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Old 03-13-2019, 10:46 PM   #41
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Originally Posted by Mark_In_MA View Post
This is one of the photos that shows the important part of the story to me.






The floor you can fix. You can weld in some new crossmembers.

But that's still going to be what the rest of the underside of your bus looks like....and that doesn't look very good to me. Whatever undercoating/paint that was on there is gone, and it's rusty. Very rusty. Too rusty for me. I wouldn't want to put all the time and energy into a build, knowing that was under it.

What are you looking to do with it when it's done? Are you trying to full-time, or just a part-time camper/adventure rig? If it's that or nothing, it's fixable, but. . . .
I'm planning to live in it full-time, but more as a self-propelled tiny house than an RV. I wouldn't be driving it very often except to keep it in running shape and a yearly trip to Vermont and back for inspection (5 hours each way). I feel like if I got 5 years of living in it, it would be more than worthwhile, but I don't know if my chassis would last that long or even what "not lasting" would entail - like, I assume something just cracks and breaks at some point and disaster follows?
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Old 03-13-2019, 11:31 PM   #42
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I wouldn't exactly worry about something breaking and a disaster happening, more like the occasional soft spot in the floor here or there over time. Might be minor fowl language involved, but even some bar stock can be shoved under the floor and on top of the frame rails to shore that back up if it happens.

If it's not going to see that much mileage, it should be okay. I think I'd take the chance if it means this bus, or no bus. It's not like any of the suspension hangers or brackets look like they're rusted through, or about to fall off and take a chunk of the frame with them or anything. If you plan on putting 5,000 miles on it in the next 5 years, that's a lot different then if you were planning on 5,000 miles a year for each of the next 5 years.

One other thing - pressure treated wood on steel is very, very bad - the chemicals in the PT will eat the steel. You need some sort of a gasket material, or just regular wood and drown it in paint. (Steel would still be my first choice though.)
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Old 03-13-2019, 11:32 PM   #43
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For a variety of reasons, it's either this bus or I give up the whole project, so I'm trying to get a sense of what I can do here and what it will cost me. I had a local bus mechanic out to take a look at it, and he agreed that the wheel well section needs to be completely rebuilt, but he said that the rest of the floor could be handled and repaired the normal way (i.e. with grinding and ospho and welding patches of the remainder of the smaller holes). And he said the chassis frame is rusted but not fatally.

I don't necessarily really trust him - he might well be just trying to drum up business - and his opinion seems to be well in opposition to a lot of other people who have seen and commented on my rust situation (like, almost everyone on skoolie.net). You say my chassis needs stripping and sandblasting, but how long would it last if I just removed most of the rust with a wire wheel and applied rustoleum undercoat? Obviously even that is a lot of work, but at this point I have more time than money to spend on this.

For the rebuilt floor, it seems like the materials at least would not be super expensive (assuming it's like a 10-foot stretch or something). There's a place near me in Jersey that sells 4x8 sheets of 16ga for about $40 and they have materials for the cross-members (rectangular tubing? dunno) similarly cheap. I own a welder also, but I would have a pro do this.
Ok firstly the actual floor is not a big deal as it is very easy to cut out and replace..

My concern is that the actual chassis has rusted.. Now in one picture you can see that the original 'paint' has completely separate from the metal, by A bigger concern of mine is this picture below.





That's severe corrosion in my books. Another bad sign is the replace exhaust, another clear sign of excessive rust..

The problem to me is that you don't just have one spot with rust. It is the entire chassis and body under frame that all have advanced rust..
Every single picture you took has severe rust in it. Is not the quality of the rust only, its also the quantity of it..

Look at this picture



Everything has superficial rust on it..

Now, there are no tricks.. To eliminate rust, you must either replace the metal, cut the rusted part off or sand blast the metal until you get back to the clean metal.. Putting a new floor on a chassis like that... hey it is your money..

If, like you said,is this bus or nothing, then be prepare to do the miles..

If you don't have to pay for labour and have a large workshop it will only cost you time..

If you want to find out how bad the chassis really is, before spending any money, try to remove some of the bolts that hold the cross members..

If the bolts are rusted and break away while you trying to remove them, then you know where you are as far as rust..

You asked about removing the rust with a wire wheel and then use one of those rust converter/metal protector products available. Yes, that could work too, but it all depend on how far the rust has gone and more importantly on how clean you can get that chassis.

