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Old 11-20-2016, 03:25 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: central alabama
Posts: 29
Year: 98
Coachwork: amtran
Chassis: 3000
Engine: t444e
Hello from Alabama.

I've been lurking for a while and have learned a lot so far. I figured that I should finally introduce myself.

We don't own a bus yet but my wife and I are looking to find a full size bus to convert (a fairly low budget build) and live in full time for maybe a year or so - maybe more if things go well. We'd like to leave Alabama near the beginning of June and we have loose plans through the summer that would take us to L.A., S.F. bay area, maybe up to Seattle, and then to Colorado.

So we're looking for something that would be big enough to live out of relatively comfortably while also carrying a motorcycle and a fair amount of tools. On the other hand neither of us has ever driven such a large machine So the idea of getting around in dense urban areas and maneuvering into friends' driveways and such is a bit intimidating. We're limiting our search to flat nose busses thinking that they'd offer maximum maneuverability for a given interior space. Fe or RE is toss up as both have their distinct advantages.

I can work on this project nearly full time. (I have general carpentry and mechanical skills but will need to learn some things about diesel, electricity, ....?)

None of the busses We've looked at within our budget ($4,000 or less) have been exactly what we're looking for but I fear waiting too long, going thru Christmas without a bus to work on and not having enough time to get it done before summer.

Of the busses we've looked at so far we're still considering two that seem to be still available:

https://atlanta.craigslist.org/nat/cto/5872444363.html

This one has a mechanical dt466 that looks nice and clean runs good. at545 with 60k or so miles on it. only negatives I can see are the headroom and I believe the front springs have sagged somewhat. Front left tire is worn significantly on the inside. Any body have experience with such spring, and/ or alignment issues on such a bus? We would probably go for this one if I weren't worried about those things.

And one of these:

https://atlanta.craigslist.org/nat/cto/5819693726.html

looks to be well maintained, 193k miles, t444e, AT545, very good tires. Didn't go for a ride in this one as it was buried in other busses but it cranked and sounded good. Clear exhaust. Clean engine and underneath except for Slow engine oil drip from inside the bell housing. (which, I've learned, is most likely coming from the top of the engine).

I'd probably go for either of these right now if they had a better tranny.

Well, if anybody reads all of that long post and has any sort of guidance I'd be appreciative. If we end up with a bus maybe things will get interesting!
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Old 11-20-2016, 09:42 PM   #2
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Location: Richmond Virginia
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Welcome, glad you are here. I am excited for you. The right one has a way of finding us in right time.
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Old 11-21-2016, 08:09 AM   #3
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
Location: Pensacola and Crystal River, FL
Posts: 554
Year: 1998
Coachwork: AmTran International
Chassis: 3800
Engine: Navistar 7.6L
Welcome!
Are you planning to haul the motorcycle on a trailer?
A rear engine bus might be tricky to install a proper receiver type hitch onto.
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Old 11-22-2016, 09:46 AM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: central alabama
Posts: 29
Year: 98
Coachwork: amtran
Chassis: 3000
Engine: t444e
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoubleO7 View Post
Welcome!
A rear engine bus might be tricky to install a proper receiver type hitch onto.

Hadn't thought about that aspect of an RE. But I've no plans to carry a trailer any time soon. To mock up the opening of the side exit on the RE bus I rigged up a 26" X 54" opening with a sliding door and a board and was able to get a bike through it. A ramp up the side of the bus and through that small opening wouldn't be very convenient but it would be do-able.
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Old 12-28-2016, 02:52 PM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: central alabama
Posts: 29
Year: 98
Coachwork: amtran
Chassis: 3000
Engine: t444e
Well, we got a bus. It's a 1998 amtran re. t444e and at545. 167k miles, doesn't have an hr meter.

here it is hiding from the neighbors:



Maybe it will look like this soon:



