ideas before I dive in. I've gone as far as to hire an automotive engineer to review my plans and recommend materials to use.

To say it in plain talk, if you don't want to spend the time in training, hire a licensed welder to do the welding.
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Old 03-25-2021, 02:17 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ol trunt View Post
Like you I am a do-it-your-selfer so I am sure you can design a workable rear platform. What I am not sure of is if you have the skill level to actually build the extension. I base this opinion on the sort of questions you ask. Check out some sites like gmupfitters.com and what ever similar site that exists for Ford and you'll have a pretty good idea what can and cannot be done. Before I started "building" vehicles I took a course in welding and did a lot of practice welds with both small and large wire welders before my first build. Welding came naturally to me but I still visit with professional welders to go over any major building ideas before I dive in. I've gone as far as to hire an automotive engineer to review my plans and recommend materials to use.

To say it in plain talk, if you don't want to spend the time in training, hire a licensed welder to do the welding.
Jack

Good suggestions all. I do like to dig deep on the research before jumping in, so that may be why I sound so...inexperienced with my questions.

I have a Maytag 100 Amp stick welder and torches, and a little wire welder. I grew up working on a farm so you can probably imagine the kinds of welds that are still out there in a field, rusting away.

The deck part I think I can do. Where I'm now concerned is the tow hitch. Not sure the E450 is really designed to tow without some significant reinforcement of the back end of the frame.
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Old 03-25-2021, 05:52 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simplicity View Post
My first concern is reduced clearance by adding length to the bus.

Think about a street that dips a bit as you may be going up a driveway into a parking lot. As your front wheels start to go up the driveway, your new rear deck is angling closer and closer to hitting the street.

As long as you design the height of the deck to match the length of the deck to maintain good ground clearance in extreme road level changes, you should be fine.

But, the next problem is adding a tow hitch. To get a secure hitch, it seems you really have to extend the framing itself. I don't know if you did this if it needs to be rated or inspected to be considered safe to tow. Just something to think about.

Depending on what you are using the deck for, you may be able to get away with a fully foldable or hybrid permanent / foldable.

If you are NOT going to be storing things on the deck, it's just meant as additional space for when your parked and camping, then if you made it able to fold up against the back of the bus, you could put a tow hitch directly onto the bus as it sits.

If you are going to be storing things on the deck, then maybe make the deck only as long to hold those items, then fold up the other part of the deck.

Also, remember, If you are going to add a tow hitch, whatever you attach to that hitch adds more length. That brings you back to ground clearance when going over dips, etc., so the closer the hitch is to the current rear of the bus, the better.

Finally, the farther away the tow hitch is from the bus has a direct effect on turning and backing with a trailer in tow.

Solving these engineering issues for safety and most effective and ease of use will make your deck and tow setup more successful.

Best of luck.
Shuttle bus over hang is nowhere near what the overhang on a 40' bus is. I wouldn't be concerned with that issue and this bus. Some of the E450 shuttles have a good 8' behind the rear axle.
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Old 03-28-2021, 11:14 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rucker View Post
Good suggestions all. I do like to dig deep on the research before jumping in, so that may be why I sound so...inexperienced with my questions.

I have a Maytag 100 Amp stick welder and torches, and a little wire welder. I grew up working on a farm so you can probably imagine the kinds of welds that are still out there in a field, rusting away.

The deck part I think I can do. Where I'm now concerned is the tow hitch. Not sure the E450 is really designed to tow without some significant reinforcement of the back end of the frame.
Out of an abundance of caution, I'd really lean hard to the safe side of the tow hitch. If it's not aligned right, it can affect how it tows, and that can be dangerous. If it's not strong enough, breaks and causes an accident and/or injury/death, you'll have a huge legal target on your back. Plus, you just don't need that grief in your life.

Be safe my friend.

Best of luck.
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Old 03-31-2021, 05:04 PM   #10
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I just ordered the steel for the rear deck and it's ready for pickup! Came in at $234.43 not including bolts and some outrigger steel.

The C-rails are .25", 6-5/16" web, bottom flange 2-1/2", top flange 3-1/4".

I didn't do any engineering to come up with the following (all 4 Gage, or 1/4" thick):

Extensions. These insert into the C of the bus frame:
-2-1/2" square stock, with 2" angle iron on top. I'll bolt through the existing frame with 21" overlap. It extends about four inches, just past the body of the bus. The angle iron keeps the piece from levering down (or up) under load.

Rectangular Frame (the deck of the porch):
2x3 square stock, all welded. The length is 28", width is five feet. This accomodates a truck toolbox that will be recessed in the rectangle.

Overall cantilever is 32".

I'll weld smaller stock outriggers to make up the width of the bus, and deck with oak or something like it.

About the hitch: I did some research and I'm pretty sure the bus is already set up for a tow hitch. There are four pre-drilled holes in the back of the frame. I've decided for the moment NOT to add a hitch for all the reasons stated. If I really need to tow something, I'll take off the porch.

The porch will hold leveling planks, have a provision for graywater drain storage, and inside the toolbox I'll put the diesel tank and darned annoying pump for the diesel heater. Also chains, etc.

Oh, and on top, my four banger LoLo vertical bike rack!
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Old 03-31-2021, 07:11 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rucker View Post
I just ordered the steel for the rear deck and it's ready for pickup! Came in at $234.43 not including bolts and some outrigger steel.

The C-rails are .25", 6-5/16" web, bottom flange 2-1/2", top flange 3-1/4".

I didn't do any engineering to come up with the following (all 4 Gage, or 1/4" thick):

Extensions. These insert into the C of the bus frame:
-2-1/2" square stock, with 2" angle iron on top. I'll bolt through the existing frame with 21" overlap. It extends about four inches, just past the body of the bus. The angle iron keeps the piece from levering down (or up) under load.

Rectangular Frame (the deck of the porch):
2x3 square stock, all welded. The length is 28", width is five feet. This accomodates a truck toolbox that will be recessed in the rectangle.

Overall cantilever is 32".

I'll weld smaller stock outriggers to make up the width of the bus, and deck with oak or something like it.

About the hitch: I did some research and I'm pretty sure the bus is already set up for a tow hitch. There are four pre-drilled holes in the back of the frame. I've decided for the moment NOT to add a hitch for all the reasons stated. If I really need to tow something, I'll take off the porch.

The porch will hold leveling planks, have a provision for graywater drain storage, and inside the toolbox I'll put the diesel tank and darned annoying pump for the diesel heater. Also chains, etc.

Oh, and on top, my four banger LoLo vertical bike rack!
If this can be any help to you, this is how I did my rear deck. I used bus frame to extend my rear frame.
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Old 03-31-2021, 07:20 PM   #12
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Very Slick Job!
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Old 03-31-2021, 07:23 PM   #13
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Very Slick Job!
Rucker - thank you.
By using bus framing, I was able to attach the bumper back on with all existing holes.
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