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Old 05-03-2022, 12:26 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2022
Location: SoCal - South Bay
Posts: 11
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Grand bantam
Engine: E350 Super Duty 7.3
Rated Cap: 11500
2001 E350 7.3 Collins 4 Window

Hey Everyone!

Like most I've been tracking forum posts in the background and doing all kinds of reading, classified scouring and recently auction hunting to try and find a bus to convert into an adventure rig. My inspiration was to have something wiht the basic comforts (maybe with a few extras) to take kitesurfing and snowboarding for myself primarily, but with space for an optional small second space for someone else.

I was hoping that the vanlife fever would have worn off by now, but from the prices I've seen over the last 6 months, there isn't a whole lot of movement, not in the direction I'd like! As it was, the bug may have bit me and I semi-impulse bought a 2001 4 window collins e350 with the 7.3 powerstroke from govdeals that was located in Northern California. It had 300k miles on it, but I figured it had to have been babied by the drivers in the little residential town and diligently maintained by the careful school mechanics.

This may have been a little optimistic. The bus seems to be structurally in great shape, no rust anywhere and the bolt in the seats even look like they'll come out without needing to be chopped. After I put two new batteries in it, it cranked right up without hesitation and seems to be running well. The alternator ended up being bad, which let me down about 3 hours into the 9 hour journey and left me at the mercy of 2 meth heads running the only 24 hr roadside care still open in the area when I broke down.

Another issue that popped up and that's become a priority to resolve is the gauge cluster worked for about 5 min until I hit a pothole and it went dark... There was a check engine service light that I saw... somewhat troubling, though less so given everything was operating alright and I lost the ability to see if the engine was overheating, or still had fuel in it.

I went to refuel and found another issue, a crack in the fuel hose that connects to the metal filler line at the top, again not the end of the world, but something that will need to be addressed.

Finally, the drivers side headlight is out, both the bright and the normal bulb don't work, so I'll need to see if the bulbs are burned out or if its the entire assembly.

Anyway, I'm still encouraged and excited... though there's a (hopefully) short list of repairs to address. I'm going to get to buying a fuel line to connect that up as at $6 a gallon is too expensive to be dumping fuel on the ground. I'll also start scouring through the search posts in the electrical section to see where to start with the gauge cluster. Any help that you guys could offer there would be excellent though, it cuts in and out when I wiggle the fuse box, so when I've got some time I'm looking to narrow down how the wiggle is getting the response.

Anyway, I'll keep you guys posted of any successes and probably more often come to help troubleshoot the failures!

Thanks and all the best,

Casey

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Old 05-05-2022, 12:33 PM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2022
Posts: 24
I have a 2002 Chev powered 4 window bus that I recently purchased. One item you might want to buy is a tester something like this:

https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B01G5EA7...roduct_details

Will show faults - and you can clear them. Some things the tester will also show is mileage .. if it does not show the same as you see on the dash, the computer has been changed. Nice item to add to you tool box.

I took my bus to a local truck wash - they powered washed the 'bus' decals off for me and washed the bus ($35.00).

Every State is different re: rules/laws on these "Yellow Machines". Here in Texas, I needed to make two changes: 1. Remove decals (if paint is faded under the decal, no problem; law just says to remove decal) and 2. No red lens showing on the front of the bus. I just swapped with Amber lens on the rear. Yellow color is not an issue here either. No such thing as a 'reserved' paint color. All this info is from local State Trouper at our drivers license office.

Two neighbor lads removed the seats for me -- one under the bus - one inside. No issues at all. Used an impact wrench.

Bus registered as a "Private Bus" and insured with all my other cars/motorcycle/house but under "Commercial". I have no plans to convert to a motorhome - just wanted something I could find in a Walmart parking lot as all cars look the same to me. I'm vintage - come from a period of time when you could tell one car brand from another unlike what we currently have. (I'm 87). Insurance would cost the same if registered as a Motorhome. I'm paying $38.00 per month, FYI.

Good luck with your bus.

don
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Old 05-05-2022, 04:18 PM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2022
Location: SoCal - South Bay
Posts: 11
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Grand bantam
Engine: E350 Super Duty 7.3
Rated Cap: 11500
Thanks Don,

Great advice on the OBD sensor, I've got one on the way now.

In terms of the conversion of the registration, being in the great nanny State of California, I've just mailed my title and application to Vermont to take advantage of their loophole. It'll be a little sketchy moving the rig around to avoid the street sweepers for the next few weeks while I wait for the plates, but after that it should be a lot smoother sailing.

I'll probably look to shift the red lights to the back along with tackling some general demo while that's happening. The fuse box **** has me a little flustered, so I'm thinking of taking that to a local automotive electrician instead of trying to troubleshoot it myself and risking causing larger problems.

