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Old 11-10-2013, 11:48 PM   #1
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Another Skoolie!

Hello all - Thanks for creating and participating here. I love to read about the projects. Speaking of projects, I am the new owner of a great little bus. I have a lot to learn and I have already learned a lot in the last 3 days of owning it.

I have attached a photo and the information that I have on it. I was hoping that people can tell me as much about it as they can. I plan to do a complete overhaul and enjoy as long as it can be enjoyed.



Craigslist Post:
1991 Blue Bird Short Bus. Less than 40,000 miles on engine. Makes an excellent toy hauler, project vehicle, or just use as is for whatever.

I was told it has a 350. Can you tell me about that.

It has 2.75 inch exhaust pipes. As I was driving it home, Green Bay to Madison, the muffler broke off from the pipe (at the seam) I lost significant power and needed to pull over. The muffler just dropped and rubbed on the ground, but did not fall off. Does this bus require that back pressure to run? I need to drive back up there to fix it due to all the local stores being closed.
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Old 11-11-2013, 10:16 AM   #2
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Re: Another Skoolie!

If it is a gas burning Chevy 350 it oughta' run better sans muffler. The only engines I am aware of that "require" backpressure are gas burning 2-strokes. Must be something else bud.
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Old 11-11-2013, 10:31 AM   #3
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Re: Another Skoolie!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tango
If it is a gas burning Chevy 350 it oughta' run better sans muffler. The only engines I am aware of that "require" backpressure are gas burning 2-strokes. Must be something else bud.
Agree and X2

If you can look at the numbers on the drivers side rear of the block, there is a pad about 3/4 in x 3 inch long the number will be something like "3970010" this would indicate a 350 ci (4.00 bore) more or may not be a 4bolt main block

take whatever numbers you find and google them

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Old 11-11-2013, 11:43 AM   #4
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Re: Another Skoolie!

Assuming no one has swaped motors, that should be a 350. There is a slight chance that it would be a 366 (the same basic engine GM tried to go diesel with) as they were prevalent in GM mid size trucks of that vintage. In either event it will have throtle body injection (TBI) which is computer operated (OBDII) and easily scaned for fault codes which will give you a clue where to look. The bus should have a check engine light--is it on? Many parts outlets will scan your vehicle for free or you can buy a scaner for about $50. Most of GM's vehicles back then had the fuel pump in the tank and they were prone to failure (often lost power followed by restored power followed by pump failure and a PITA pump replacement). Hope that helps.
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Old 11-11-2013, 12:41 PM   #5
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Re: Another Skoolie!

Thanks everyone. I know the question was way out there and I am working on finding more answers. I found a mechanic that can lift the bus and take a look in that area. I am not going to replace the muffler and hope that fixes it. It is most likely something else that happened at the same time. It was just strange to have that happen at the exact same time. I did see something when I was looking under the bus yesterday. I have attached a photo. I know that the mechanic will see this later and let me know, but if you have an idea, let me know.

This is going to be a long project bus...

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Old 11-11-2013, 02:30 PM   #6
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Re: Another Skoolie!

Welcome!
I'd bet its a plain ole 350. Thats a good thing-cheap-plentiful and nearly bulletproof.
Just a wild ass guess-when the muffler fell,it somehow folded the pipe-restricting the exhaust flow.
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Old 11-11-2013, 03:18 PM   #7
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Re: Another Skoolie!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ol trunt
The bus should have a check engine light--is it on?
Yes. The light is on and I will look for the codes from the mechanic. Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sdwarf36
Just a wild ass guess-when the muffler fell,it somehow folded the pipe-restricting the exhaust flow.
No. I checked for that when I was strapping the muffler to the frame and off the ground. It was a clean break right at the muffler. ---[]-- break []--- (assuming you can tell that is a picture of the pipe to the cadillac converter --- pipe to muffler and break. It appears to have been welded in the past at the same location.

The purpose of my questions was to try to fix the problem so I could get the bus to my shop in Madison, WI. I have all the tools and space to look over everything, top to bottom. Its currently sitting 2 hours up the road and only able to do 35-40 mph tops. My plan on Sunday was to get the muffler off the ground and just go ghetto muffler all the way home. But, that didn't work. The power issue remained. My plan was then to cut out the old muffler and replace it, then clamp properly. All things that can be done in a parking lot with few tools. I am learning that the issue is most likely not just a back pressure problem, but something else may have happened. I assumed it was the muffler because it drove fine for 45 min prior to the muffler falling and losing power. (engine power)

Instead of driving back and forth (4 hour round trips) I found a mechanic who can get it on their lift 10 miles from where its at. It will drive, just slow and loud. Ill see what he can find and let you guys know. I have only spent 45 min with this bus total.

Thanks again for the ideas. I am hoping that its a quick and inexpensive fix. But we all know that's not why we want to work on buses. ha ha
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Old 11-11-2013, 03:25 PM   #8
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Re: Another Skoolie!

Would that sensor in the picture earlier belong here? Would that cause the engine power issues?

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Old 11-11-2013, 03:37 PM   #9
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Re: Another Skoolie!