I'm not trying to scare you away from this vehicle. I'm just giving you my opinion based on lots of time spent under and around vehicles..
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Old 03-13-2019, 11:46 PM   #44
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I'm planning to live in it full-time, but more as a self-propelled tiny house than an RV. I wouldn't be driving it very often except to keep it in running shape and a yearly trip to Vermont and back for inspection (5 hours each way). I feel like if I got 5 years of living in it, it would be more than worthwhile, but I don't know if my chassis would last that long or even what "not lasting" would entail - like, I assume something just cracks and breaks at some point and disaster follows?

Even if you don't take any rust off, you'll probably get 5 years out of it as it is... The chassis won't break apart as it is very thick..

I thought you were looking to fixing it, travel in it and possibly get another 20+ years out of it..

If that's the case, disregard my previous comment..
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Old 03-13-2019, 11:59 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by musigenesis View Post
I'm planning to live in it full-time, but more as a self-propelled tiny house than an RV. I wouldn't be driving it very often except to keep it in running shape and a yearly trip to Vermont and back for inspection (5 hours each way). I feel like if I got 5 years of living in it, it would be melseore than worthwhile, but I don't know if my chassis would last that long or even what "not lasting" would entail - like, I assume something just cracks and breaks at somgo flying. rust will e point and disaster follows?

You are indicating that you plan to use it very little as a vehicle. I'll probably catch a little flack for this ... but ... I am going to say that even though the frame is rusty, the stresses it will undergo acting as a frame for a "tiny home" are small compared to using it as a vehicle. Having said this, I would suggest you make sure the frame is sound before investing time or money into anything else on it. Use Tango's method: Crawl under with a screw driver, a chisel, a hammer, or a welder's hammer with a pick on it. Poke at the rusty areas of the frame and see what gives. Make sure you have your safety goggles on 'cause rust and flakes of undercoating mixed with rust and metal will go flying. Do not hold back on your blows! If you can use hand tools to put holes in the frame, it is wasted anyway. If you get nice metalic sounds and NOT dull thuds like hitting a dirt clod on concrete then the frame is soud at that point. Spend some time under there. Observe what happens when you are hitting the frame. You will learn a lot about how much the rust has affected your frame. While you are under there, take a close look at your drive shaft from transmission to differential. Make a few light taps along it to make sure a decent metal ringing sound is produced. You want to be sure the drive shaft is good in the event that you want to drive it.


Our 2002 Thomas is from an Illinois school district and has a lot of rust. The floor in front of driver side wheel well had holes in it through to the road. It was not near as bad as yours and it was repaired with square tubing and 14 guage sheet metal. It takes a lot of time to remediate rust effectively. If it were my bus, I would do the "ping" tests under the bus then if that checked out I would start removing the flooring to see what all has to be done. Once all the ugly rust is removed and clean metal shows, the task will look more like a rebuild project and less like a nightmare. The other nice thing about removing all the rust-out "metal" is that you gain access to the top of the frame rails so you can get rid of the (hopefully) surface rust from the frame rails.


Good luck with your decision. Since you have lots of time, this is a good time to learn a lot about your bus.
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Old 03-14-2019, 06:38 AM   #46
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I wouldn't exactly worry about something breaking and a disaster happening, more like the occasional soft spot in the floor here or there over time. Might be minor fowl language involved, but even some bar stock can be shoved under the floor and on top of the frame rails to shore that back up if it happens.

If it's not going to see that much mileage, it should be okay. I think I'd take the chance if it means this bus, or no bus. It's not like any of the suspension hangers or brackets look like they're rusted through, or about to fall off and take a chunk of the frame with them or anything. If you plan on putting 5,000 miles on it in the next 5 years, that's a lot different then if you were planning on 5,000 miles a year for each of the next 5 years.

One other thing - pressure treated wood on steel is very, very bad - the chemicals in the PT will eat the steel. You need some sort of a gasket material, or just regular wood and drown it in paint. (Steel would still be my first choice though.)
Thank you for the heartening comments. I knew the bus was badly rusted out, but some of the responses have made me worry I was taking my life in my hands just getting into it. FYI I have learned and accepted the total unsuitability of pressure-treated wood for this. I'm glad I posted here because I was planning on using it for any parts of the internal frame that touched the bus.