Also, congratulations on your 4 window! I was really looking for a 5, though this one has some space 4th window to give me a little more room. When I'm parking it on the street though, having it measure up to just 20' is kinda nice.

Take it easy,

Casey
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Old 05-05-2022, 04:25 PM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2022
Location: SoCal - South Bay
Posts: 11
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Grand bantam
Engine: E350 Super Duty 7.3
Rated Cap: 11500
Oh I did look into getting an insurance policy from a local buddy that's an agent... $200 a month for a commercial policy, so I'll keep my fingers crossed it doesn't explode before I get the motor home registration back
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Old 05-05-2022, 06:13 PM   #5
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Location: Southern Oregon
Posts: 998
Year: 1996
Coachwork: AmTran (Now Navistar)
Engine: DT444E (7.3L) International
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Quote:
Originally Posted by csymllr26 View Post
Oh I did look into getting an insurance policy from a local buddy that's an agent... $200 a month for a commercial policy, so I'll keep my fingers crossed it doesn't explode before I get the motor home registration back
For insurance, get the seats out and get it insured as a non commercial van/truck/whatever. Our 40' RE with no seats is insured as personal use commercial vehicle...... and the VT plates and paperwork took 8 weeks in the middle of "covid".


Where in NorCal? To me, as a political refugee, NorCal begins about 6 miles north of Sacramento (way north of San Fran LOL)

We are in Medford just over the border. Our bus is a 40' RE AmTran with the DT444E (same block as the 7.3 superduty you have) and our 2002 F350 has the 7.3L SuperDuty....2003 1/2 was the end of that AWESOME motor. You're gonna be very happy once you've made sure that engine is in good shape. They do have some things to look out for though and I would suggest joining one of the forums dedicated to that engine.

If you fill out your personal and bus info in your User CP it will make things easier for those attempting to give advice.
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Old 05-05-2022, 06:21 PM   #6
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Join Date: Feb 2022
Location: SoCal - South Bay
Posts: 11
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Grand bantam
Engine: E350 Super Duty 7.3
Rated Cap: 11500
Ugh, 8 weeks and I'll probably be run out of town with by a pitchfork mob! We'll see how things go with the parking cops.

I picked the bus up in Paradise, I was surprised the fire damage wasn't everywhere.. I wouldn't have known it had happened if it hadn't been all over the news. I made it just out of NorCal before the batteries ran out of juice and left me stranded by Los Banos, an appropriately named city.

The reliability (barring a few potential problems) of the 7.3 along with the hopefully better mpg and torque were the big drivers in going with this rig. I was looking at getting a 6L GMC v8, but something about the chugging diesel just feels right. 40' sounds like a freaking handfull... I backed mine into a tree, so I'll work on my navigation skills before I double the size lol.
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Old 05-05-2022, 08:19 PM   #7
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Posts: 998
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Quote:
Originally Posted by csymllr26 View Post
Ugh, 8 weeks and I'll probably be run out of town with by a pitchfork mob! We'll see how things go with the parking cops.

I picked the bus up in Paradise, I was surprised the fire damage wasn't everywhere.. I wouldn't have known it had happened if it hadn't been all over the news. I made it just out of NorCal before the batteries ran out of juice and left me stranded by Los Banos, an appropriately named city.

The reliability (barring a few potential problems) of the 7.3 along with the hopefully better mpg and torque were the big drivers in going with this rig. I was looking at getting a 6L GMC v8, but something about the chugging diesel just feels right. 40' sounds like a freaking handfull... I backed mine into a tree, so I'll work on my navigation skills before I double the size lol.

40' isn't nothing but it's far less than a Marine Corps tactical flatbed tractor trailer making two trips to March AFB from Barstow every day during the first Gulf War and having idiots try to squeeze by when you're making a right hand turn...... or flying past then realizing that's their driveway in the middle of freaking no where and yes, slamming on the brakes in their VW hippie bus while you try not to make them into a piece of permanent road art.
And that's nothing compared to driving a 40' RE from the Navy Yard in South East Washington DC to the Capital Mall all day long during Clinton's second inauguration. OMG that was the craziest traffic ever!!!!!!