"If modifications cause the engine to run moderately lean, there will be a slight increase in fuel economy, sometimes at the expense of increased NOx emissions, much higher exhaust gas temperatures, and sometimes a slight increase in power that can quickly turn into misfires and a drastic loss of power, as well as potential engine damage, at ultra-lean air-to-fuel ratios."

This is from an oxygen sensor description. This may have a HUGE part in the problem. I just saw this yesterday and the exhaust pipes were to hot to examine. This will be the first thing I check tonight.
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Old 11-11-2013, 05:26 PM   #10
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Re: Another Skoolie!

Yea-that pic you added-sure looks like an O2 sensor hanging. It would "think" the engines lean while its hanging out in the breeze like that--and try to make the engine richen up. Or confuse the computer enough by reading out of spec + go into "limp home mode".
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Old 11-11-2013, 05:55 PM   #11
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Re: Another Skoolie!

Agreed, the O2 sensor dangling is likely the root cause of your troubles. You may have better drive ability by just unplugging it altogether forcing the computer to open loop.
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Old 11-11-2013, 09:55 PM   #12
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Re: Another Skoolie!

There you go. A bent pipe restricting exhaust flow and an oxygen sensor out of the system--easy peazy! BTW don't plan to drive your bus any distance in limp in mode. The computer is going to richen the mixture to prevent stalls as well as retard the timming to prevent pre-ignition knock. Both of these will cause the engine to run hot if you go very far and could do permanent damage to the engine. Plan on doing a computer scan anyway just to be sure there arent other issues. I'd bet that once the pipe and oxygen sensor are repaired (replace the O2 sensor--the're cheap and play an extremly important role in engine management) and the codes cleared with the reader, the bus will hum like new!

Nag nag in the back of my head--why is the O2 sensor out? Did it fall out because the bung threads are bad or did someone try to pull a fast one or did the exhaust pressure blow the O2 sensor out to relieve pressure when the pipe folded???????? I'd sure like to hear the final tale!
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Old 11-12-2013, 06:36 AM   #13
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Re: Another Skoolie!

oh..great Jack....you just had to turn this easy peazy into a ...DRAMA....so now we have to wait!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 11-12-2013, 11:55 AM   #14
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Re: Another Skoolie!

Now now Bansil, there is a lot to be said for deferred gratification. Thats what makes this bus hobby so-----great.
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Old 11-12-2013, 02:09 PM   #15
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Re: Another Skoolie!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ol trunt
Now now Bansil, there is a lot to be said for deferred gratification. Thats what makes this bus hobby so-----great.
Ahh...I see now
.
.
.
.
So Kettle...is it fixed yet? it's Almost been 21 hrs
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Old 11-12-2013, 03:55 PM   #16
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Re: Another Skoolie!

HA HA - Nice guys.

I want to clear up a couple things first.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ol trunt
A bent pipe restricting exhaust flow
was never an issue. I did answer that on a post. The muffler broke off at the weld on the muffler itself. It dropped straight down with no bends or kinks. The oxygen sensor must of found another way to pop out or I can tell you by looking at it, that I am not sure if it was ever really plugged in. It was rusty and appeared unused. When I got to the bus, i tried to start it, but would not turn over. I unplugged the sensor and tried again... nothing.

I live almost 2 hours from this bus and I was not leaving until I got it to the mechanic. So I called the tow truck in and had it taken over to the shop.



It turns out that none of that mattered. I got a call today and the mechanic is almost 100% positive its a catastrophic failure in the engine. Leaking fluids of all kind (including antifreeze). It looks like maybe a busted seal or blown rod. The power loss was possibly antifreeze in the cylinders. The o2 sensor had not been working in awhile and believes that it may not have been an issue. He is spending a little more time on it to see if the rest of the bus had a problem. I am sadden by this, but I am not giving up on my bus. If I can get it for a reduced price (bus without engine) then I will be starting a complete, ground up, out of my league, rebuild project.

Thanks for all the comments and help with the first full 3 hours with my bus. Ill update this as soon as I hear more.
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Old 11-12-2013, 04:02 PM   #17
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Re: Another Skoolie!

if it helps I will stand side by side you with an open cooler; and cheer you on!


sorry to hear...but I liked this:

Quote:
I will be starting a complete, ground up, out of my league, rebuild project.
look at the bright side.....you got to ride in a cool tow truck

J/K am saddened to hear this
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Old 11-12-2013, 04:06 PM   #18
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Re: Another Skoolie!

on another note, keep checking it out...it's a SBC even with a bad head gasket it will run and mean it's one of the tougher engines.

Did it over heat?

just weird for it to loose power and then it has a bad motor

I have put a few holes in the side of the block 6000+ rpms and even broke the crack at the #1 bearing it was very dramatic...no warning just fire and brimstone

I am curious, for sure make sure 2nd opinions are considered

what exactly did it do?

was it running hot?

what kind of oil pressure?
etc
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Old 11-13-2013, 12:38 AM   #19
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Re: Another Skoolie!

Hmmmm --- sure makes me wonder. For a basic 350 to go from "losing a little power" to catastrophic with nothing more than a questionable sensor and a dropped section of exhaust is a mighty big leap. Course I'm going on the info here so far, but still...
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Old 11-13-2013, 10:19 AM   #20
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Re: Another Skoolie!

