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Old 01-08-2024, 04:51 PM   #1
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Engine: 7.3
T444E Help! Hard Starting, Power Loss, Getting Worse with Time

My bus is a 2003 international with the T444E. I bought this one under the impression that it had 110,000 miles on it (and paid accordingly) but thanks to bluefire I now know that number is BS. Actual mileage according to ECM is 216,000, and 10,000 hours.

I bought my bus in June, and it ran just fine bringing it home on a 2.5 hour drive. Since then, the longer it sits at the shop, the harder and harder it is to get running and I have experienced a significant power loss.

The first thing the bus got as soon as it came home was fresh coolant, trans fluid, engine oil, oil filter, tires, and belt. I opted to wait on doing the fuel filter until I would be driving it regularly. The bus didn't hesitate to start, and it didn't smoke at this point.

As I moved it in and out of the shop to work on it through the weekends, I noticed it started to drop RPMs while idling randomly, kind of stumbling. Over time, this worsened and it would periodically shut off.

A couple months ago I drove it a few miles down to our paint shop to get it sprayed, and it was MASSIVELY down on power. When I bought it, 70mph was no problem. Now I had pedal to the floor struggling to keep it at 45mph.

Fast forward to now. It is an act of congress to get this thing to start. I give it a few sniffs of ether, no dice. Batteries on the charger all weekend, she will turn and turn, puffing white smoke. I was about to yank it out of the shop with the tractor but on the last attempt it finally fired. I had to limp this rig out of the shop, and there was effectively NO response from the accelerator pedal. The smoke stopped after the engine came alive, but we were at a crawl. I have a Bluefire device, but its not giving me any codes.

One other thing, might be totally unrelated but worth mentioning, that brand new oil when I pull the dipstick is already black. I know diesels turn the oil black pretty quickly, but there cant be over 5 hours on this oil and that doesn't make sense to me.

Im over my head and over my budget, and and all help in this troubleshooting will be greatly appreciated!

-Seth

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Old 01-08-2024, 05:08 PM   #2
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Fuel Filters and algaecide. It's a cheap place to start.

Not starting on ether is worrisome....

We had an old Mercedes that would barely run, and smoked terribly, and it was algae. Filters and algaecide and we were back in business....
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Old 01-08-2024, 05:09 PM   #3
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I also recently had a 2003 bus with the same engine follow me home. I caused my own problem with trying to clean things up and got water in one of the harnesses to the injectors. The problem was a rough running engine with no accelerator response. I used the momentary button beside the round ecm connector to get the ecm to flash the codes on the dash. That would provide a second opinion on any stored codes. But I'm going with the clogged fuel filter excuse for your troubles.

Edit: What PorchDog said. I have another bus that has slime on the tank bottom.
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Old 01-08-2024, 06:04 PM   #4
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On ether it will start briefly but shut right back off for the most part.

Unfortunately I don't have the luxury of flash codes anymore as I built a custom dash without the original cluster in it, using the blue fire and a tablet as my cluster.

This could also be potentially helpful; NONE of the wiring harnesses for the flashers, exits, or any of the “school” bus stuff is there anymore. I isolated the circuits for the lights I still needed, ran new wires for those, and tossed the wires for the rest. To my knowledge if there was anything important in that pile of wires, the bus shouldn't run at all. Correct?
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Old 01-08-2024, 06:10 PM   #5
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White smoke means that you're trying to burn water; which could mean a head gasket.

Loss of power like you describe would indicate that it was small, but got worse.

Of course, change the filters, flush the oil, add the algaecide, but the mechanical symptoms you describe sound like a blown/cracked head gasket or worse.

If the smoke is bluish, then it could be oil, which could be an EGR or something in the intake, or more likely with that kind of loss of power, something where you're getting blowby into the cylinder, which means piston rings and a loss of compression. Most of which could also be caused by a head gasket.
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Old 01-08-2024, 06:19 PM   #6
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If head gasket, shouldn't it smoke all the time? Once it fires up and runs for a bit, the smoke goes away.
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Old 01-08-2024, 07:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RebelWithoutACausey View Post
On ether it will start briefly but shut right back off for the most part.

Unfortunately I don't have the luxury of flash codes anymore as I built a custom dash without the original cluster in it, using the blue fire and a tablet as my cluster.