After those experiences, a 40' RE with no schedule and no rush..... EASY PEASEY
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We've done so much, for so long, with so little, we now do the impossible, overnight, with nothing. US Marines -- 6531, 3521. . . .Ret ASE brakes & elect. Ret (auto and aviation mech). Extra Class HAM, NAUI/PADI OpenWater diver
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Old 05-06-2022, 01:31 AM   #8
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Join Date: Dec 2020
Location: Bay area
Posts: 324
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Bantam
Engine: International T444
Rated Cap: 16?
That is a great bus and is the basis for my build. At 300k it has likely had a transmission and most of the big expensive bombs done. My bus can be found by searching Dan the 1995 collins bantam.
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Old 05-17-2022, 12:52 PM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2022
Location: SoCal - South Bay
Posts: 11
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Grand bantam
Engine: E350 Super Duty 7.3
Rated Cap: 11500
Thanks for the kind words! I've read through your post, really like what you've done with the wood finishes and that toilet setup is super slick. I'm hoping you're right on the mechanical side of things! That was the logic I'd used when I put the bids in. I've also gotta say I've been fighting the buyer's remorse in not holding out for a 5 window with a wheelchair door. I was bidding on two from the same school I got my bus from and lost them both at around $10k, but of course one guy defaulted and the bus went back up for auction and sold for $7k . Anyway, I've got something with a lot of potential that fits in a 20' parking space and feel I could've been waiting another year and missed another kitesurfing and snowboarding season waiting around for another door and 1.5' on the back end that I may not even need.

I'll probably also look to copy you on that outdoor lockbox you'd just posted in place of the stop sign void. I've been thinking about some exterior storage as I'm sure like most people, I always wind up with way more stuff than I think I do. It's also definitely way too early to be worrying about those things though as I sneak away from work in the afternoons to grind rivets.
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Old 05-17-2022, 01:25 PM   #10
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Join Date: Dec 2020
Location: Bay area
Posts: 324
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Bantam
Engine: International T444
Rated Cap: 16?
That lockbox is the box the original tow chains came in.
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Old 05-17-2022, 02:58 PM   #11
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2022
Location: SoCal - South Bay
Posts: 11
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Grand bantam
Engine: E350 Super Duty 7.3
Rated Cap: 11500
Is that the box on the lower right hand side? That's where my batteries have been routed. Or is there another surprise that I haven't found yet?
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Old 05-17-2022, 03:21 PM   #12
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Join Date: Dec 2020
Location: Bay area
Posts: 324
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Bantam
Engine: International T444
Rated Cap: 16?
No it was under the rearmost passenger seat in my bus
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Old 05-18-2022, 05:09 PM   #13
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Join Date: Jul 2021
Location: Southern Oregon
Posts: 998
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Engine: DT444E (7.3L) International
Rated Cap: 31,800 pounds
Quote:
Originally Posted by ISAF2009 View Post
That lockbox is the box the original tow chains came in.
Tire chains?
There's supposed to be a switch on the drivers control panel. Flip up the guard, flip the switch, chains deployed.
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We've done so much, for so long, with so little, we now do the impossible, overnight, with nothing. US Marines -- 6531, 3521. . . .Ret ASE brakes & elect. Ret (auto and aviation mech). Extra Class HAM, NAUI/PADI OpenWater diver
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Old 05-22-2022, 09:55 PM   #14
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2022
Location: SoCal - South Bay
Posts: 11
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Grand bantam
Engine: E350 Super Duty 7.3
Rated Cap: 11500
Hah in the norcal town I got it from I'd be surprised if they've ever seen tire chains... or snow.

I was gifted a present from the parking police at the beginning of the weekend. One ticket for no license plates and another for no registration . I don't even get the pleasure of getting to shift the rig around to avoid the street sweepers as I've been called up to Washington for an unnecessary meeting. Fortunately my buddy has come through with a parking pass that I can use at his office for the week that should save me from any further scrutiny of any kind. Fits like a glove ;)

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Good news from the bank statement is Vermont has cashed my check, so fingers crossed the plates and registration are sorted out and I can get a discount on at least the registration ticket.

Also had some time to plug the OBD sensor in to check the code and it looks like its a PO381 that has to do with the glow plug indicator circuit. There are a few potential issues that this could be from, one being a design flaw where the washer fluid apparently happily leaks down into the fuse box. Since I've been having other general electrical issues, this seems like a decent candidate, but I'll look to check into these further when I get back from Seattle for the long weekend.
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Old 05-23-2022, 05:23 PM   #15
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Join Date: Jul 2021
Location: Southern Oregon
Posts: 998
Year: 1996
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Engine: DT444E (7.3L) International
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Quote:
Originally Posted by csymllr26 View Post
Hah in the norcal town I got it from I'd be surprised if they've ever seen tire chains... or snow.

I was gifted a present from the parking police at the beginning of the weekend. One ticket for no license plates and another for no registration . I don't even get the pleasure of getting to shift the rig around to avoid the street sweepers as I've been called up to Washington for an unnecessary meeting. Fortunately my buddy has come through with a parking pass that I can use at his office for the week that should save me from any further scrutiny of any kind. Fits like a glove ;)

Attachment 65844

Good news from the bank statement is Vermont has cashed my check, so fingers crossed the plates and registration are sorted out and I can get a discount on at least the registration ticket.