Was hoping to start in on seats and paint and what not but during the 200 mile drive home the warn engine light came on and there was an intermittent lack of power. The bus would struggle to get up an incline slowing to 35 or so but usually at some point something would change, there'd be an increase in power, I'd hear the turbo (i think) and the bus could slowly accelerate up the remainder of the hill. After getting it home I checked for codes with the diagnostic button and got a list of them. From the research I've done I'll focus on the exhaust back pressure sensor and the rapid warm up device first. Hopefully I'll get it registered in the next day or so and then I'll clear the codes, drive it around and see what happens. So, not exactly the way I wanted to start the project but we're still excited about it!
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Old 12-28-2016, 03:05 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: central alabama
Posts: 29
Year: 98
Coachwork: amtran
Chassis: 3000
Engine: t444e
Well, we got a bus. It's a 1998 amtran re. t444e and at545. 167k miles, doesn't have an hr meter.

here it is hiding from the neighbors:



Maybe it will look like this soon:



Was hoping to start in on seats and paint and what not but during the 200 mile drive home the warn engine light came on and there was an intermittent lack of power. The bus would struggle to get up an incline slowing to 35 or so but usually at some point something would change, there'd be an increase in power, I'd hear the turbo (i think) and the bus could slowly accelerate up the remainder of the hill. After getting it home I checked for codes with the diagnostic button and got a list of them. From the research I've done I'll focus on the exhaust back pressure sensor and the rapid warm up device first. Hopefully I'll get it registered in the next day or so and then I'll clear the codes, drive it around and see what happens. So, not exactly the way I wanted to start the project but we're still excited about it!
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Old 12-28-2016, 03:27 PM   #7
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Location: So Cal
Posts: 2,720
Year: 1935
Coachwork: Superior
Chassis: Chevy
Engine: 317 ci/tid / Isuzu
The first bus sounds like it may need king pins along with the spring work---pricy at best.

Good luck!
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Old 12-28-2016, 03:30 PM   #8
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: SE Florida
Posts: 1,102
Year: 2003
Coachwork: International
Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 65 pax
Have you tried Public Surplus? I got my skoolie from there and I am very happy. I got if from a school system, so it was up kept and runs great! Here's the link to mine: Public Surplus: Auction #1682539

They have tons of school buses on there.

Sandi
Living full time on my skoolie
www.thismidwifetravels.com
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Old 12-28-2016, 03:44 PM   #9
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: central alabama
Posts: 29
Year: 98
Coachwork: amtran
Chassis: 3000
Engine: t444e
Well, we got a bus. it's a 1998 amtran re. t444e, at545, 167,000 miles.

Here it is hiding from the neighbors:



and maybe it will look like this soon:



I was excited to get started with tearing out seats and getting ready to paint but we had some engine trouble on the 200 mile drive home. The bus has an intermittent lack of power. It would at times struggle to get up a slight incline slowing down to 35 or so. then something would change, there'd be an increase in power, I'd hear the turbo and the bus would slowly accelerate for the remainder of the hill. I checked the codes with the diagnostic button and got a long list. Based on that and the research I've done I will focus on the rapid warm up device and the exhaust back pressure sensor first. Hopefully I can get it registered in the next day or so and then clear the codes and drive it again to see what happens. So, not exactly the way I wanted to start but we're still very excited!
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Old 12-28-2016, 03:51 PM   #10
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: SE Florida
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Year: 2003
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Engine: T444E
Rated Cap: 65 pax
Congratulations on your bus! Where did you get it from? I hope you get the engine issue resolved easily.
Sandi
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Old 12-28-2016, 04:18 PM   #11
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 12,964
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
nice lookin ride!!!

the T-444E can definitely toss a ton of codes! the EBP device should only operate when the engine is cold.. if your thermostat is stuck open it could cause the engine to never make temperature until you have your foot to the floor climbing a hill where it warms up ebough to run in closed loop mode..

also if your ICP signal is failing then the IPR runs in a preset mode which gives you much less power than the rated on the engine.

your best bet is to Clear the codes then take the bus out for a drive and see which ones reappear.. only some codes will light up the WARN ENGINE light.

the injectors are operated via engine oil pressure (thus the IPR).. so first step is change the oil and get fresh in there to make sure you dont have a simple issue with dirty engine oil causing wonky oil pressure into the High Pressure Oil Pump and injectors..

-Christopher
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Old 12-29-2016, 06:38 AM   #12
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: central alabama
Posts: 29
Year: 98
Coachwork: amtran
Chassis: 3000
Engine: t444e
I bought the bus from an individual who'd bought it from a dealer who bought it from an auction. It was in school bus service till earlier this year.

