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Old 03-09-2016, 05:41 PM   #1
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Georgia
Posts: 47
Question about Potential Buses

I am a few months, five to be exact, from seriously shopping for my bus. I can't remember who mentioned it but a nice member said to video the bus and then post it here before buying. Many members eyes would make a great resource and possibly avoid previously visited problems.

Common sense tells me to video:

1) Entire Frame
2) Engine compartment, including transmission
3) Wheels/rims
4) Around windows side/front & back
5) Floors
6) Any areas that have rust.
Did I miss anything important?
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Old 03-09-2016, 06:45 PM   #2
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Year: 1946
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Tires. Six of them can get expensive in a hurry. And you will need to check the date stamp as well as the tread. It is not uncommon to find bus tires with very few miles that may be seven or more years old. Four to five years is really about the max to be considered "good" regardless the tread. See below...

Belle Tire | How to Read A Tire Sidewall

Find out exactly what model the engine & tranny are...not just brand.
Find out what the axle ratio is (to determine top speed)
Hear the engine run and look & listen for any odd noises, drips, etc.
Drive it if possible. I have never bought a bus (or anything else) I could not drive first.

There's plenty more but I'll leave room for some of the other folks here to chime in.
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Old 03-09-2016, 07:38 PM   #3
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Georgia
Posts: 47
Tango, Thank you very much. I didn't even consider tire age. But I guess if a bus was a reserve bus so to speak and sat in a garage lot it may have low miles and good condition and cracked tires.

I absolutely will not buy one without posting it first. I am also going to see, at that time, if there are any members in the area where I am buying the bus to check it. I would compensate them of course. But a $100 spent making sure it's not a hidden train-wreck would help avoid a $5000 train-wreck later.
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Old 03-09-2016, 08:13 PM   #4
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Winlcok, WA
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Big Paul you are doing good already! Keep it up!

Asking questions is never a bad idea.

As to tires, don't let a set of bad tires sour you on a particular bus. Since it can take several years from the time of purchase to the time when the bus gets converted enough to be able to take it out on the road, a tire that was great when the bus was purchased may deteriorate to the point where new tires are a must. Just be aware of the condition of the tires and adjust the price you offer accordingly.

Our church purchased a great bus for $3,500.00. I swear the school went through the fleet to find every old raggy tire they had and put them on our bus. There were no two tires alike. We had to pay $3,600.00 for new set of tires before we could put the bus into service. Since other buses similar to our bus were selling in excess of $10K I figure we still got a bargain!

As you go shopping determine beforehand what size and what type of bus you want. Each bus has pros and cons. Knowing those pros and cons can help you make your choice.

Good luck and happy trails!
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Old 03-09-2016, 08:21 PM   #5
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Georgia
Posts: 47

I am guessing you're in WA? I just moved from there, I lived on the Olympic Peninsula, worked for the Department of Corrections. I had the honor of being a First Nations Shaman, held Sweat Lodge, Smudging and POW WOWs for the incarcerated, wonderful experience.

I have decided this so far:

Must Haves

79 - 84 passenger - This will be my home that I will retire in, I would like a long bus to have maximum living Sq Ft.

Rear Engine - I will be visiting relatives sometimes or just changing the scenery, so I would like a more quiet bus.

Want to have
Storage underneath - well, for storage
Tall Ceiling - so I don't have to raise the roof, I am 6' 1" and a scosh

So far that is it.
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Old 03-10-2016, 10:18 AM   #6
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Winlcok, WA
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In order to shop online to give you an idea of what you want and how much that is going to cost, what you want is a Type 'D' RE bus with 12" windows.

A Type 'D' bus has the service door in front of the front axle and has the engine mounted in front (FE), in the rear (RE), or in the case of most Crowns and a few Gilligs between the front and rear axles.

12" windows equal 76"-78" headroom. 9" windows equal 72"-75" headroom. In pictures you can tell the difference by where the top of the passenger windows line up in relation to the driver's window. If the line is the same you have 9" windows. If the line does not match you have 12" windows.

All IC buses starting in about 2003 have had 12" windows. Blue Bird and Thomas still have 12" windows as an option. It has been a standard spe'c for WA and OR school buses to have 12" windows since about 2007. All Crown and Gillig buses had 78" headroom standard.

In regards to engines, I have my preferences and dislikes. Cat and Mercedes-Benz engines are good engines but they cost a lot more for parts and pieces and it can be difficult to find a technician who can work on them. Regardless of which engine you choose, get the biggest engine you can get. As every hot rodder will tell you, you can't beat cubic inches. The big dogs in RE buses are the Cummins 8.3L/ISC, the Cummins 8.9L/ISL, the IHC DT530, and the IHC DT466. 250 HP is about the minimum HP you want. 275 HP is better. And 300 HP is even better yet.

All of the engines are built in varying HP. I have seen DT466 engines in school buses rated as low as 190 HP and as high as 275 HP. While it is possible to uprate most diesel engines in order to get more HP out of them, one of the limiting factors is going to be the cooling system. Because the engine is in the rear getting enough air flow through the radiator is an engineering nightmare. Uprating the engine is easy. Uprating the cooling system is difficult at best.

The other limiting factor when uprating an engine is 99% of all school buses are built using an Allison transmission. Most 250+ HP equipped buses came with heavier duty transmissions. But even the heavier duty transmissions have HP and torque limitations that if you exceed can grenade the transmission at the most inopportune times.

Which is why it is much better to get a bus with the big HP engine that was built that way than to try and re-engineer a bus with a smaller HP engine.

Trust me when I say it isn't like stuffing a bigger V-8 into a hot rod and getting a bigger radiator at the same time.

Not all Type 'D' RE buses were set up to be trip buses. I have seen some that had low HP engines with 15-rows that struggle to go 55 MPH because they were purchased to be a route bus that never had to go more than 35 MPH in any school day and never had to go up anything steeper or longer than a curb cut. The lower HP engine buses also usually came with the lighter duty axles with 7" brakes in the rear rather than 9" brakes. And they never had any sort of underfloor luggage compartments.

On the other hand I have seen the same length bus with only 13-rows of seats with big HP that were set up to cruise the highways of places like MT and WY where the speed limit is 75 MPH for buses. Not only did they have big HP engines and heavy duty transmissions but they also had heavy duty axles with 9" rear brakes and even some that had 11" rear brakes. Most also had at rear air suspension (which was made standard on IC RE buses since about 2007). Most of those buses also had the maximum number of luggage compartments, usually with some of them being pass through under the floor and not just skirt mounted.

Of course, trip buses with big HP and highway gearing are more desirable and there are very school buses spe'c'ed that way. Which then makes them much more expensive to purchase. Most will have lots of miles compared to the same vintage route bus. Don't let it worry you. A trip bus with 300K miles will most likely be in better shape mechanically than a route bus of the same vintage with 150K miles.

Good luck to you. I hope you find the bus you want at an affordable price.

PS--I live in Winlock, WA.
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Old 03-10-2016, 12:16 PM   #7
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Thank You /cowlitzcoach
So much info
Don and Ellen
Plus one fuzzy faced kid (Poopcee)
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Old 03-10-2016, 05:54 PM   #8
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Georgia
Posts: 47
This helps me tremendously, thank you SO much. Like I mentioned before I am about 4 - 6 months from purchasing so I can print this out and take with!

I am hesitant to raise my roof, it's seems VERY expensive and way past my abilities. I am 6' 1" so I think even with a insulated ceiling I could get by.
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