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Old 11-24-2016, 11:37 PM   #1
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First Bus Choice!!

Howdy.
The other half and I are planning on buying our first bus within the next couple of weeks and wanted help on the decision, but it looks like we've made up our minds but certainly could use some experienced skoolies' knowledge and guidance on this one.

We plan to live full-time and also to actually drive it quite a bit. The idea is to drive it from where we live in Northern New Mexico to Pennsylvania and Mass then straight out to California and then up to Washington. I recognize this is a lot to ask from any vehicle, let alone a bus, but hope with little modifications and barring our options we've made a decent choice so far.

I've found a 1996 Blue Bird TC/2000 5.9, AT545, 13 Window in almost immaculate shape (perfect glass all around, perfect seats all around, good tires, great service history) with 90,XXX miles.

Now, I know about the pump on the diesel and do plan to put in a fuel pressure gauge along with auxiliary transmission oil cooler/s for the AT545 as well as a trans temp gauge.

My concerns are:
How many of YOU have this setup with your conversions? Do you agree that the use of the 5.9 for this application is so underpowered that it wears prematurely (as opposed to when its installed in it's dodge pickup cousin?)
How many miles have you gotten out of yours post conversion and with what work?

I look forward to being a member of this great community and can't wait to share my build. Thanks!!
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Old 11-25-2016, 12:10 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forum, Buffalo!

Depending on how much weight you stuff in that bus, you may find yourself climbing hills rather slowly. So what you do, is... adopt the mindset of truckers: The trip takes as long as it takes. 20 MPH up Donner? Relax and enjoy the scenery.

That said, an abnormally slow speed is of course a major safety hazard, so don't pile "the kitchen stove" into that bus.

Running at full power for a long time will not really hurt the engine. Sure, it will add a tiny bit more wear, but only at the academic level. Do run full synthetic oil, such as Shell Rotella Full Synthetic.

And you might want to invest in synthetic fluid for that transmission. TranSynd runs about $50 a gallon, but it is universally agreed to be superior to any other fluid in any Allison.

Back to the engine.... You might install a pyrometer. This is a temperature gauge that reflects the combustion temperature inside the combustion chambers. The danger lies in melting the top of the pistons.
This may not be necessary with stock school bus settings, but....

I have put 60,000 miles on Millicent since I bought her. She has the MT643 transmission, but these engines are fairly durable regardless of the transmission.
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Old 11-25-2016, 12:24 AM   #3
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Ohh, a Pyrometer, neat. Will certainly have to look into that. What's the labor like? Funny you're the first to reply, been following your posts for a while. You have the most recognizable bus that I've seen here on the forum! I haven't been able to find a comprehensive way of identifying values of buses and it gets tricky quickly.

What would you estimate the value of a bus like that being? I guess relative to the buses which you have seen with similar qualities/conditions. Also, I think I neglected to mention that the bus is rust-free.

The fear is always that you've paid too much and will suffer the eternal loss :{

Thanks for the warm welcome!
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Old 11-25-2016, 01:52 AM   #4
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(Uh oh. He has heard of me. I'm in trouble.)

A pyrometer is a self-contained system consisting of the gauge, the sending unit, and a SPECIFIC cable that goes with only that type of gauge. The cable comes in many lengths.

Only connection with "the outside world" is power to the light bulb in the gauge.

The sender can be installed in either of two places.
The easy way is to put it in the exhaust pipe right AFTER the turbocharger.
The other way is to put it in the exhaust manifold BEFORE the turbo.

Since the turbo sucks up energy (heat), the two readings are different.

Mine is AFTER the turbo, and the gauge factory suggested I use 900 F as max.

If you put it BEFORE the turbo, max is something like 1,200.

The difficult part of installing the sender BEFORE the turbo, is the risk of getting chips from the drilling and tapping into the turbo. People do it, using grease and vacuum cleaners and whatnot. But the correct way is to remove the turbo.

AFTER the turbo, you just drill a hole and you are done.

If the gauge climbs above the max, you MUST lift your foot or downshift. Max means max -- that's the whole point.

Considering the price of a diesel engine, it's a nice safeguard to obey.

The price of a decommissioned school bus can be all over the map. It's all about the old "willing seller and willing buyer".

If you already bought it... the matter is closed. Never regret anything (but often learn from it).
But you are still eye-balling this 1996 Blue Bird. So....

90,000 miles is extremely low. So that's worth money.

1996.... These engines changed from mechanical injection to electronic around this time. But there is no exact date, or even year. A mechanical engine is worth more in my book, for the simplicity and reliability.

