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Old 06-01-2020, 11:05 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Apr 2020
Location: Alaska
Posts: 64
Year: 2003
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Ford e450
Engine: 7.3 powerstroke
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A short bus named Haku- 2003 Ford 7.3 diesel e450

Very excited for the conversion to officially begin! After changing the oil and filter it started right up with no idling problems. I drove it home and took some measurements but didn’t start anything else this weekend. I’m going to change out the fuel filter, o-rings on the injectors and the other maintenance bits listed in the care and feeding of the 7.3 thread.
I also want to figure out something to secure the emergency door in the back so I can leave tools in there. It still won’t be too hard to break in but I hope to deter the really lazy thieves. unfortunately because of all the addiction problems here there is a lot of random theft. Even with it locking I’m not going to leave my dewalt bag in there, but just by keeping it locked I’ll probably deter a fair number of the folks who wander around trying doors on autos and houses.

Haku is named after the old school wrestler. When I was thinking of names it randomly popped into my head, probably because I watched a YouTube compilation of Haku stories recently. When I was a kid in the 80s and early 90s I freakin LOVED pro wrestling so it hits a sentimental note for me.

It’s a 2003 Thomas built coach, 5 windows and no wheelchair lift, on a Ford e450 chassis with a 7.3 Powerstroke Diesel engine. It has under 81k miles and left service in 2017, then was only used a handful of times by the church I got it from.

I was expecting it to be in worse shape considering age and Alaska weather, I don’t think it looks too bad but am also a noob. Attaching pics of the 2 worst looking spots underneath. I need to do some research on the automatic tire chain system that it’s equipped with. It also has a box inside with regular tire chains. It’s got 2 diesel heaters on the floor.
There are some leaks and obvious rust to a couple of windows and one of the wheel wells looks questionable. I don’t notice any soft spots on the floor though.
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Old 06-02-2020, 04:41 AM   #2
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Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
Good to finally see some pictures of your bus! Congratulations!


Call Freightliner Custom Chassis Company (Thomas Built Bus) in Gaffney, SC @ 800-385-4357 and ask them for all the information that they can send you in a PDF.


Also, contact the nearest Freightliner Dealer and ask them to sponsor you for a DTNA login and a TBB Portal login. These will let you get parts diagrams and information about your bus.
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Old 06-02-2020, 05:22 AM   #3
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That rust doesn't look too bad. Your main concern is going to be what shape the floor of the bus body is in, once you get the seats and plywood out.

As someone whose bus was broken into three times while I had it parked in Port Richmond (one of the worst neighborhoods in Philly), I would recommend never leaving anything at all in the bus (first time I lost all my tools and power tools and my generator, although I later found the genny because the DIY wheels had jammed and the thieves couldn't drag it very far; second time they stole masking tape and sponges, the only things I'd left in there; third time they stole the seats and ceiling panels I'd removed, which was actually very helpful to me).

There's also something to be said for leaving the bus unlocked with nothing inside it, at least at this stage of your build. I had locked my bus only with the vandalock, which does lock the passenger door but you can very easily just pull the door open anyway with enough force. It was fortunate because the thieves didn't have to break any part of my bus to get in.

If you want a lock, there are lots of videos and postings of people who use an ordinary house deadbolt with the key exposed on the outside, which locks to a piece bolted or welded to the red door handle on the inside. For my emergency exit doors, I didn't see any need to be able to open them from the outside (they still have the original latch mechanisms and handles on the inside), so I cut off the outside handles and riveted sheet metal patches over the openings. Very difficult to pick a lock that isn't there.
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Old 06-02-2020, 10:58 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
Good to finally see some pictures of your bus! Congratulations!


Call Freightliner Custom Chassis Company (Thomas Built Bus) in Gaffney, SC @ 800-385-4357 and ask them for all the information that they can send you in a PDF.


Also, contact the nearest Freightliner Dealer and ask them to sponsor you for a DTNA login and a TBB Portal login. These will let you get parts diagrams and information about your bus.
Thank you for this info!!

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Originally Posted by musigenesis View Post

If you want a lock, there are lots of videos and postings of people who use an ordinary house deadbolt with the key exposed on the outside, which locks to a piece bolted or welded to the red door handle on the inside. For my emergency exit doors, I didn't see any need to be able to open them from the outside (they still have the original latch mechanisms and handles on the inside), so I cut off the outside handles and riveted sheet metal patches over the openings. Very difficult to pick a lock that isn't there.
I'd still like to be able to open it from the outside, I'd like to get rid of the bar handle inside since I plan to have a bed up against it. There was a video I saw awhile ago of a conversion that replaced the handles and had something really small on the inside so it could still function as an exit. I need to find that video or others like it. In the meantime maybe I'll just take all my tools with me. Like I said earlier I'm going to take the valuable stuff with me regardless, but I'd like to be able to leave some random stuff in there and not have to go repurchase. I have plenty of neighbors (who think this is a really cool project!) so I'm not really worried about determined thieves who'd have to make a bunch of noise, just the lazy extra-opportunistic ones.
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Old 06-02-2020, 02:20 PM   #5
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I'd like to be able to leave some random stuff in there and not have to go repurchase.
I would never have thought anyone would bother stealing sponges and masking tape, but there I was at Home Depot buying more sponges and masking tape.
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Old 06-06-2020, 11:30 PM   #6
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Due to being slammed at work, headaches and bad weather I didn’t do much with the bus this week until today. I spent some time cursing the bolts attaching the seats to the floor, I expected them to probably need to be cut off but still annoying. I got all but 1 of the bolts on the side of the seats off, and was able to get some of the floor bolts to move but they’re just spinning. I also unscrewed some of the random stuff inside. I was surprised to see that underneath one of the padded bits by the drivers seat was.... nothing. Is this normal? So people just create a replacement covering with plywood or something else?