That's a good Idea, Christopher, about the oil I'll change it before I do anything else.
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Old 12-29-2016, 06:44 AM   #13
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Join Date: May 2015
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 502
Year: 92
Coachwork: Thomas Built
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 5.9L
Rated Cap: 77
holy **** man, you mean that bus isnt actually painted blue and white yet? thats some crazy computer art skills getting around those trees and stuff....
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Old 12-29-2016, 10:58 AM   #14
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Oct 2016
Location: North Georgia right below Chattanooga TN
Posts: 24
Year: 1998
Chassis: Amtran RE T444E
Engine: 7.3
Rated Cap: 72
Was it a Cobb county school bus?
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Old 12-29-2016, 11:17 AM   #15
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: central alabama
Posts: 29
Year: 98
Coachwork: amtran
Chassis: 3000
Engine: t444e
My wife did the computer painting. Didn't take her long. And yes it was a Cobb county bus. I see that you have one of them too, Sirdave. I'm heading out to get some oil and a filter now.
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Old 12-29-2016, 11:26 AM   #16
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Join Date: Oct 2016
Location: North Georgia right below Chattanooga TN
Posts: 24
Year: 1998
Chassis: Amtran RE T444E
Engine: 7.3
Rated Cap: 72
I actually looked at that bus when it was at the dealer and it got away before I could get it so I took the last one he had with 187,000 on the odometer. The dealer who bought them from Cobb county was right across the street from my house and I thought it must be fate and least that's how I tried to convince my wife to let me get it lol.
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Old 12-30-2016, 06:08 PM   #17
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by quickgrits View Post
My wife did the computer painting. Didn't take her long. And yes it was a Cobb county bus. I see that you have one of them too, Sirdave. I'm heading out to get some oil and a filter now.


I have a Cobb county bus too!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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Old 12-30-2016, 06:42 PM   #18
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Join Date: Mar 2016
Location: Danglebury, Tejas
Posts: 310
Year: 1999
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: IH 3800
Engine: Navistar DT466E
Rated Cap: 72 passenger
Echoing CadKid: keeping good, fresh oil in these engines is absolutely essential. Run a good synthetic. You'll thank me later. Doesnt really matter which one as long as it meets the specs.

The other thing both the DT466e and the T444 really appreciate is a little Power Service Diesel Kleen (grey bottle, not white) in the fuel. It helps keep the injectors clean and it reduces injector sticking. Cheap entertainment and you will definitely notice a difference. Works as a fuel stabilizer too, and with the bio-diesel blends around here, thats rather important since my bus tends to sit for months at a time.

Also check the trans fluid. It should be bright, cherry red and not smell burnt or like old gym socks. If in doubt, change it out andnreplace it with Transynd. Expensive, but so worth it if you will be pulling hills or are running heavy.
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Old 12-30-2016, 06:53 PM   #19
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 12,964
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
I habvenmt changed to transynd.. but I do know my 545's seem to run cool being they are in short busses.. thus far im still running dino oil in the 444E, im a bit skeptical on a synthetic as I feel my oil pressure is closer to the lower end of where i like it anyway.. on a hot day I typically run 38-43 PSI oil poressure at cruise RPM.. my DT-360 runs at 50.. so im concerned i'll lower the oil P by going to synthetic thinner oil..

I do indeed run diesel KLEEN in both busses.. in my opimnion they seem to run better.. at least it feels that way to me... I know the 444E seems quieter when I have diesel KLEEN in it.. I run a fairly high does.. 1/2 of a quart bottle to 25 gallon tank.. perhaps too much?

I havent yet tried the 2 cycle oil that others use in their fuel tanks..


-Christopher
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Old 12-31-2016, 11:04 AM   #20
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: central alabama
Posts: 29
Year: 98
Coachwork: amtran
Chassis: 3000
Engine: t444e
I replaced the oil with rotella already. but I will try this kleen stuff when I drive it next and fill the tank. Gonna have to wait till tuesday to get it registered. I ordered a scangauge d which i hope will help me to learn something about the engine and diagnose problems. We got the seats out yesterday and the job today will be to figure out and hopefully get rid of all these switches on the doors and windows that make the buzzer buzz and keep the starter from working.
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