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Old 06-20-2020, 01:25 PM   #1
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Saf-T-Liner Good or Bad?

I was very tempted to bid on a Freightliner Saf-T-Liner B2 recently, but was advised against it by a bus mechanic who said that there were more than a half-dozen sensors that all talk to each other and will shut the bus down if one of them goes bad.

I'm looking for experience-based second opinions. Because in every other respect, they look like a great bus for our needs. Is this "accident avoidance system" all that bad. unreliable, or otherwise to be avoided at all costs?
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Old 06-20-2020, 01:35 PM   #2
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It's not that there's anything inherently wrong or bad about that model, it's just that modern electronics in vehicles are interconnected and expensive to diagnose and repair... More so in a school bus than a passenger vehicle because they make millions of cars and have a large network of dealerships to rely on whereas many schools have their own fleet team to maintain and address issues or can spare an occasional out of service vehicle but as an individual that's not the same situation. So when that electronic sensor fails and it takes days to get it to a shop, diagnose, order parts and repair, what's your contingency plan? This is why most here look for pre-electronics model buses because a handy person can probably learn to fix a mechanical issue but no one outside of a dealership or authorized service center is going to have the tools to diagnose faulty electronics.
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Old 06-20-2020, 01:41 PM   #3
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It's not that there's anything inherently wrong or bad about that model, it's just that modern electronics in vehicles are interconnected and expensive to diagnose and repair...
I get that, and appreciate your insight. I always liked working on motorcycles and garden tractors because of their simplicity. Modern cars, not so much!
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Old 06-20-2020, 06:25 PM   #4
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You probably meant to say the C2. Its a modern bus with very complicated multiplex chassis circuits. Even the oldest ones are emission era (I think 2005 was the first year for them). If you don't do anything with the chassis circuits and keep your house wiring seperate there shouldn't be any issues.



I have driven a few and they are very car like due to the Freightliner M2 dash. The windshield area is enormous and has a bad tendency to cook drivers when its hot/sunny out. The one I drove had a Cat C7, lots of power and they'll easily do 72 mph on the Interstate. The one nice thing about them is they all come in 78" roof height so no hunting for the high headroom models.



I'd only ever get one if (A) it was one of the Cummins powered variants and (B) really cheap. For skoolie folks its probably best to look elsewhere. I've seen very few skoolie conversions that have used the Freightliner C2 as a base, even on the Facebook groups where I see lots of stupidity every day.
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Old 06-21-2020, 12:29 AM   #5
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You probably meant to say the C2.
Yes, that is the bus I was referring to. I was looking at one with Cummins/Allison powertrain, an experienced bus mechanic advised me away from it due to the complexity. The advert listed it as B2, I'm still learning the nomenclature.
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Old 06-21-2020, 06:14 AM   #6
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You probably meant to say the C2.
Thanks, I was wondering what a B2 was.

On my first trip to help some fellow skooliers last year, I talked to the chief mechanic of the bus services company they bought their bus from (in New Jersey). This guy maintains a fleet of C2s, but he said if he were building a skoolie he wouldn't take a C2 for free; even with him knowing how to do everything on it, the parts are very expensive. He said the build quality on these is extremely poor as well.

The first bus I fell in love with was a 2008 C2 from New York missing its side exit door, with an MBE, for $10,000. Fortunately, I moved on to a slightly lesser mistake.
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Old 06-21-2020, 08:21 AM   #7
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There is a huge difference between the C2 and the FS65 it replaced.
The 2003 and older fs65 are mechanically a lot more like a '90s era p'up truck only everything is BIGGER...

The engine and transmission are still electronically controlled but in a good, and practical way. And any decent shop can plug a diagnostic computer into them and figure out what's going on/wrong right away.

If you're going to get a more modern bus I'd look at ones with the GM genIII (gasoline) engines.
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Old 06-21-2020, 10:02 AM   #8
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There is a huge difference between the C2 and the FS65 it replaced.
The 2003 and older fs65 are mechanically a lot more like a '90s era p'up truck only everything is BIGGER...

The engine and transmission are still electronically controlled but in a good, and practical way. And any decent shop can plug a diagnostic computer into them and figure out what's going on/wrong right away.

If you're going to get a more modern bus I'd look at ones with the GM genIII (gasoline) engines.
YEah after 2004 gasoline would be the only engine I'd consider for a bus. Maybe a C7 if it were extremely clean and low mile/hour.
If anyone comes across a high headroom air ride shorty with a gm gas big block and an allison 1000/2000 or manual trans let me know. I'd be very interested in such a bus.
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Old 06-21-2020, 11:35 AM   #9
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.
The first bus I fell in love with was a 2008 C2 from New York missing its side exit door, with an MBE, for $10,000. Fortunately, I moved on to a slightly lesser mistake.
That was almost me, too! Fortunately I had enough sense to realize that I know way too little. It would have been like going to a casino and dropping all my chips on the first table I came to.
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Old 06-21-2020, 11:42 AM   #10
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If you're going to get a more modern bus I'd look at ones with the GM genIII (gasoline) engines.
Hmmm... I find that surprising. I tend to think newer = less rust and diesel better for Putting on the miles. We’re hoping to have some flexibility to go south into Central America and possibly South America where I have friends in the coffee industry. Reliability and fuel economy are not at absolute top of my list, but they’re definitely up there.