I've also abandoned the plan I posted here to rebuild the floor section out of wood. But I have a new crazy plan to achieve the same kind of sunken floor. A "normal" repair would be tearing out the existing floor, laying beams of some sort side-to-side (resting on the chassis rails) and then putting sheet metal on top, bringing the floor to the same height as the original factory floor. My new crazy idea is to place a side-to-side beam at the front and at the back of this area (sufficient to bear the weight of the wall/ceiling that would otherwise be borne by the now-removed floor) then run two longitudinal rails between these beams but attached to their undersides, so that the tops of these rails are level with the tops of the chassis rails (these custom rails would run in the space between the chassis rails and the wheel wells). The replacement sheet metal, then, would bend down 3" from where it starts at the front of the area, run across the custom rails (at the same height as the chassis rails) then up 3" again at the back. In this "sunken" area I would then build a section of my 2x4 insulated sub-floor (the rest of the bus would have the same subflooring but it would be 3" higher since it would rest on the original factory floor.
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Old 03-14-2019, 06:51 AM   #47
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You are indicating that you plan to use it very little as a vehicle. I'll probably catch a little flack for this ... but ... I am going to say that even though the frame is rusty, the stresses it will undergo acting as a frame for a "tiny home" are small compared to using it as a vehicle. Having said this, I would suggest you make sure the frame is sound before investing time or money into anything else on it. Use Tango's method: Crawl under with a screw driver, a chisel, a hammer, or a welder's hammer with a pick on it. Poke at the rusty areas of the frame and see what gives. Make sure you have your safety goggles on 'cause rust and flakes of undercoating mixed with rust and metal will go flying. Do not hold back on your blows! If you can use hand tools to put holes in the frame, it is wasted anyway. If you get nice metalic sounds and NOT dull thuds like hitting a dirt clod on concrete then the frame is soud at that point. Spend some time under there. Observe what happens when you are hitting the frame. You will learn a lot about how much the rust has affected your frame. While you are under there, take a close look at your drive shaft from transmission to differential. Make a few light taps along it to make sure a decent metal ringing sound is produced. You want to be sure the drive shaft is good in the event that you want to drive it.


Our 2002 Thomas is from an Illinois school district and has a lot of rust. The floor in front of driver side wheel well had holes in it through to the road. It was not near as bad as yours and it was repaired with square tubing and 14 guage sheet metal. It takes a lot of time to remediate rust effectively. If it were my bus, I would do the "ping" tests under the bus then if that checked out I would start removing the flooring to see what all has to be done. Once all the ugly rust is removed and clean metal shows, the task will look more like a rebuild project and less like a nightmare. The other nice thing about removing all the rust-out "metal" is that you gain access to the top of the frame rails so you can get rid of the (hopefully) surface rust from the frame rails.


Good luck with your decision. Since you have lots of time, this is a good time to learn a lot about your bus.
Thank you for the heartening comments. I've gone from "definitely quitting" to "probably going to quit" but at least I'm going to wait a while as I'm not currently hemorrhaging money on the build. FWIW I got robbed yesterday and lost my generator and all my power tools and most of my regular tools, so I guess I can't really say I'm "not currently hemorrhaging money".

My bus turned out to be from the Buffalo area originally, which was kind of horrifying once I'd tracked it that far. I actually talked to the mechanic who used to work on it, and when I told him which bus it was he said "87? Holy ****!" and then he said it had big problems with the step well - but I now realize he must have misspoken (or I misheard him) and he actually meant the wheel wells (which showed a lot of signs of previous repair attempts).
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Old 03-14-2019, 06:58 AM   #48
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Well I was hoping to enjoy this forum but already the moderator has delete one of my post and no reason given..


I guess the welcome note at the top does not really mean much...


I'm out...
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Old 03-14-2019, 07:03 AM   #49
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Well I was hoping to enjoy this forum but already the moderator has delete one of my post and no reason given..


I guess the welcome note at the top does not really mean much...


I'm out...
Maybe you included a link to something? I'm new here and all my posts have gone through except for one where I included a link to the eBay auction for my bus. I guess that's a no-no or something.
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Old 03-14-2019, 08:11 AM   #50
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Old 03-14-2019, 10:18 AM   #51
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but even some bar stock can be shoved under the floor and on top of the frame rails to shore that back up if it happens.
Is it OK to have something like that resting directly atop the chassis rails? I noticed that the current cross-members have some sort of pad (rubber?) between them and the rails.
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Old 03-15-2019, 01:09 AM   #52
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Is it OK to have something like that resting directly atop the chassis rails? I noticed that the current cross-members have some sort of pad (rubber?) between them and the rails.

Those pads are shock absorbers and are designed to shear off in the event of an accident to absorb a lot of the force of the accident. One *could* attach directly to the chassis rails, however a pad of some sort is recommended.
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Old 03-15-2019, 08:00 AM   #53
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Pressure treated wood is overkill for this bus. My opinion is to add some metal and wood to repair. Keep it simple this ain't no Chip Foose custom.
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