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Old 11-03-2021, 12:36 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Oct 2021
Location: Jax Beach, FL
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Year: 2003
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: TC2000 28ft
Engine: Cummins ISB 5.9 24v, MD3060
Rated Cap: 14
5.9 24v (VP44) Potential Headgasket issue, how far can i drive

I found a perfect bus out west. (Im in Florida) I booked a flight ($135 RT) to go check it out. Luckily i have family to couch it on, so not a ton of risk here to go look. I'm buying a shorty for an RV conversion, not full time living. I have a good job, and plenty of money and time to spend the first year to prep the bus drivetrain (no walls, etc until all bearings, hoses, electrical, brakes, engine, etc are all rebuilt or reassembled).


That said, i have found a 2003 28ft TC2000, with a 5.9 and a six speed MD3060 transmission. Rear end is 5.29 and mileage is 130k. Talked to the guy selling and the only mechanical issue it has is that the coolant overflow tank bubbles when the bus is started, but goes away once warm. At first i was thinking of some sort of issue on the cooling lines, but after a quick google and looking at the points of failure, im expecting it to be in the early phases of headgasket failure. Mechanic stated there have been no fuel issues (lift pump, injectors, etc) for the life of the bus. So if this bus was within a few hours, i would grab it and bring it home and start overhauling the head (checking to see if i need to pull it for full overhaul based on cylinder inspection). I'm comfortable with engines and have overhauled gas motors.



My question is can i make it 2000 miles with nice driving and not wreck the motor? I know if its pushed hard and i could mix oil in the coolant, blow the turbo, etc. Im planning on flying back out to drive it back if i would get it.



I thought about doing a quick (8hr) headgasket change from inside the bus before i leave, but that wouldnt leave time to have the head decked at a machine shop or anything to wrong and order a missing part or something. Plus i would like to change valve springs, injectors and stuff while i have it all out, feel like i don't know the engine well enough to have all the parts ahead of time.


Also, i plan to call around a few shops to see their rates to do this out west before attempting the drive. I just hate paying for only a headgasket when they have all the parts out to rebuild the whole head. Has anyone had a mechanic replace the headgasket for them? What was the cost?

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Old 11-03-2021, 05:31 AM   #2
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Location: Bly Oregon
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You haven't stated where out west the bus is. I know of a good truck shop in Salinas Ca. that worked on Crowns and other buses. If you are within 100 - 150 miles of there I could give you their info. I used to have them work on my "old Crown".
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Old 11-03-2021, 09:50 AM   #3
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I wouldn't risk it personally, i would just get it done though a long block 24v is only $4300.00. Bubbling in the overflow when cold is assuredly head gaskety territory.
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Old 11-03-2021, 07:45 PM   #4
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if its really a head gasket dont risk it.. you will be pressurizing your cooling system with gasses (assuming its not an air compressor failure or such causing the bubbles).. this causes the possibility that circulation could stop due to air lockingthe water pump.. . that would destroy the engine..



the other possibility is that on the intake stroke you suck coolant into the cylinders.. that coolant will steam very hot during combusiton.. this can be hot enough to actually melt a piston.. I had that scenerio happen to me on an old Peugeot diesel years ago.. the piston steamed and eventually a ring broke and I lost that cylinder and damged the head. ...



if you are not planning on fixing the gaslket yourself, then it becomes advantageous to find a nice place to hang out west and have the job done before you embark..
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Old 11-03-2021, 11:55 PM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Oct 2021
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Year: 2003
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Chassis: TC2000 28ft
Engine: Cummins ISB 5.9 24v, MD3060
Rated Cap: 14
Thanks for the reassurance. It will be around Phoenix. Any leads on shops that will do it? Called one and they only work on diesel pickups. Time isn't a problem since I'll fly back and get it when it's done.


If I have a shop do it, is it worth putting new injectors, valve springs, or any valve work done? Was planning for a full overhaul when I got back to Florida, but if a new top end rebuild gets me another 100k, then I could skip that.
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Old 11-04-2021, 01:08 AM   #6
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Do the head gasket.and head work, get injectors from Industrial injection. Grab a stud kit, and consider a conversion to a P-pump. Those damn VPís cost their owners money in the end. This is in my opinion the least reliable iteration of the isb platform. I recommend industrial injection for myself and my customers.
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Old 11-04-2021, 04:55 AM   #7
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I’m of the mind to do a full top ender and have the shop analyze the cylinder walls. The health of the piston tops and dodging as we as any scoring gives you a decent idea of how the engine has been treated. The only thing they can’t do with engine in bus is deck the block, but rarely do I hear of much block deformation on these, it’s usu the head. Obviously getting a full too ender means they can check for cracks . They can take compression readings before and after the head is worked.

The big one to me is what blew the gasket. Did the fan fail to engage? Coolant leak in the radiator? Busted hose? Or maybe it just sprung a leak, but I’d want to check the cooling system before a big journey.

I had one of my busses get a cracked head on the air compressor so it started pumping air into the cooling system.. looked just like a head gasket except the bubbles kept going for a couple minutes after I shut the engine off… took me a little bit to figure that one out ..
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Old 11-04-2021, 01:32 PM   #8
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Better make sure its not a 53 block…
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Old 11-04-2021, 01:39 PM   #9
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If it is a 53 block just buy a long block from a quality Re manufacturer and be done with any of this.
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Old 11-04-2021, 01:47 PM   #10
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53's weren't so much of an issue in school buses and the commercial world.