when my multimeter gets here pulling out the rest of the old gps system will be one of the first wiring things I tackle.

Tomorrow I’m going to spend some time underneath if the weather is good and see if I can get some of the nuts off the bolts.
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Old 06-08-2020, 11:05 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Jocelyn View Post
Tomorrow Iím going to spend some time underneath if the weather is good and see if I can get some of the nuts off the bolts.
Didn't manage to get any nuts off. Loosened up some more bolts but again they just spin. My angle grinder kit still is in transit from Amazon so I'm going to see if I can borrow one from a friend in the meantime just to get the top of the bolts off so I can keep moving forward. I did get one seat pretty much out, just have to cut since a couple of bolts won't come up through the floor completely. Damn those nuts.
What I thought was the disassembled arm is actually a case of folding reflective triangles. Good to have those I guess. The bolts in it's case were the easiest ones to deal with. It's interesting seeing some of the things you never think about when riding a school bus as a kid. The trash can up front was secured to the floor with the same bolts and a heavy metal plate. They're still in there, it was a lot easier to remove the bin itself just breaking the plastic.

One thing I hadn't thought about is the floor fabric up front. It's gross! Wondering what others have replaced theirs with, or if they just cleaned it up and left it.
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Old 06-08-2020, 01:25 PM   #8
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suggestio: Vice-grips to hold the head while working the nut. Ca also use a box-end wrench.
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Old 06-12-2020, 11:19 AM   #9
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I broke off bolts from one of the seats, which felt immensely satisfying. I also learned that I somehow missed that wd40 and rust penetrants are different things. Last night I jacked up remaining seats and sprayed a very healthy amount of pblaster on the tops and exposed threads. Also sprayed some of the nuts underneath, it was muddy yesterday so I'm going to grab a tarp after work and make sure I get all of them. A friend recommended leaving it a day or 2 to work it's magic. I think tonight I'll work on taking apart seats and leave the bolts alone until tomorrow.

I also got the electrical diagrams from Thomas Freightliner. A 288 page PDF
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Old 06-20-2020, 08:09 PM   #10
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The saga of these seats is almost over. My angle grinder is still not here (UPS claims Tuesday) but I’ve been using rust penetrant and my bottle jack to get bolts moving up and then cutting through them. I tried a different type of blade which made a huge difference. These Milwaukee torch blades are awesome!! At this point I’m just limited my needing to recharge my batteries (I have 2 and one won’t fully charge, I need to get DeWalt to replace it as it’s been less than a year). Right now I’m recharging and have 1.5 seats left plus 2 bolts from the remaining front bulkhead. I can’t wait to get rid of these gross old seats and pull up the floor!! I’m hoping to get the remaining bolts cut before bed tonight.

I also visited a guy I know that owns the local sawmill. He works with the local Sitka spruce and I’m going to get most of my lumber from him. I’ll still have to get plywood from the one local store that sells it at a premium.
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Old 06-28-2020, 11:13 PM   #11
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Feels like Iím starting to make some good progress.

Got rid of the seats yesterday, though I saved some of the benches. Going to pick a couple to use to sit and kneel on etc while working and toss the others.

Iíve pulled up over half of the metal strips and rubber and my goal for today was to see at least a little patch of metal underneath. There is so much glue on everything!! They werenít taking any chances. pulling up rubber itís really sticky both on the underneath and on the plywood.

The plywood looks ok on top but the bottom is damp. Up front I didnít pull up any yet but just from removing the metal trim strips I can see moisture.
Pulling one of the strips I accidentally banged itís edge into a bunch of wires that I was trying to keep out of the way. There was a very brief whiff of smoke which freaked me out. I think this bundle is what led to the stop sign and arm which were already removed but obviously the wiring is getting juice. I have a multimeter now so I ought to figure out which of these (or all) I can disconnect.

My angle grinder finally came, and just in time.
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Old 06-29-2020, 12:56 AM   #12
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Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
So far, the rust does not look all that bad.
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Old 06-30-2020, 06:22 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
So far, the rust does not look all that bad.
Yeah I was pleasantly surprised, but I also know the front will be a different story. There's a bunch of flaky rust that came up with the bulkhead by the stairs and trim strip I took off. Bracing myself for the floor there to need patching, and if it doesn't that'll be a nice surprise that I can celebrate.