How do you know this bus has the AT545 transmission? With only 13 windows, it is likely, but not given. A bus with the AT545 is worth less than one with the MT643.

A bus coming straight from school bus duty is far preferable. Civilians tend to do far more damage to vehicles than they improve them -- present company excepted, of course.
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Old 11-25-2016, 02:01 AM   #5
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Oh, I was completely wrong about the transmission. (we're buying this remotely)
I made the assumption that is was the 545 when now I see that it has a digital gear selector. Going to have to inquire much further as to what this is about. From what i've read only the 8.3 Cummins came with the MD3060 ( Which is what the selector appears to be from) so why it would be in this 5.9 is a little odd. Or could that be from the 643?

Hopefully this image attachment worked... anyway, looks exactly like this one
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 00q0q_b7S5agiHgHO_1200x900.jpg (2.7 KB, 104 views)
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Old 11-25-2016, 02:08 AM   #6
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Oh, upon further inspection of the photos (current owner won it in an auction from school two weeks ago and has no use for it, potentially buying from him remotely by 600 miles) it appears to have a digital gear selector for the trans! akin to the MD3060 from online research and cross referencing similar looking display/selectors, though i have no idea if they used a particular selector for various models of trans...

it looks exactly like the one in this video, but is mated definitely to a 5.9 which i didn't know they did in the FE BBs, other than the 8.3...



also, it is 13 windows to the back of the bus from behind the driver***
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Old 11-25-2016, 07:22 AM   #7
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have you drivin this bus. it may top out at 50 mph. the 545 is made for city driving/ lots of stops not highway use. give it a good test drive
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Old 11-25-2016, 11:07 AM   #8
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Upon further inspection, looks like I was wrong about the 545! We're looking at buses remotely and will be traveling a ways to get it. The trans selector is actually a digital read-out, but doesn't look quite the same as the mt643. Unfortunately the owner won this at the school auction 2 weeks ago and can't quite confirm which transmission is in it...

the display is identical to this one


could a 1996 BB TCFE actually have a MD 3060? If so is that actually an upgrade? Thanks!
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Old 11-25-2016, 01:32 PM   #9
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The TC2000 was never made with a front engine 8.3L. If it's a front engine TC with a Cummins, it's definitely a 5.9L.

And the MD3060 was definitely used behind other engines than the 8.3L. I've seen them married to 5.9's and Cats in Blue Birds.

And a digital shifter almost certainly guarantees it's an MD3060.

edit: And yes, the MD3060 is definitely an upgrade over other transmissions offered in buses. It has the lockup torque converter and strength of an MT643 with an overdrive (two overdrives if you get 6th gear unlocked.)
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Old 11-25-2016, 05:53 PM   #10
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We discussed digital shifters recently, with good information from Christopher and others. To summarize...

545 and 643 have a lever, marked D321.

1000-2000 can have lever or digital. Marking will be D4321 when used as a 5-speed in a school bus.

3060 is likely to have digital, also displaying D4321 in 5-speed configuration.

Regarding engines, I'm not entirely convinced the Cummins 8.3 can be ruled out. The Heavy Duty market works very differently from the passenger car market. Heavy vehicles can be special-ordered to a much greater extent.

The video rules out a 4-speed, since the shifter is digital. And you say the soon-to-be-yours bus has the same shifter.

But the only way to know anything for certain, is to inspect the actual bus in question.

May I wonder what the asking price is?
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Old 11-25-2016, 06:55 PM   #11
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Sorry for the multiple posts there, folks. Not yet acquainted with the format here.

Ran the serials thru both cummins and allison from the ID plate inside the bus and discovered that it's a 1995 5.9 TD 24V (so... mechanical?) and definitely a MD 3060. Thanks for your help with the identifications in anycase! I'm committed to this one for now, just waiting on contacting the district it came from to see if I can get some history on it. Also, the trans is limited to 5Spd with 5.38 Axle ratio and the 5.9 is pumping 230hp. Not an ideal ratio, from what i've read a 4.XX or so would facilitate potentially higher top speeds but I reckon for the beginning I won't mind a little slower.

As it sits, the owner in the 2 weeks since he's acquired it has yet to get the bus up to "top speed" but says the bus had pull at around 55 before his turn came.

The price is $3500.
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Old 11-25-2016, 09:01 PM   #12
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If it's a 24 valve it isn't mechanical. Being a 1995, it could be either. The ISB (24v electronic injection) went into production in 1989 and the 6BT (12v mechanical) remained in production until 1998.

