Join Date: Feb 2018
Engine: T444E w/ MT643
Rated Cap: 84 pass, 40'
What I needed & learned on my 3 day adventure home
The most helpful item by far was the leatherman (the file of which is what worked to open the engine compartments), with the filter wrench a close second.
We also ended up needing funnels, which I knew were already in the bus, clean rags, WD-40, a flat head screwdriver, a magnetic attaching led flashlight, a laser thermometer, the service manual for my engine downloaded on my phone - CRITICAL!!!- as well as my line set ticket AND we also had the service manual and line set ticket printed out because my son had extra printing dollars from his college which expire at the end of the semester, an extra power supply to charge my phone, and of course, my title, proof of insurance, bill of sale, DL.
I also took silicone stretch tape for repairing hoses, gorilla tape, windshield chip repair kits and a utility knife for that because the person that sold me the bus was worried about the chips, a fire extinguisher and 3 emergency trianges, a printed out form for verification of VIN just in case I saw a peace officer on the way home that could do my VIN verification for me, a snow shovel as there was snow on the sides of the roads,
We needed the screwdriver because the people that sold me the bus had taken out all screws and big washers that hold the windows in place. I somehow did not notice this when I looked at him and bought him, and happily all the hardward was in a ziplock bag in the bus so we could screw them back in before driving so they didn't LITERALLY FALL OUT, which they absolutely could have!!! It would have been a lot easier if we'd had a drill with us and a variety of screwdriver attachments, sockets etc. This is the same people that were worried about chips in the windshield!!??!!
I did do most of the pre-trip inspection before leaving, which everyone should do. I didn't actually know how to do ALL of it. Even if you live in a state that does not require a license endorsement, you should read and download and or print out the free info on this! The NV DMV website has it, and the Oregon DMV had a free info book on the CDL license which has better illustrations than the NV one plus the same info on pre-trip inspections and air brakes that the NV class B endorsement download had. The fact that you do not have to get a CDL to drive a bus does not mean that to don't need to know much of that info to drive safely! True, some of the info isn't relevant. Just skip that part.
Really the number one most helpful thing I took with me was my son in a chase vehicle. I absolutely could not have made it home without him without spending a LOT more money. I cannot lift a 130.5 lb battery (that is almost exactly what I weigh myself!) without hurting myself, but my son did, which is pretty impressive because he doesn't weigh more than 135-140. Also we could not have driven to go get parts which we needed to do BOTH mornings after stopping to sleep *even though we were very near an auto parts store the first night and we left the bus in the parking lot of a truck stop the second night*. Yes, it helped to be that close, but it was NOT enough. The auto parts store didn't have the battery we needed in stock and the truck stop didn't have the fuel filter I needed although they did have the fuel additives and diesel, of course, which I also needed.
I also had my standard winter mountain kit for a vehicle:
5" fixed blade survival knife, extra gloves, extra wool socks, a warm hat and an extra layer, headlamp, a bivvy sack, water at least 2 gallons in 3 containers that plus 5 gals for longer trips, snacks, hand warmers, a tiny portable stove and a stainless steel container to heat water on the stove, a firestarter and dryer lint smeared with Vaseline for kindling, and 2 large construction garbage bags and a tiny travel roll of duct tape. I also carry chains, chain tighteners, a snow shovel, snow gaiters, yaxtrax, a large piece of plastic, carpet squares, a fleece blanket, baby wipes, toilet paper, Kleenex, chap stick, sunscreen, sunglasses, and an air tight wide mouthed plastic container (aka a portable bathroom), paper and pen to leave a note in the vehicle in case we leave it, and flashlight in each car.
I *should have* also actually stopped and bought some of the things that I had read I should have with me:fuel filter and fuel conditioner, test strips and coolant additive which I ended up buying on the road anyway.
A serpentine belt is also recommended. My bus had a brand new one already and newly replaced radiator fluid and had just had an oil change so I wasn't worried about those.
It was way more difficult than I would have thought to get the right fuel filter- and I was in the easiest place on Earth to get one!! Sparks, NV is where all the heavy truck dealers are, there are auto parts places all over, and the truck stop where I was parked sells them, but not the one I needed. If I'd been in the middle of nowhere it would have been ridiculously difficult to get the right one. Given that the T444e is one of the most common engines and known for easy parts availability, I was VERY surprised by this.