The amount of glue, screws, and stiffness/stubbornness of the trim strips is amazing. The trims running down the center aisle were nothing but the ones along the walls and wheel wells are strong as hell. I'm just telling myself that this thing is a tank and will keep me and my pets safe on our future adventures.

One of the debates I'm having right now is about the rear windows. The back door looks fine, but the back window to the left has rust flaking below the gasket and the other side's gasket has split. I go back and forth whether I want to remove the windows altogether or change them out. I'll be sleeping back there so I'd like at least one screened window for airflow. Today I'm thinking portholes! But I do think the easiest option for me will be to get sheet metal sized to cover the window openings, install any new windows in that, and then get the whole thing installed on a good weather day when one of my friends and his rivet gun are free.
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Old 07-07-2020, 12:34 AM   #14
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Excited to watch progress! I just purchased the same bus today!!! Already converted with seats removed some time ago but now needs redone again.
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Old 07-09-2020, 01:35 PM   #15
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Excited to watch progress! I just purchased the same bus today!!! Already converted with seats removed some time ago but now needs redone again.
Congrats!!! I am loving this bus despite what a pain some aspects of the demo have been. I do think it's just the right size for me, and the more I learn about the engine the more I feel lucky to have found this one. I've got 99% of the interior torn out now, I'll post some new pics.
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Old 07-09-2020, 06:43 PM   #16
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This isn’t totally up to date since I’ve removed the floor in front and top of the stairs but shows the rust I’m dealing with which isn’t bad. The only interior flooring remaining is a square under one of the heaters, I’ve got to get it unscrewed and remove all the spray foam surrounding the wires. I already did 1 (it has 2 heaters) since I’m going to keep them at least for now to help the inside stay dry if needed and get the free heat while driving.

I’ve got the ospho and rustoleum paint for the floor. This weekend hoping to get the grinding all done and rest of the screws inside removed. There are so many!!!
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Old 07-27-2020, 11:20 AM   #17
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Injector maintenance

Well I ended up having to prioritize engine maintenance because when I went to start up the bus so I could move it closer to an outlet to use my grinder, it wouldnít start. Cranked no problem and tried to catch but wouldnít turn over. Coincidentally, earlier in the day my order from a diesel place including new o rings for all the injectors arrived. Changing those has been on my todo list due to the rough idling and the fact that they guy who looked at it before me passed due to injector codes coming up when he plugged in a reader.

Getting to and pulling injectors in a v8 crammed inside a van front has definitely been challenging! Iím really glad Iím doing this because some of the o rings/ gaskets were trashed. Iím not done with the passenger side yet but drivers side is done and I also changed the fuel filter yesterday which I think was way harder than it should have been, again due to space and crowding.

After a lot of frustration trying to safely pop out the injectors I tried using a locking c clamp at the top below the solenoid, locked slanted upward and then pushing down. Worked wonderfully!!

Iím waiting for new o rings for the ccv to get here since they looked pretty bad. Also wanting to take off the door arm now since it was so difficult to maneuver around and I donít want to have to do it in a breakdown. What I want to do is convert the doors into one that swings open by taking off half, riveting strips of metal in the middle and installing a deadbolt.
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Old 07-27-2020, 11:44 AM   #18
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Ahh injectors in an e series body... lots of contorting and annoying the neighbors with anguished yelling.
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Old 07-27-2020, 12:44 PM   #19
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what lead you top Inector O-rings as being no start cause? low HPOP or fuel pressure? on these I always suspect valve cover harness issues when they act like they only want to run on 4 cyclinder..


while its apart i would Ohm the glowplugs anbd injectors electrically too then ohm them again after the valve cover harness is on..
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Old 07-27-2020, 01:21 PM   #20
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Join Date: Apr 2020
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Posts: 64
Year: 2003
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E450Shorty View Post
Ahh injectors in an e series body... lots of contorting and annoying the neighbors with anguished yelling.
I tried not to curse too loudly since it's current parking spot is backed up to my very nice neighbors who have 5 kids always playing outside!

Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
what lead you top Inector O-rings as being no start cause? low HPOP or fuel pressure? on these I always suspect valve cover harness issues when they act like they only want to run on 4 cyclinder..


while its apart i would Ohm the glowplugs anbd injectors electrically too then ohm them again after the valve cover harness is on..
I'm not sure the o rings are the cause, but I had planned to replace them anyway. It idles hard and had some misfires/sputters, and the church told me that the guy who looked at it before me had said that it needed injector work. It only has 80k miles, so the injectors themselves should still be fine but I know the rings fail a lot faster. Once I have everything done and back together if it still struggles to start after letting the fuel and oil recirculate I'll move onto the next suspect.
ETA: When driving it before the oil pressure gauge tended to jump around a lot.

Thank you for the suggestion to ohm, I didn't even think of that!
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