This could also be potentially helpful; NONE of the wiring harnesses for the flashers, exits, or any of the “school” bus stuff is there anymore. I isolated the circuits for the lights I still needed, ran new wires for those, and tossed the wires for the rest. To my knowledge if there was anything important in that pile of wires, the bus shouldn't run at all. Correct?
Now I remember your recent thread about the Bluefire. So you don't have any warning lights like the WARN ENGINE light?
I was using a nexiq knockoff on mine and have trouble connecting to the ecm. I was going to get the bluefire and check it but I always have the settings wrong most of the time. They even had to do 4 revisions to the program just to get it to work with my old crappy phone.

You are right about the bus still running with the deleted wires.

The smoke should be the unburned diesel, so maybe water in the fuel?
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Old 01-08-2024, 07:42 PM   #8
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I don't have the original WARN light anymore, but in the bluefire app you can set it up to alert you when codes come up or alarm when certain temps/pressures go outside of parameters you have set. I use an ipad with it, allegedly the connection is more stable with Apple devices.

I suppose I could hook the old cluster up temporarily for the flash codes, the harnesses are still there for it, I just have to disassemble part of the dash to get them out. Perhaps I should have done that before asking you all for advice……

Edit: Is there any way to clear old flash codes, so I only get current and relevant ones?
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Old 01-08-2024, 08:03 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by RebelWithoutACausey View Post

Edit: Is there any way to clear old flash codes, so I only get current and relevant ones?
I have cleared codes in a 98 with the DT466e before but I couldn't use the same process with this 03 T444e. I briefly was able to connect with ServiceMaxx through the nexiq wannabe long enough to reset the codes.
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Old 01-09-2024, 07:42 AM   #10
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if there are no codes id vote for fuel filters and dying fuel.. you can trey to put some biocide in the tank, change the fuel filter in the fuel bowl..



the oil being close to black riught after change is normal on a T444E as there is still a couple quarts up in the head and HPOP reservoire that dont get changed.. so they coiolor the oil pretty quickly.. if you are keeping fresh oil in it at regular intervals then that is insignificant..



these are nbon feedback engines, the computer doesnt monitor fuel poressure nor does it monitor combustion quality.. I see crappy fuel blow white smoke esp when an engine is cold.. also algae forming will clog the filter more and more making it even harder to start..



be VERY careful with ether.. it can cause the cylinders to fire off extremely early because of the glowplugs (assuming they are working)..



if you suspect the fuel in the tank is crap you can put a biocide in.. if you have the capability to disconnect the inlet line and get the bus to run on a bottle (say a 5 gallon can) of fresh diesel then it can help clear the system esp if you put a little additive in that can.. obviously with fresh filters.. I would drain the fuel bowl of any remaining fuel when changing the filter as well..



then of course you have the tank of fuel to deal with.. like i mention you can try an additive but if the engine runs perfect on a can of fuel then you know the issue is the fuel..



you could try pouring biocide in the tank and a fresh fuel filter and see if it will run if you dont want to deal with bottle-feeding.. ive just seen this all too much with today's crappy fuels..
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Old 01-09-2024, 09:45 AM   #11
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I did limp it to the fuel station a few weeks ago and put fresh diesel in it so I could run my heater, so the fuel in the tank is new, though that might not say much about the condition of what fuel was left.

If I bottle feed it like you suggest, wont this introduce air into the system, and if so, is there something I need to do about that?
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Old 01-13-2024, 03:30 PM   #12
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I have the same engine in my 2001 Excursion. It sounds like you have a fuel or air issue, more likely fuel. You may have water in the fuel, a clogged fuel filter, or algae. I recommend treating all three and see how that helps you. That it catches on ether tells me it’s more likely fuel as well. Might be a fuel pump, too. Or a bad HPOP. The high pressure oil pump is what powers the injectors, and if that isn’t working well, it’ll mess up firing. Also, the oil in my excursion turns black in the slab of 15-30 minutes of run time. It’s just that engine.
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Old 01-13-2024, 03:32 PM   #13
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Check turbo clamps and hoses

Had a similar thing happen to a bus. Found out one of the hose clamps on one of the hoses going to the turbo broke. It was sucking too much air and we couldn't go over 45 mph. Check also for cracks in any of the hoses going to or from the turbo
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Old 01-13-2024, 05:28 PM   #14
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IPR or FICM?
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Old 01-14-2024, 08:06 AM   #15
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One of my '99 7.3s is hard to start after sitting a few weeks, with fresh batteries, etc. It has similar symptoms. I'm wondering if the HPOP is draining down or if I have a weak LPOP. Have you monitored everything while it's running? What is your ICP reading, etc.?
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Old 01-24-2024, 03:16 PM   #16
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Well to update, I put in fresh fuel, new fuel filter, and some biocide. Still wouldn't go. I gave up, called my mechanic and told him to deal with it. I just dont have the bandwidth to finish this interior build and troubleshoot diesel engines I know nothing about.