Prepare for whatever environment you have to cross to get home. If that is mountains, be prepared. If that is desert, be prepared! Take more water than you think you might need. Also in the winter the desert can get *really cold* at night. The temperature swings are MUCH larger out West day to night than in the east. 40 degrees isn't unusual where I live and the desert can be worse. It can snow on mountain passes even in the summer. Tioga pass in Yosemite closed last year in JULY because of snow. Snow in early June in the Sierra Nevada isn't unusual at all. We had good warm base layers, two sleeping bags each, plus an extra fleece liner and tarp for underneath us. We would have needed all that in the bus which had no heat at all and holes all over because the seats had already been removed, plus the floor, most of the walls and ceiling. It's the same temp as outside up front because you are way far away from the engine. On the plus side, that means the lack of defrost wasn't a problem. If I hadn't had extra warm clothes including gloves I could drive in, driving a bus with no heat over a mountain at night in the winter would have been a problem.
I was relying on Good Sam, which was a mistake. I'm not 100% sure they are going to help when I call because my conversion isn't complete. Twice when I called and asked they said yes, but once when son called they said no. ?!? I decided not to cancel because they reassured me again when I called to cancel that they WOULD help. I hope that doesn't turn out to be untrue. As far as I can tell, none of the roadside assistance services actually will *for sure* help you with an unconverted bus, so unless you can pay hundreds of dollars for a tow or a mobile mechanic, you may be there a while. And if there is snow or an avalanche or just an avalanche warning or a rock slide that has closed the road it may be hours or days before someone can get thru to help you anyway. All of the above things happened on roads near me last year many times and have happened this year a few times.
We called Good Sam to ask for advice twice and both times they just asked if we wanted them to send someone. No, we would have called for the mobile service rather than the advice line if we'd wanted that. I called someone from this forum and got great help the first day. I called a bus driver I sort of know that lives near me in a small community so we know OF each other - he is the one I was considering paying to drive the bus home for me- on the second day. He gave me great advice on the fuel filter and additives.
I called the International dealer twice and went there THREE TIMES on the third day. I am now known as "the crazy bus lady" by the guys at Silver State International. I got some great tips from them also and the second time, I got the right fuel filter. I had my VIN and my line set ticket, so how I got the wrong fuel filter the first time AT THE DEALER is beyond me.
They made up for it later, though, by getting the service guy to talk to me once in person and once on the phone and charging up my new battery from the day before which had been trying for so long to start the bus that it was getting tired for me on their speedy charger, and they let us in the shop for a bit and we could see some guys at work and the big trucks including some fire trucks with their hoods up and it was pretty cool. I don't think they would normally have been so helpful for free, but their mobile service guy was busy all afternoon, so I could not just have him come out. And then the guy that schedules the mobile service was off work til the next day, so that worked in my favor for getting free help. They didn't charge me extra for the correct filter that cost more, nor for the advice, nor for the battery charging, and when I arrived, the guy carried the battery to the back for me. I opened the doors for him. He got help carrying it back out though!!!
I prepared a route and had an alternate route laid out also. You need to have this in the mountains because you may not have cell service especially out West and avalanches, rock slides, accidents, or high winds can close roads, sometimes for days. In the mountains there often isn't just another road around. There are only 3 routes out of my town, and all of them go over a mountain. If one way is closed it is at least 25 miles extra to get to any decent sized town and even more to get to the town you actually wanted to go to. You never let your tank get almost empty in the winter, and apparently this is really good advice with an old diesel engine vehicle because there can be a lot of ick in the tank and it when it gets low the pick up line can suck in nasty stuff. They close the roads for a couple of hours at a time for AC (avalanche control) with no warning at all. You just wait. So you either idle or shut off the vehicle, which means being low on fuel is NOT a good idea. You can also turn around and go another way, but not in a 40' bus!!!