Also had some time to plug the OBD sensor in to check the code and it looks like its a PO381 that has to do with the glow plug indicator circuit. There are a few potential issues that this could be from, one being a design flaw where the washer fluid apparently happily leaks down into the fuse box. Since I've been having other general electrical issues, this seems like a decent candidate, but I'll look to check into these further when I get back from Seattle for the long weekend.

That glow plug circuit code can also indicate that the valve cover gasket needs replaced. Yep, the valve cover gasket can affect the glow plugs because the glow plug harness is IN THE GASKET.

The 7.3 is an awesome engine but that blew my mind. I have a code for specifically #6 glowplug circuit and guess what? Being smog exempt and starting just fine..... It's gonna stay there until I need to dig into something.
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We've done so much, for so long, with so little, we now do the impossible, overnight, with nothing. US Marines -- 6531, 3521. . . .Ret ASE brakes & elect. Ret (auto and aviation mech). Extra Class HAM, NAUI/PADI OpenWater diver
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Old 06-16-2022, 01:09 PM   #16
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Join Date: Oct 2018
Posts: 6
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Bluebird
Engine: Cummins
Twins

Hey, I'm pretty sure my friend and I bought the twin for your bus. Picked it up in Paradise a few weeks ago, talked to the mechanic there asking if they had any more since the bus was so nice! He said they had two up for auction and one of the winners bailed causing them to relist, which was great because we ended up getting a steal on the reposted bus.

Where about's in California are you?
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Old 06-16-2022, 02:09 PM   #17
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2022
Location: SoCal - South Bay
Posts: 11
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Grand bantam
Engine: E350 Super Duty 7.3
Rated Cap: 11500
Congratulations! You may have seen earlier in the posts that I was a bit jealous that you guys got the relist! I was bidding on your bus and the other 5 window with wheelchair lift bus that I was interested in for the additional options with the lift door and the additional space. Those two got above my high threshold at about $10k so I went with the 4 window that was also on govdeals. Also not sure if your alternator was in better condition, hopefully it was and didn't let you down on the ride home!

I'm down in Hermosa Beach, where are you guys at?
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Old 06-27-2022, 02:21 PM   #18
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Feb 2022
Location: SoCal - South Bay
Posts: 11
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Collins
Chassis: Grand bantam
Engine: E350 Super Duty 7.3
Rated Cap: 11500
Standing Room Only... Nearly

Ok, so I've been getting chased around by the parking cops again.. this time likely because someone complained about my 'oversized' vehicle while I was sanding the paint in prep for a new coat.

Before I was run out of town though, I was able to get my roommate to work the impact driver while I held the bolt heads under the bus. All the seats and the dividers are now free and all but the rear seat with some black box recorder have been pulled.

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Also, have made further progress on rivet grinding... what a pain in the ass. I think as of yesterday I've completely scuffed the exterior too... so now I'm going to take it to a carwash for a scrub and then do a little bondo over the scratches I dug into the sheet metal fighting with a neighborhood tree.

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Now, I was curious if you guys had stripped your back panel / does it look like mine where the exterior sheet metal looks riveted straight to the interior panel? At least where they meet behind the door? Also, it looks like the window is installed directly into this guy... basically, will I be opening a massive can of worms by pulling this back panel?

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I was also looking for some opinions on the front door lock. I was thinking of having someone weld a plate on the back side of the box frame of each leaf and then installing a house style deadbolt system that keeps the two together and has key access from the exterior. I'm thinking this plate will have to be a few feet long to discourage someone from breaking the class or wedging their hand in the rubber door sweeps to access the lock from the outside. Any thoughts?

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Finally, I've dipped my toe in the water to suss out the electrical issue... still somewhat intimidated I've at least established that nothing below the red tipped probe from the left of the picture has power to either side of the fuse except the grimy one at the bottom and the 30 amp in the corner. More to come here.

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Also... sorry about the orientation of the photos.. I'll work on that
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Old Yesterday, 10:20 PM   #19
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: May 2021
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 61
Probably just a bulb.

Ya id do what you're doing there on that fuse box. Also one in the engine bay for future ref. google it." guage cluster stopped working 7.3."

Go with motorcraft parts when you can. Carry a spare cam position sensor. get the new grey "purple" one. carry old as backup.


Its either a bad ground or fuse box is bad.. or bad hot wire.. whatevs. Should be a no biggie.

Can you get to backside of fusebox?

Lot.of 7.3 guys run BAFX obd2 thingie ($25) with the forscan app. ($5). Great cheap way of keeping an eye on a few rhings and helps diagnose simplier stuff. (ie icp pressure when cranking, and ipr duty cycle when running). RPM, trans temps, oil temp, boost, VPWR.

Dont leave it plugged in for days on in. Draws power and gets hot.
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