As far as rear end ratio goes, 5.38 was by far the most common ratio in buses with an MD3060. The 5th gear ratio of that transmission is .75, and the 5.9 has no problem spinning higher rpm than most other diesel engines. Assuming you're running 11R22.5 tires, and not low profiles, you'll be turning 2450 rpm at 75 mph. That's well within the cruising comfort zone for an ISB.

Putting a faster rear end in that bus would be a waste of money. All it would do is result in you running in 4th gear instead of 5th at highway speeds. The one thing you might need to do is plug a computer into it and remove the top speed limiter.
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Old 11-25-2016, 10:30 PM   #13
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Great info, Rameses!

Also, although the 5.9 is used in Dodge pickups, there is little point in applying Dodge info to our buses. For example, my 1992 bus has the "inline" or "P" injection pump, while Dodge continued using the previous "rotary" pump a couple more years (if memory serves).

$3,500 sounds like a fair price, assuming no ugly surprises. (As always, YMMV.)
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Old 11-25-2016, 11:02 PM   #14
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Both immensely helpful posts, that makes so much sense about just removing Dodge from the equation. It's hard when they are the only brand I've ever associated Cummins with up until now.
Edit> Did Bluebird use both of those engines in their TCs? The 12 AND 24? I wonder what their reasonings were to use one or the other if so. Actually I guess I don't quite realize why Cummins produced two versions of the same engine at the same time with the same displacement just different valving. Does one produce more hp/torque over the other? Oof, really could just look this up and not waste your folks' time!

Also, very interesting about that "6th" gear. I read the other post about 'unlocking the 6th gear in a MD' and basically came to the conclusion that it's both difficult to find a service shop to do it and also potentially not really worth the savings which would be a very slight increase in economy.

I do wonder how common these TCFEs w/ 5.9 TD MD3060s are in '96, or any year older than '98. Have found many for sale with this setup in '99+ years. Seems rare?

I'll have to hop back on the forums to find the answers to the rest of my questions here so I don't make this any more redundant than it already has been for you OlderSkoolies (no offense intended!)

This is great help. Now onto the dealings of transportation!
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Old 11-25-2016, 11:39 PM   #15
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The 12 Valve was superseded by the 24 Valve. But there is often overlap between engine models -- speaking generally.

For one thing, there may be more than one production line. In which case, they may build both models in parallel for however long.

Also, engines are sometimes purchased in large quantities and stored while gradually being installed in the vehicles. This may especially apply when a new model is coming out. All new products tend to have "bugs". So a bus factory may want to stock up on the old model and skip the first year of the new -- just like many car buyers avoid the first year of a new car model.

That borders on hypothesis, but I think it can serve as an example of how strange stuff often happens.

An actual example: Ford continued building the Crown Victoria for a number of years after it disappeared from showrooms. Why? Fleet sales. Taxis and Police cars, mostly.
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Old 11-26-2016, 12:12 AM   #16
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Just for the record...Nissan is now delivering pickup trucks with...guess what...Cummins Diesel engines.
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Old 11-26-2016, 09:00 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheBuffalo View Post
Did Bluebird use both of those engines in their TCs? The 12 AND 24? I wonder what their reasonings were to use one or the other if so. Actually I guess I don't quite realize why Cummins produced two versions of the same engine at the same time with the same displacement just different valving. Does one produce more hp/torque over the other?
BB did use both engines, but I'm not entirely sure what years the two engines were made available from BB. Their reasoning for offering both was because they'd put whatever their customers wanted under the hood as long as they wanted to pay for it.

As far as why Cummins produced both engines side by side for 9 years, my guess would be that it had a lot to do with how wide the range of applications was for these engines. They were used in pickup trucks, medium duty trucks, buses, generators, pumps, boats, construction equipment, and I'm sure a few other things I'm not thinking of. Yeah, the 24 valve electronically injected motors were capable of more power, but some manufacturers didn't want to pay more for those engines. Why pay more for that engine when the generator you build and sell only needs the super reliable 185 hp engine that you're already using and have an inventory of spare parts for? Also, if you look at the fact that 25 years later there're still quite a few people who prefer the simplicity of the old mechanical engines, it isn't hard to imagine that in the early 90s there were some spec-ing engines that didn't entirely trust an engine that was controlled by a box with some wires running out of it. So Cummins made both.
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Old 11-26-2016, 09:09 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elliot Naess View Post
Welcome to the forum, Buffalo!

Depending on how much weight you stuff in that bus, you may find yourself climbing hills rather slowly. So what you do, is... adopt the mindset of truckers: The trip takes as long as it takes. 20 MPH up Donner? Relax and enjoy the scenery.