It it the complexity of the electronics, or the pollution control that leads you to say that?
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Old 06-21-2020, 01:57 PM   #11
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Hmmm... I find that surprising. I tend to think newer = less rust and diesel better for Putting on the miles. We’re hoping to have some flexibility to go south into Central America and possibly South America where I have friends in the coffee industry. Reliability and fuel economy are not at absolute top of my list, but they’re definitely up there.

It it the complexity of the electronics, or the pollution control that leads you to say that?
I'm not a GM fan (they ruined Saab for ex...) but they got the GenIII small block very right for a gasoline engine. It just so happens that many of the things to squeeze emissions and mpg to higher standards also improved longevity/reliability...

Anyway for traveling to S.A. diesel might be more available and the locals will be well versed at making older technology continue to work after it breaks.
When you get fully electronic, there's no "field fixes" or work arounds, the only thing that will get you going is the correct oem part and a computer to reset it. Sh!t, even replacing the battery on my wife's 2013 MiniCooper requires a computer plug-in to "tell the car to accept" the new battery or it won't start...

"It it the complexity of the electronics, or the pollution control that leads you to say that?"
It's both since the two are intricately tied together...
For example -- CAT stopped making OTR (over the road) use engines after the C7 around 2006 because meeting emissions reliably was not their jam...

I don't know anyone that raves about the diesel products being produced between '06 and 2015 (this is a SWAG on my part) and certainly not for going to South America.

The military diesel vehicles I've dealt with are "emissions exempt" for various reasons but one IS reliability -- less to break, service, or repair around -- and with that in mind is why most everybody here likes the 2003 and earlier models. Unless you go gasoline...

Typically the newer, the less rust -- but who's buying/selling 'new' buses?
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Old 06-21-2020, 02:16 PM   #12
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Sh!t, even replacing the battery on my wife's 2013 MiniCooper requires a computer plug-in to "tell the car to accept" the new battery or it won't start...
Boy, do I know that one! I have a Mini Cooper "company car" for making deliveries around town. It gets noticed, which is great, but troubleshooting is a PIA. Right now, the driver's side window won't go up automatically. If it hits the top, it goes back down half-way. It was intermittent, but now it's all the time.
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Old 06-21-2020, 03:31 PM   #13
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Hmmm... I find that surprising. I tend to think newer = less rust and diesel better for Putting on the miles. We’re hoping to have some flexibility to go south into Central America and possibly South America where I have friends in the coffee industry. Reliability and fuel economy are not at absolute top of my list, but they’re definitely up there.

It it the complexity of the electronics, or the pollution control that leads you to say that?
after 2004 Diesel isn't the "best for putting on miles". Modern gas engines are less trouble than modern diesels. THere's only ONE diesel engine available in new buses. It'll probably be the last of them once it reaches the end of its production.
If you want a bus newer than 04 or so then a gasoline engine is FAR more desirable.
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Old 06-21-2020, 03:32 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by banman View Post
I'm not a GM fan (they ruined Saab for ex...) but they got the GenIII small block very right for a gasoline engine. It just so happens that many of the things to squeeze emissions and mpg to higher standards also improved longevity/reliability...

Anyway for traveling to S.A. diesel might be more available and the locals will be well versed at making older technology continue to work after it breaks.
When you get fully electronic, there's no "field fixes" or work arounds, the only thing that will get you going is the correct oem part and a computer to reset it. Sh!t, even replacing the battery on my wife's 2013 MiniCooper requires a computer plug-in to "tell the car to accept" the new battery or it won't start...

"It it the complexity of the electronics, or the pollution control that leads you to say that?"
It's both since the two are intricately tied together...
For example -- CAT stopped making OTR (over the road) use engines after the C7 around 2006 because meeting emissions reliably was not their jam...

I don't know anyone that raves about the diesel products being produced between '06 and 2015 (this is a SWAG on my part) and certainly not for going to South America.

The military diesel vehicles I've dealt with are "emissions exempt" for various reasons but one IS reliability -- less to break, service, or repair around -- and with that in mind is why most everybody here likes the 2003 and earlier models. Unless you go gasoline...

