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Old 05-07-2020, 08:31 PM   #1
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New in Oregon and hungry for info!

Hello from Portland!

My name is Dan and my Partner Dria and I are beginning our journey toward life on the road. We have renovated and lived in a 13' canned ham for two years until we hit black ice in WY in 2018. We have novice experience with most fields involved. I want this build to be as seamless as possible, so, while I am motivated to get it done, I will take the time necessary to do things right. I am lucky to live in this time and have all of your help to make our dream come true.

We are shopping for our bus now (I've called 20 school districts today). We are researching every day. We have a good idea of what we want and are learning more daily.

I hope to be full time within a year. We have a small jewelry and screen printing business we hope to travel with and see the world and meet its people!

Thanks to all the professionals and DIY'ers that take the time to help us achieve our dreams!
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Old 05-07-2020, 09:14 PM   #2
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Here's a quick quote of a post I made before giving pointers to a few other folks. I wouldn't say it's a buyer's Bible by any means, as there are probably a few things I have not included here. However, it is a good checklist and can serve you well as you consider what would be best for you. I'm sure that others will have other info available as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CHEESE_WAGON View Post
There's good, better, best. Some of it really comes down to how you plan to use the bus. Quite a few engine and trans options in that category. First and foremost, can you drive a manual? Driving a stick is a skill that many seem to have abandoned in recent years, which usually means you can get a good deal on a manual-trans bus.

It also depends on the bus you're looking at. In the category you've mentioned, DT360, DT466(E) , T444(E), Navistar 6.9, 7.3, (basically a T444 with a few differences), 9.0, Cummins 5.9 / 8.3 and the Caterpillar 3208 are good choices that were offered in such buses.

The gas engines offered in the older models weren't bad, but be aware most are out of production and could prove difficult to get serviced. Avoid LPG / CNG / hybrids at all costs, unless you know someone who can convert an LPG / CNG engine over to gas or diesel, whichever applies.

A few came with Caterpillar C7s and 3126. Not terrible engines to my knowledge, but they were known to have electronics issues, and I've heard of the occasional head gasket problem as well.

Navistar builds a newer VT365 that Ford marketed as the 6.0 PowerStroke. Some claim Ford unintentionally sabotaged it, others say the engine is junk no matter what it's in. I personally would avoid them like the plague.

The Detroit 8.2 is a fickle beast. Okay engine, but has a wonky fuel setup that makes for a horrible exhaust smell and it is getting harder to find people who know how to service them.

I would stay away from Ford-chassis 2+ ton with hydraulic brakes. Problematic system with expensive parts and no one wants to touch them. Some Navistar buses may or may not have the same system. Some newer ones have an adaptation of this system, a hydraulic system with an air parking brake. Might not be a problem.

Avoid MaxxForce engines at all costs. I drove semis over-the-road a few years, and one carrier I drove just LOVED the International ProStar. I didn't, and neither did most of the drivers. Reason being that most of the MaxxForce engines stayed in the shop once they had some miles on them. I went through seven trucks in seven months, all had that engine.

Transmissions: Automatics are generally Allison, a good name, but not all are created equal. AT545 is what came in most. Basic, weak, and most need attention when they are auctioned off. The MT643 is better, the 2000 is better still, and the MD6030 is a gem. Some of the better ones can be tweaked to get better mileage and perform better through an Easter egg of sorts -- An extra gear hidden in the factory setup.

If you plan on highway cruising, especially mountains, I would skip the AT545-equipped buses, and try to get one with a bigger engine as well, such as the 8.3, DT466. The 5.9, some find to be a little underpowered on hills.

It pays to take your time and research the configuration of any potentials -- It's far easier and cheaper to find a bus better suited to your intended use than to try to make it what you wanted. Remember, these things are 12,000 lb bricks, most of which were built to haul schoolchildren at an average of 25-35 mph, not cruise the interstate at 75 and climb mountains. Also, for mountain driving (if intended) I would highly recommend air brakes and a basic CDL course ( you can learn a lot from your state's Commercial Driver's Manual).

Buses are available all over the country -- be careful when looking at one from the northern half of the country. Rust never sleeps and it has ruined more than one skoolie experience.

One tool that can help greatly in picking a gem or avoiding a headache -- FLUID ANALYSIS. Get samples of the engine oil, coolant, and transmission fluid. Independent analysis of these fluids can reveal whether the bus you're looking at is a good egg or a problem unit.

I would also highly recommend chatting up and befriending a good truck mechanic, they can be indispensable when looking one over. They'll know things to look for that you might not. There are a number of things that those of us here can think of to keep in mind that could happen, but it's best to bring someone who knows what they're looking at, for the reasons we can't think of.

