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Old 03-10-2020, 11:49 PM   #1
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Questions about bus purchasing

Hello there

I am beginning the process of my first conversion and I'm very very very new to this. I found a cheap bus on an auction site, but the mileage is over 230k. I was looking into replacing the engine completely, but I also have concerns about the transmission. It's an Automatic Allison AT545, which I've heard doesn't fare all that well in the mountains. Can I replace the transmission with something more mountain-friendly? If I can, cost-wise, is it even worth it? The trip is still 4 years out, so I've got time, but if I can take care of the first step now I'd like to.
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Old 03-11-2020, 07:50 AM   #2
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Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: Unity, NH
Posts: 439
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DT466E (195hp, 520tq)
Rated Cap: 29,000
I would hold out an keep searching for a bus with at least the A2000 tranny. There are plenty of them out there. We took 6-9 months searching for our bus.
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Old 03-11-2020, 07:57 AM   #3
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Location: Philadelphia
Posts: 4,195
Year: 2003
Coachwork: International
Chassis: CE 300
Engine: DT466e
Rated Cap: 65C-43A
Quote:
Originally Posted by oasis2024 View Post
Hello there

I am beginning the process of my first conversion and I'm very very very new to this. I found a cheap bus on an auction site, but the mileage is over 230k. I was looking into replacing the engine completely, but I also have concerns about the transmission. It's an Automatic Allison AT545, which I've heard doesn't fare all that well in the mountains. Can I replace the transmission with something more mountain-friendly? If I can, cost-wise, is it even worth it? The trip is still 4 years out, so I've got time, but if I can take care of the first step now I'd like to.
You can find buses that already have healthy and desirable engines and transmissions for as little as a couple thousand dollars. If you have to swap the engine and/or the transmission, then even if the bus was free you're going to end up spending a lot more money than you would have spent for a healthy bus (even if you do the work yourself - if you hire a shop to do it you're headed for insane cost territory).

I'd suggest selling your bus and buying a better one to start work on.
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Old 03-11-2020, 08:49 AM   #4
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Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: CA
Posts: 32
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: International
Engine: DT466, AT545
Rated Cap: 8 windows
why would you replace the engine?? at545 does fine in the mountains for me.
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Old 03-11-2020, 11:57 AM   #5
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Join Date: May 2017
Location: Windham NH
Posts: 989
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Amtran
Chassis: International RE
Engine: International T444e
Rated Cap: 76
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Originally Posted by solleks View Post
why would you replace the engine?? at545 does fine in the mountains for me.
Do you have a transmission cooler? I've heard these help with the AT545 quite a bit. Also, does it fare well engine braking?
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Old 03-11-2020, 01:55 PM   #6
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Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: CA
Posts: 32
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: International
Engine: DT466, AT545
Rated Cap: 8 windows
Yes i did put a cooler for it. I read alot about at545 engine braking being scary but ive done the biggest downhills in CA towing 4000 lbs and it did fine. Just keep the speed slow and apply brakes to speed you are going for and let off , rinse repeat. Not tons of engine braking to be felt but if you dont exceed the gearing (which it can do) you can feel some engine braking, not a ton. I have juice brakes too.
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Old 03-11-2020, 03:46 PM   #7
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Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: GA
Posts: 578
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Amtran RE
Chassis: International 3000
Engine: T444e 7.3L
I have an AT545. My normal top speed is 58 mph. I can go faster on a steep downhill, but I've found that the bus gets unsafe and difficult to control above 65 mph.

The bus slows down on hills. On normal interstate hills, I'll slow to 50-55 mph, which is not a big deal. At max interstate grade (6%), which is rarely seen outside of very mountainous regions, it'll slow to about 35-40 mph.

The slowest I ever got was a 2-mile 10% grade, which is ridiculously steep. I slowed to 15 mph with the pedal to the floor. At the time, I had 4 tons of cargo in the bus and was pulling a pickup on a trailer. That was part of a 4500 mile drive, and the transmission did fine other than a few slow parts in the Canadian rockies.
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Old 03-11-2020, 05:23 PM   #8
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Join Date: May 2017
Location: Windham NH
Posts: 989
Year: 1999
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Chassis: International RE
Engine: International T444e
Rated Cap: 76
Considering a trip up to the white mountains (NH) in a few months, would make a good test run. There are some steep downhill runs I kinda worry about. Uphill, couldn't care less how slow I go.
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Old 03-11-2020, 06:09 PM   #9
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Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: GA
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Year: 1998
Coachwork: Amtran RE
Chassis: International 3000
Engine: T444e 7.3L
The AT545 can handle the mountains just fine if you don't mind slow.

1. Know how to use your brakes. I've seen Soldiers crash Army trucks because they pumped the brakes and lost air pressure. Overheating brakes could also be an issue on long downhills.

2. Don't overheat the transmission. Mine doesn't have a gauge, only an idiot light. Many don't work, including mine.
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Old 03-20-2020, 01:23 PM   #10
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Join Date: Jul 2018
Location: Just south of Dallas.
Posts: 127
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: 40' MVP-ER
Engine: Cat 3126
If you haven’t purchased yet:
Bus buying season is right after kids get out for the summer...
Get your money together and watch govdeals.com public surplus.com etc.
Only buy buses from non snow climates. I recommend AZ,TX,FL and WESTERN Washington state.
The 40 footers will be u we cheap. I don’t know what size you want.
Here is a group from last year for example.
Cheers!
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Old 03-21-2020, 04:00 AM   #11
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Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 3,616
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Built Bus
Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
I wonder if COVID-19 will cause summer break to happen earlier or later this year. We may be past May before schools are allowed to open again.
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Old 03-21-2020, 07:17 AM   #12
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Engine: Ford Triton V-10
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Originally Posted by Native View Post
I wonder if COVID-19 will cause summer break to happen earlier or later this year. We may be past May before schools are allowed to open again.
If at all for this school year! However I am not expecting the buses to begin pouring in early as those on lease contracts still can't return too early and also most of the staff has been laid off or otherwise sent home. Transportation may be an essential infrastructure but not student transportation if schools are closed nationwide.
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Old 03-21-2020, 05:44 PM   #13
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Join Date: Jun 2019
Location: AZ
Posts: 64
Year: ‘09
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: Vision
Engine: 6.7
Rated Cap: 35’
I'd wait until you find what you want. Write down on paper your first three or four choices and then start looking. There are and will be a lot of busses out there. You can pay more now and get the bus that you want, or pay later and have to do a ton of labor to get what you want done. I like tinkering and building the interior. I don't like replacing engines, transmissions, or rear ends.
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Old 03-21-2020, 07:19 PM   #14
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Location: Clearlake, Northern California
Posts: 2,359
Year: 1992
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: TC-2000 Frt Eng, Tranny:MT643
Engine: 5,9 Cummins
Rated Cap: 84
Sure, a transmission with locking torque converter -- any transmission other than the AT545 -- is preferable.
That said, all is not lost with an AT545.

My secondary bus has the AT545. When I took it on a heavily loaded mountain trip, I bypassed the thermal switch for the radiator fan so the fan runs all the time. This protects the transmission from overheating. (Long and complex explanation.)
And to my pleasant surprise, the AT545 slushbox survived this brutal trip just fine -- the fluid is still like new.

As for fluid, Transynd is expensive and worth every penny countless times over.


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Old 03-21-2020, 08:18 PM   #15
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Location: Regina, SK
Posts: 42
Coachwork: Still looking
Ummm diesel engines are well known to go 600 to 900 thousand miles if properly maintained. I am a retired commercial truck diesel mechanic.
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