Dodge put the motor mounts on the side of the block, which caused the flexing and cracking the 53's are notorious for. In bus/commercial service, the mounts are at the front and rear on the flywheel housing. So no block side wall flexing, and very little cracking in that area.
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Old 11-04-2021, 01:57 PM   #11
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Respectfully a customer of mine has a 2000 thomas that would beg to differ. If it weren't at the scrap yard already I would take a picture. It may be less of a problem but it is still only a matter of time. However on anything mechanical everything is only a matter of time.
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Old 11-04-2021, 02:14 PM   #12
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Oh, no disrespect taken.

Honestly, it can happen, but we haven't had near the issues in the commercial stuff compared to the pickup world. It was a 100% failure rate on the pickup side IIRC. And it was relatively new failures too, with the trucks being less then 5 years old. It's been probably 7 years since I've ran across one of those though. As a funny note, that one the owner tried grinding it out and using crack injection epoxy for concrete basements to seal it. We swapped in a newer used engine and sent him on his way.

The fact that it failed after 20 years isn't much of a failure in my eyes, assuming it's the original powerplant? After 20 years, most of our buses are so rusted out it's going to scrap regardless.
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Old 11-04-2021, 03:27 PM   #13
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In my eyes once something light or medium duty reaches 10 years or 150k miles then any failure is plausible.. in the class 8 world maybe you raise that to 350K but ultimately when something like a school bus blows a head gasket or cracks a head you have to think about all the heating and cooling cycles that engine has taken. And how much zero throttle to full throttle it gets.. over and over that’s about the toughest thing you can do to an engine..
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Old 11-04-2021, 03:40 PM   #14
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fo4imtippim

I would go with you to where ever and help do a cylinder head..... You pay for travel, food and board. We could check valves and guides, decide if a valve job is needed/warranted or just a really good cleaning and do a parking lot valve touch up..... Mission creep is a deal. you have to decide to say when enough is enough. the open oil pan underneath should be mean rolling in a set bearing is not as tough.... then you could be popping out the pistons ... ridge reamer and welll ... doing a rear main seal would be a total bitch. I dont like the idea of pulling out those 350 lb transmissions. a decent hone job is more difficult to get "right" than most ever consider. then do you do new pistons or just rings....

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Old 11-04-2021, 04:58 PM   #15
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Especially the cummins, that long crank doesn’t do well with throttle snapping. I suspect the increased oil pressure is late arriving to the rear 2 rod and main bearings… at fedex they do a head job , water pump and oil pump every 100k on thise 24v cummins according to an old tech of mine that came from there.
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Old 11-04-2021, 05:04 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Booyah45828 View Post
Oh, no disrespect taken.

Honestly, it can happen, but we haven't had near the issues in the commercial stuff compared to the pickup world. It was a 100% failure rate on the pickup side IIRC. And it was relatively new failures too, with the trucks being less then 5 years old. It's been probably 7 years since I've ran across one of those though. As a funny note, that one the owner tried grinding it out and using crack injection epoxy for concrete basements to seal it. We swapped in a newer used engine and sent him on his way.

The fact that it failed after 20 years isn't much of a failure in my eyes, assuming it's the original powerplant? After 20 years, most of our buses are so rusted out it's going to scrap regardless.
We had an old guy a few years back show up with a new long block in the bed of his truck, he paid us to install it and we pulled out a 53 block that he had successfully fixed in chassis with brazing rod. He said the repair lasted him 4 years until he could scrape together for the long block.
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Old 11-08-2021, 11:54 AM   #17
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Oct 2021
Location: Jax Beach, FL
Posts: 56
Year: 2003
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: TC2000 28ft
Engine: Cummins ISB 5.9 24v, MD3060
Rated Cap: 14
Thanks all. I'm still trying to get a quote on a local shop to redo the head. I don't plan on doing it myself because I cannot be away from my family that long if something goes wrong and i have to wait for a part or machining. I'm pretty much stuck on this generation of cummins because i want that era or allison 3060 so i can unlock 6th gear. (without getting into egr or def stuff). One other option im considering is buying the bus i want with a 3126 (with MD3060) and then swapping out for a cummins 5.9. This would let me fully overhaul the cummins out of frame and then bolt it up. I dunno if its worth sourcing engine only, or buying a donor bus that might be cheap because it doesnt run, wrecked or too rusty. I say this because i want a midsize bus with a cummins 5.9 and a MD3060 (and rear handicap door). Seems like almost all of these have a 545. I don't think i want a 3126 long term, but i would imagine that engine in running condition would be valuable.
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Old 11-08-2021, 12:02 PM   #18
Bus Geek
 
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Engine: DTA360 / MT643
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keep the 3126 over a 5.9 anyday.. the 3126 is 7.2 litre vs 5.9 and is also a really good engine....
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Old 11-08-2021, 12:11 PM   #19
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Oct 2021
Location: Jax Beach, FL
Posts: 56
Year: 2003
Coachwork: BlueBird
Chassis: TC2000 28ft
Engine: Cummins ISB 5.9 24v, MD3060
Rated Cap: 14
Im trying to keep the total cost of ownership low. I see that cat parts are way more money than cummins. Im not a fan of the oil driven injection system. I know its a better engine and can handle more mass, but with the bus being a shorty, not sure i need it. I want to be able to pull into a cummins (or dodge shop) and be able to get the parts i need while on the road. I also don't know a ton about diesels, so if it is much more reliable, than maybe i could keep it.
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Old 12-06-2021, 11:02 PM   #20
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In Phoenix I would contact AAA Bus LLC Phone: (602) 278-9339. Fax: (602) 278-6594
AAABUSSALES.COM . I had major work done by them and could not have beat their price or quality.
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