Typically the newer, the less rust -- but who's buying/selling 'new' buses?
I'm glad Cat got out when they did. Look what Navistar did to their brand!
Buy a new IC and you get a CUMMINS in it if you want a diesel.
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Old 06-21-2020, 05:38 PM   #15
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Look what Navistar did to their brand!
It really is an amazing thing: Navistar screwed up their engines so bad they lost themselves as a customer.
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Old 06-21-2020, 09:32 PM   #16
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THere's only ONE diesel engine available in new buses. It'll probably be the last of them once it reaches the end of its production.

That's not quite true. Thomas is offering the Detroit DD5 in the C2 Safetliner which is a 4 cylinder turbo diesel. The DD8 (no idea what that one is) is also being offered in the HDX pushers. I have yet to see one in the flesh but they only started being sold around a year ago.



Bluebird also still offers the Cummins L9 and ISL in the pushers but the 6.7 makes up the majority of the diesel orders these days. The trend is def going to gas or propane though, especially for route buses. The operators in my area have been buying up the V10 Visions like crazy.
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Old 06-21-2020, 11:21 PM   #17
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It really is an amazing thing: Navistar screwed up their engines so bad they lost themselves as a customer.
To be fair, Navistar along with every other diesel manufacturer was faced with the same inevitably of the EPA2007/2010 mandates to reduce emissions without one specific method being prescribed so they were free to innovate so long as they achieved the mandates. At the time I'm sure someone at Navistar thought the EGR approach would be better as it is used in gasoline engines and doesn't require an additional additive (DEF) or the weight penalty of a bulky exhaust treatment unit hanging off the frame, both significant considerations in the trucking world. Had it been successful, I totally think half the semis on the road today would be EGR-equipped Internationals instead of Detroit-powered Freightliners as it seems to be today. Detroit and Freightliner worked closely to make the system they use opaque enough to the driver that the only time they even think about it is when they have to add DEF along side the diesel fuel. Otherwise, the system regens itself while driving unless something goes wrong which in today's trucking climate is the fleet's issue and not the driver's personal issue. This made Freightliner the go-to brand for many fleets along with their in-house diagnostics which allows authorized fleets to fix their own problems instead of waiting for a dealership to work it in. This is one of the biggest things I notice when I pass an International or Volvo/Mack dealership is all the vehicles parked at the shop waiting for repairs because both brands made their diagnostics and repair ecosystem very dealer-centric. No fleet wants their equipment out of service for a long time yet my experience with Volvos is that this is exactly what happens even for the smallest issue because Volvo won't empower fleets to repair their own equipment. For us in the skoolie realm, it's not like this is really a relevant factor per se but I point it out to illustrate how different manufacturers how conceived their equipment lifecycle and whether that conception will allow us the choice to attempt to address issues ourselves or whether we're basically enslaved to the dealership repair cycle for even the most common issues. And this isn't unique to big rigs and buses - anyone whose car is less than 10 or 15 years old knows the manufacturer has made it nearly impossible for the owner to do anything that doesn't either require some level of dealer involvement or otherwise void the warranty altogether. They want to keep the repair/maintenance revenue stream alive for dealerships to survive.
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Old 06-27-2020, 04:12 PM   #18
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I would not buy a recent bus with ecm and sensors unless I had a modus with me.
Minimum 2500.00 for one but if you have an issue nothing beats it. Of course you need whatever modules required for the specific vehicle but one breakdown in a bus or heavy truck and its paid for itself.
I have detroit and the major automakers on mine. Friend carries one after I used mine on his vehicle. he spent near 3k at the dealers still with the issue. Modus found the intermittent short in about a half hour.
If you buy insurance its the same thing.
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Old 06-27-2020, 05:05 PM   #19
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after 2004 Diesel isn't the "best for putting on miles". Modern gas engines are less trouble than modern diesels. THere's only ONE diesel engine available in new buses. It'll probably be the last of them once it reaches the end of its production.
If you want a bus newer than 04 or so then a gasoline engine is FAR more desirable.
I wonder if the DD5 will do well in the market?
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Old 06-27-2020, 06:24 PM   #20
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I wonder if the DD5 will do well in the market?
I

I'm sure it's fine for the market which it is intended but WE are not that market. Any EPA2010 diesel is a quagmire of sensors and computerized modules that require equipment and training that is far outside the scope of a single-unit owner because the manufacturer expects a fleet of any size to invest in these resources or budget for dealership rates to diagnose and repair. We are both private owners and secondary market neither of which is much concern to the manufacturer. Therefore we get caught by surprise at the often exorbitant costs of repairs when we really should have expected it all along because if it was simple and inexpensive to repair then the first owner (in this case the school district) wouldn't have sold it for near scrap value and invested almost $100k for a brand new one. This is why experienced skoolies will continue to chant the mantra of "nothing after 2004" because a shade tree mechanic can fix a mechanical engine but it takes a degree in computer science to even begin to tackle modern engine technology.
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