After a new IPR and ICP, she’s up and running again. Seems to have regained a lot of power, hard to say because theres so much more weight in it now than when I bought it.
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Old 01-24-2024, 03:46 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RebelWithoutACausey View Post
Well to update, I put in fresh fuel, new fuel filter, and some biocide. Still wouldn't go. I gave up, called my mechanic and told him to deal with it. I just dont have the bandwidth to finish this interior build and troubleshoot diesel engines I know nothing about.

After a new IPR and ICP, she’s up and running again. Seems to have regained a lot of power, hard to say because theres so much more weight in it now than when I bought it.
What do you mean you ain't got the "Bandwidth" to finish.... hogwash!

There is NO time limit to finish the build! Just put a mattress in the bus and go places....built or not built!
Going a place or two while not built will help you get inspired to finish! Many of us here, like me, are on there 2 or 3rd year of building!

Saying that you know nothing about diesel engines, heck, when you were born did you know how to walk?

T444E diagnostic manual, just for you!

https://s9c749554ed0cf09e.jimcontent...c%20Manual.pdf

you can do anything you set your mind to and you all ready set your mind to buy a bus, and also too fix it and build it...YOU GOT THIS!

You just learned about two really important items on your motor, IPR and ICP. what I would do now is start watching some videos on those two sensors and visit the diagnostic manual from time to time and not just when your broke down and looking for answers.
Once you start reading and becoming a bit more comfortable with understanding the individual components that make up your motor, along with some occasional help from the folks here, you will do just fine!

With that being said, readjust your thinking, summer is coming and you need to get at least 2 road trips done this summer...now GET R DONE!

I hope I inspired you some to just continue on with this part of your life journey!
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Old 01-25-2024, 06:21 AM   #18
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Why do I feel a sudden urge to put on some Braveheart war paint? Hahaha

Unfortunately there is a time push on finishing. I blew my budget pretty hard on this build and I need to get out from under the debt I took on to make it happen. By the time I realized my initial budget was a pipe dream, I was in too deep to quit. At this point I'm right at the finish line and I just need it to continue running properly so I can pass it down to its next owner with a good conscience.

I really don't want to sell it, but if something really catastrophic happened to the drivetrain on this thing, I simply would not be able to afford it, even if I knew how to fix it myself. If it had the mileage I thought it had when I bought it, id be less concerned about it but here we are.

PS: As far as road trips, my truck never felt lacking in road comforts. I’ll still be out there.

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Old 01-25-2024, 10:32 AM   #19
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There's no issue in selling something with a problem as long as you accurately disclose that problem and tell them what it may cost to repair. The buyer may like it enough to accept it and all the other work you did to it, and be willing to fix that part and purchase it.

I as a buyer simply want to know what I'm getting into. Nothing worse in making a large purchase and not understanding it's gonna cost you 20 times more than you realized.

Any attempts to hide it is a problem, and why buying used is a risk because often people do not disclose the issues and try to get top dollar, or think it's morally okay to take the approach of "Here's a bus, want it?" and only answer the questions the customer asks, so if they don't ask we don't tell. That to me is shady af, and is a practice that is not okay. It's different if a problem occurs that you didn't know existed, but if you know it's present you should disclose before accepting their money.
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Old 01-25-2024, 10:59 AM   #20
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My goal is to sell it with no problems. It ran fine when I bought it, it will run as fine or better when I sell it.

As much as I’d like to say that is out of the kindness of my heart, its worth more and easier to sell a bus that runs great with fresh tires, fluids, filters, and turn key ready to go. Im gonna do what I can to the best of my ability to give the next owner one HELL of a bus.

Or who knows, now that its running and so close to finishing, I might just talk myself into keeping it.
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