I did not know until last night that apparently, it's perfectly fine to leave your bus running while you get diesel (NOT GAS). Usually it's going to start again if it's warm anyway, but also apparently, not always. I had no idea. I also had no idea that mechanics use a gallon of windshield wiper fluid which they rinse out with diesel to keep some diesel at their work station. I filled up my son's friend's car's windshield wiper reservoir and then got diesel this way. Luckily we had some extra empty containers to put the rinse diesel/wiper mix in for disposal later at my local hazardous waste place.
This is what we used to flush the fuel filter drain and fill, as well as we could, the filter by pouring the diesel into the filter bowl over the filter. We did label the jug.
We should have put the fuel additives in the fuel tank BEFORE filling it because the sloshing of the fuel going in helps mix it. Oops.
I didn't know that if a diesel engine won't start you can crank it a lot longer to give it a chance than I was told to do with a gas car. Like 20-30 seconds at a time. One person told me up to 60 seconds, but then the International mechanic said 20-30.
Apparently either my glow plug relay or glow plugs or both are dead. Honestly, I am not 100% sure I needed a new battery, but my son did have it checked before he bought a new one, so hopefully that wasn't a rip off. I'm a little annoyed that the mechanics who looked at and then fixed my bus for me before I bought it and before I picked it up didn't notice the glow plug issue, but then again maybe they wouldn't normally? The light definitely functioned normally and they DID get the bus started, so maybe there is no reason they would check those things? Even after the additives and the fuel filter and the battery, Mobi will NOT start unless he spends the night plugged into a block heater.
So after 12.5 hours in the TA parking lot the third day we get the fuel filter changed and try to start it. Nope. So we call the mobile mechanic we met in the parking lot earlier because my son's friend had jumped him, and he came back for free and started the bus. With WD-40. Which you totally shouldn't do if your glow plugs are working because it can actually explode. So we moved well away from the back of the bus before my son cranked it. Then we headed home at midnight, over a mountain, the highest pass in the Sierra Nevada that is open year round, at almost 9K ft. Almost all of the road was clear except a bit of snow at the top. Mobi did great in the little bit of snow. It was very little so I didn't bother to try to turn on the auto chains. The weight helps with traction for sure. Mobi went VERY slowly over the mountain!
We got home at 2am and then I had to try to PARK the bus. My driveway is plenty long for Mobi, but the snow banks on both sides of the drive and across the street made getting in a challenge. My son had to shovel some and I also took out about 3 ft of snow bank on the opposite side trying to get in. One guy came along while we were completely blocking the street and we told him how to go around. I tried getting in from one direction and that clearly wasn't going to work so I went down the street to a big intersection and made a 3 point turn in the middle of the intersection (small town, 1:45am, no problem) and came back and tried again from the other direction. From the front of the bus you can't feel what's going on at the back of the bus well. I thought I had gone over the edge of the curb, but I had actually gone at least 2' up the snow bank, maybe 3', and then slid off!! wouldn't have thought that you could get the bus to DO that if you tried! My son gets a C for directing me into the drive. In his defense, it was really dark and it had been a LONG day. I don't think I damaged anything, but I'm sure it wasn't great for Mobi. I haven't driven him since as we've gotten snow since then twice, and last time it was 2'. I just finished shoveling him out completely yesterday.
I realized on the drive home when I was driving behind my son that Mobi tracks a little weird. I didn't notice when *I* was driving, but the rear end wants to follow a little to the right of the front end, so you can see the left side of the bus a bit when you are driving right behind it, and you can't see the right side. I have no idea what that's called. Apparently it isn't just an alignment thing. It didn't do anything but make me have to pay a bit more attention at keeping my rear wheels in my lane. It drives fine and doesn't really pull or anything, so I've decided I'm not going to worry about it. I would never have noticed if I hadn't been driving behind the bus and really paying attention. Yes, I'm sure something is technically wrong with it, but if it drives fine, does it really matter?
So my 360 mile journey took 3 days. It was easier than I thought in some ways and harder in others. My son willingly spent his spring break his freshman year of college doing this with me, his 50 year old mom, and he gave me a high 5 and a big hug when we finally made it home. It's definitely been a learning experience and bonding experience already.
middle aged mom on a learning adventure