Thanks!

I am going to go over the entire situation for you guys because you are interested and so I have it to remember... as if I can forget.

First - Since this may be the last time I post, I wanted to tell you a little about me. I own an adventure company in Wisconsin. We specialize in guided trips through out the state. I currently lease passenger vans for the trips. Looking to expand and grow into our own bus was my objective with this. Not to mention all of my trips are overnights and focus on education and experience more then just leisure camping trips. We are a American Red Cross Certified Wilderness First Aid instructors group. The Boys and Girls Scouts use us a lot to meet their required training and overnight canoe camping regulations. Its really my love for the outdoors and adventures, mixed with getting paid to teach others how to love it as well. My only requirement for this bus was to have a solid motor. I needed something I could trust out in the woods to get a dozen Scouts back home after I have worn them out. The rest of the bus I had all winter to work on because I have a heated warehouse and the tools to take care of it.

Here is what happened from the beginning:

Friday I picked up the bus. I drove up with a buddy who had looked at buses in the past. Test drove it around and it seemed fine. I could tell it needed things like some exhaust work. I had no idea that it was about to fall off, but I could see and smell small amounts of exhaust from the manifold and under. Small holes at best. Some rust. No biggy. Drove as I imagined a V8 would drive. Acceleration was OK and drive was smooth. I had every intention to get a tune up and replace the things that needed to be replaced. Transmission seemed to be in working order as far as shifting in and out smoothly. We bought the bus and I was happy. It was around 2100 so my buddy and I stopped for a steak and talk about what to do next... Wild fantasies of new paint jobs, interior configurations and trips to come. Everything was good. Even out waitress was excited to hear that we were in town to buy a bus. She told us about when she was a kid her parents had a bus and they rented it out to a french man that was in town. She lost me at cheetah underwear that he would walk around in...

We started driving back to Madison which is roughly 2.5 hours from Green Bay. The roads are 65 all the way back. We decided to take it easy and do the speed limit. Everything seemed fine for 20-25 min into the ride. Appleton is the next major city. While driving, the motor made a bang noise. It smelled hot. The speedometer stopped too. It slowed to 45 mph with a rough sputter. We pulled down the next ramp and parked. We reviewed the truck and nothing was hot. The radiator was warm to touch, the rear heater in the bus was feed from a line from the engine and that was working fine too. It started with no issues but was loud. Checked under the bus and sure enough the muffler was laying on the ground. It was really hard to tell if the motor was clanking or the exhaust was clanking. By this time is was after 11 and nothing was going to be done. We had parked in the parking lot of the mall and right in front of Sear Auto center. The plan was to come back on Saturday and see what we could do.

Saturday AM I called Sears to see about scheduling an appointment to get the exhaust fixed. They would not look at it due to size. Called around and no one really wanted to look at it. I was experiencing what its like to own a bus... I was thinking to "in the box". I though of Fleet Farm. Happened to be one about .5 miles away from Sears. Lucky me it had a HUGE auto center. The worst case was that I could work on it in the parking lot and have access to parts. I bail wired the muffler up off the ground. Started fine and drove very rough to Fleet Farm. Fleet Farm would not put it on their lifts. I was ready to tackle the a couple things when I was asked my the nice folks at Fleet Farm that working on the bus in the parking lot was not in the best interest of Fleet Farm. I though to myself, Ill just explain that I was just going to cut out this muffler and replace it with a new one from your store, then dig around until I find any other issue... But that just made me laugh and instead just agreed with the nice woman. It was Sunday around 1700 and I could not do much about getting it to a local mechanic. I took a bunch of photos and posted them here, as you can see from the timeline. Things started to click on ideas, but with the bus 2 hours away, it was hard to test my thoughts and your ideas. On Monday, I got a hold of a company outside town and they were willing to take a look. It was raining and cold on Monday afternoon and I knew the weather on Tuesday was clear and sunny. Tuesday around 0500 I drove up, unplugged the O2 sensor and tried to start it. Would not turn over. I went back underneath and noticed fluid on the ground. I plugged the sensor back in and tried again. Nothing. More fluid. I called for a tow and updated you yesterday.

Since then, Its been confirmed that the motor was done. I asked for an hour of labor to go over the rest of the bus and let me know if anything else looks bad. Got some comments about the rear brakes, some rusting to the motor mounts and under drivers cabin. Overall, he said it was just OK. The body and interior are great, but underneath and motor needed work.

I called the guy who sold it to me and he will take it back. I really owned it for 30 min worth of driving. He is at a loss and disbelief. He has said he had no issues with it. I believe him. He is looking back to the guy that he bought it from asking about the rebuilt motor and the less then 40K that was reported on the motor. The mechanic said it did not look like it was a rebuild. I am tiring to decide if I buy it for the bus and buy and install a new motor or I have it towed back to Green Bay and write off my loss of 500 bucks for towing, service and parts. (not to mention my 4 round trips) If I keep it, I need to then have it moved to Madison. Which would be another adventure.
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