Just my $0.02 (or $2.00, I guess)... Hope all that helps, happy hunting!
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Old 05-07-2020, 09:38 PM   #3
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Keep in mind that...
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleFox View Post
while I am motivated to get it done, I will take the time necessary to do things right.
And:
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleFox View Post
I hope to be full time within a year.
Are conflicting priorities. I'm in a 37'er and am just now finishing up at year 3, when I was hoping for year 1.5. I'm happy with my results, but was pretty disappointed at the time when I had to make that call and accept this time last year just wasn't going to happen.


Good luck.
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Old 05-08-2020, 12:26 AM   #4
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Hey Cheese_Wagon ... you should post that in all of the "Hi I am new here" threads!
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Old 05-08-2020, 07:12 AM   #5
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If you are taking your work/job with you, get a bigger bus than you think you will need. Check the auctions govdeals and public surplus.

Seamless and converting a bus do not go hand and hand. But for me I enjoy a challenge.

I did my built out in about three months so a year is plenty of time.

Smart move going from a sticks and staples RV to a solid steel bus.


Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleFox View Post
Hello from Portland!

My name is Dan and my Partner Dria and I are beginning our journey toward life on the road. We have renovated and lived in a 13' canned ham for two years until we hit black ice in WY in 2018. We have novice experience with most fields involved. I want this build to be as seamless as possible, so, while I am motivated to get it done, I will take the time necessary to do things right. I am lucky to live in this time and have all of your help to make our dream come true.

We are shopping for our bus now (I've called 20 school districts today). We are researching every day. We have a good idea of what we want and are learning more daily.

I hope to be full time within a year. We have a small jewelry and screen printing business we hope to travel with and see the world and meet its people!

Thanks to all the professionals and DIY'ers that take the time to help us achieve our dreams!
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Old 05-08-2020, 11:17 AM   #6
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Thanks for the quick inputs!


CHEESE_WAGON research on the engine/trans has been a focus of mine for these early stages, and your rundown is great, as I hope to work on my bus myself. We will be traveling 100s of miles a week once up and running so a bigger engine and high geared trans will be key. We drive manual cars/trucks exclusively and going to an auto trans is kind of a bummer, but I assumed it was unavoidable due to low availability of manual busses. It sounds like a MT643/2000 or MD6030 is the direction Id want to go. Are those transmissions available in Manual? Also, while handling long highway trips will be a priority, we will be doing some mountain climbing here in the Cascades and through the Rockies (we met and lived in Colorado for 7 years). We have talked about this and would resort to "taking the long way 'round" is there is not a versitile enough option.


kazetsukai it is daunting when considering the massive project that lay ahead, and I hope not to underestimate it. Im sure we wont be entirely finished in a year, but if there is a bed, even a temporary one, in place I would opt to move in after a year and start saving. Our canned ham, Morla, didnt even have propane hooked up when we moved into it. It was 2 months later in the parking lot of a home depot that we finally assembled it and got to ditch the camp stove. Really made us appreciate the convenience of a permanent fixture!




bigskypc50 we will be outfitting our bus with a studio in leau of a dining area/living room. We will have a dinette table off the workbench that can be flipped up to eat or used for extra space while working. We'll use the bed area for chilling and TV. We were thinking 28' - 34' so she could fit in a lot more places. Our master plan involves renting a shop space we could use as a hub for our bigger equipment (4 color manual screen press), and storage unit in the meantime. Most of our shop can fit in a very small space with some organisation. I do wprry about space at times though and wont rule the right full size bus out.


I have been scouring public surplus and govdeals the past month+. It worries me buying sight unseen and those sites have such limited details listed. I called around Oregon school districts yesterday and put in 20 messages to their transportation departments. Only got a lead on one bus in Klamath Falls that was 38' and might go to a sealed bid anyway. Has the recent boost in skoolie popularity made this route unviable? I love the idea of knowing the mechanic that serviced the bus and having all the service records. It just makes more sense to me for the school to sell directly when possible and not pay an auction house.


Thats where I'm* at for now! Hoping for some return calls today on some recent bus retirees!
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Old 05-08-2020, 09:39 PM   #7
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The AT545, MT643, MD6030 and 2000 are all Allison automatics. The manuals in skoolies tended to be 4 speed "granny-low" Spicer boxes in older buses, newer ones used 5 and 6 speeds, manufactured by Eaton-Fuller as far as I know. And yes, manuals are becoming less common, but not impossible to find. Though I think your manuals are pretty much going to be conventional dog-nose lay out. Some of these may be swappable to 10 speed manual Eaton-Fullers from Class 8 trucks if desired, I have seen it done with a Dodge Ram with a Cummins.

The shifting on the 10-speed is much like a 5 speed with a 2-speed differential. You start out with the splitter in low range, shift 1 through 5, then as you are coming from 5th back over to 1st again, you simply move the splitter up to engage the high range, which makes 1-5, 5 -10. I'm sure it would greatly help the fuel economy to some degree, but not sure it is cost effective, given the expense of sourcing one and swapping it. The 10 speed requires double clutching, I am not certain if the older boxes did or not.
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Old 05-09-2020, 05:37 PM   #8
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CHEESE_WAGON sounds like diesel manual is a bit out of my knowledge base, but i could probably learn. I wouldnt swap the engine with my budget. Great info though I will do some looking!