That said, an abnormally slow speed is of course a major safety hazard, so don't pile "the kitchen stove" into that bus.

Running at full power for a long time will not really hurt the engine. Sure, it will add a tiny bit more wear, but only at the academic level. Do run full synthetic oil, such as Shell Rotella Full Synthetic.

And you might want to invest in synthetic fluid for that transmission. TranSynd runs about $50 a gallon, but it is universally agreed to be superior to any other fluid in any Allison.

Back to the engine.... You might install a pyrometer. This is a temperature gauge that reflects the combustion temperature inside the combustion chambers. The danger lies in melting the top of the pistons.
This may not be necessary with stock school bus settings, but....

I have put 60,000 miles on Millicent since I bought her. She has the MT643 transmission, but these engines are fairly durable regardless of the transmission.
can you run Transynd in a 545? how do you properly get all of the fluid out of an installed transmission or is it not necessary to worry about every last drop when switching to transynd?
-Christopher
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Old 11-26-2016, 10:02 AM   #19
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Can't recall the final call but there is a lengthy discussion posted by the engineer who invented Transynd over on the Dieselplace forum. Quite a bit of good info there.

Former Allison Fluids Engineer (Here to Help) - Diesel Place : Chevrolet and GMC Diesel Truck Forums

And I agree totally with Rameses. In fact, I had to pay nearly twice as much to get an all mechanical 4BT because no one wants to deal with the quirkiness of the computerized engines. I guess if you were an electronics wiz you could overcome some of their inherent complications and come out fine, but apparently most folks prefer the KISS approach of the older motors. In fact, when I was researching engines for a transplant, I was even advised by the Cummins techs at Stewart & Stevenson to avoid the ISB's and other computer controlled motors. They don't like having to diagnose them even with all their dedicated equipment.
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Old 11-26-2016, 11:30 AM   #20
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Unlike cars buses can be ordered with up to 20,000 (twenty THOUSAND) options..
Some things..
air vs hydraulic brakes, or both.
on spot chains.
air or manual doors
power or not mirrors.
heated mirrors, seats, or not.
air seat for driver..or not. and i've seen variations on that (lumbar, power lumbar, power width and thigh support (on our BB transit w/ 3060).
Air wiper or ele intermittant.
cruise control
fast idle (only 2 of ours have that)
air horns
inside light monitor system
elec activated posi / lock rear end
on-spot chains
pedal types
heating/ac options
interior lighting options
led vs reg bulbs
regular ceiling or acoustical
internior color
standee line on floor or not
shoulder/side padding on walls for kids in seats
kiddie seats (fold down from inside passenger seats).
storage - all kinds
strobes on roof (almost all have it)
white roof vs yellow
number of fans by windshield (or other places)
elec plug in block heaters appear to be optional
tinted windows
stereo's and speaker count/placement
engine brakes
wheel types
fuel tank sizes and location
auto air dryer vs manual
as well as height, length, seating capacity, engine power and engines, transmissions..and god knows what else.

there are other differences between buses but not sure if they're options or just changing regulations. For example since about 2013 all commercial vehicles have to have orange seatbelts for the driver. Our newer buses won't open the door or activate the red lights unless the bus stopped completely - the older buses don't care.
The new buses have door open/lights on..period. the older buses have 3 way swtiches so you can open /close the door with the reds on - nice on cold ass morning when the wee kids can't decide where the hell to put their butts!


Quote:
Originally Posted by TheBuffalo View Post
Both immensely helpful posts, that makes so much sense about just removing Dodge from the equation. It's hard when they are the only brand I've ever associated Cummins with up until now.
Edit> Did Bluebird use both of those engines in their TCs? The 12 AND 24? I wonder what their reasonings were to use one or the other if so. Actually I guess I don't quite realize why Cummins produced two versions of the same engine at the same time with the same displacement just different valving. Does one produce more hp/torque over the other? Oof, really could just look this up and not waste your folks' time!

Also, very interesting about that "6th" gear. I read the other post about 'unlocking the 6th gear in a MD' and basically came to the conclusion that it's both difficult to find a service shop to do it and also potentially not really worth the savings which would be a very slight increase in economy.

I do wonder how common these TCFEs w/ 5.9 TD MD3060s are in '96, or any year older than '98. Have found many for sale with this setup in '99+ years. Seems rare?

I'll have to hop back on the forums to find the answers to the rest of my questions here so I don't make this any more redundant than it already has been for you OlderSkoolies (no offense intended!)

This is great help. Now onto the dealings of transportation!
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