I am looking at a 06 BlueBird C7/2500. There is a report of engine cylinder pressure building in the cooling system though. My research tells me the engine is solid if maintained properly, with the foremost issue usually being the Heui.
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Old 05-09-2020, 07:38 PM   #9
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CHEESE_WAGON sounds like diesel manual is a bit out of my knowledge base, but i could probably learn. I wouldnt swap the engine with my budget. Great info though I will do some looking!

I am looking at a 06 BlueBird C7/2500. There is a report of engine cylinder pressure building in the cooling system though. My research tells me the engine is solid if maintained properly, with the foremost issue usually being the Heui.
Walk away. That puppy's getting ready to blow a head gasket or has cracked a head. Neither are cheap, and can lead to catastrophic failure (coolant can hydro-lock one or more cylinders, which can seriously damage pistons, rods and crankshaft). I understand such issues to be common on the C7 and possibly the 3126.
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Old 05-13-2020, 08:46 PM   #10
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CHEESE_WAGON had a great day crawling under a dozen buses!

They are all 04 Thomas MVP EF W/ CAT 3126/AT2000

The winner for us has 43xxx mi on it!
Unfortunately they have the box HEUI instead of the round top style which I have read is more expensive. Given that the milage is so low and the price is right, we might pull the trigger.

I do hesitate because I have heard of odometers being rolled back. The hours read 6700[20]? With the [20] being white rollers which i assume is minutes? Unless the hours are 67000!?! In which case the odo was definitely rolled back?





Also the tranny pan is drooling a lot with an additional stream coming from one of the lines *at the connection to the pan*. All the tranny pans looked this way. Nothing to worry about? There was a lot less oil, relatively, coming from the oil pan, but still a noticable amount, and some apparently coming from higher than the pan.







The electrical panel had a live-in rodent at some point and severed some wires. I'll have a lot of this pictured, if I can figure out how to attach my photos.



The oil was pretty black on the dipstick, and they have been parked for ~2 years.

They offered a swap for any of the better tire sets on the lot, but most are getting there in age.

New batts come with purchase.

I am bringing a mechanic out tomorrow to look it over, but if y'all advise against the purchase, I would save a couple hundred dollars on the inspection.

We are getting really amped on this bus! It started right up and ran smoothly for around 30 minutes. We couldnt drive it because it was parked in. The oil temp/pressure topped off at 140/40. There is virtually no rust visible. It comes in at the max of our budget for bus purchase, but the specs somewhat justify it and beyond? If I missed anything please hollar! If it sounds like a good bus please also hollar so i can have this electric bus feeling confirmed
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Old 05-13-2020, 09:45 PM   #11
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Let's see ... 43000 miles on 6700 hours is an average of a little over 6 miles per hour. You would have to read the mileage and hours in the engine computer to see what the actual mileage and hours are.


Please tell us more about the oil and transmission leaks. Those could be problems.
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Old 05-13-2020, 09:51 PM   #12
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Fox how much is this bus? With those issues and needing new tires, I would hope it’s less then 2500. Tires will cost that . I have 6900 hours and 127k so it’s been rolled back. If the just the gasket is leaking that is not a big deal you would replace that anyway with a trans pan drop. I think you should maybe ask for all the fluids/filters changed vs tire swap. Rodent damage? I think I would look at a diff until.

Get the thing out on the road before you buy it, do not buy until you drive it just idleing will tell nothing, in fact that much 30mins will damage an engine with fuel wash down
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Old 05-13-2020, 11:00 PM   #13
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Approach "low-mileage" buses with a Public Enemy mentality - as in "Don't Believe The Hype". Low mileage isn't impossible, but cluster failure is quite common in newer buses and often the replacement cluster cannot be set to the correct mileage. If possible, I would highly recommend hooking up with a scan tool to see if the true mileage is recorded in the ECM.
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Old 05-14-2020, 03:41 AM   #14
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Quote:
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CHEESE_WAGON sounds like diesel manual is a bit out of my knowledge base, but i could probably learn. I wouldnt swap the engine with my budget. Great info though I will do some looking!

I am looking at a 06 BlueBird C7/2500. There is a report of engine cylinder pressure building in the cooling system though. My research tells me the engine is solid if maintained properly, with the foremost issue usually being the Heui.
That sounds like it may have a head gasket going out.
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Old 05-14-2020, 03:43 AM   #15
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Walk away. That puppy's getting ready to blow a head gasket or has cracked a head. Neither are cheap, and can lead to catastrophic failure (coolant can hydro-lock one or more cylinders, which can seriously damage pistons, rods and crankshaft). I understand such issues to be common on the C7 and possibly the 3126.
Head gasket failures aren't any more common on the 3126 than they are on a cummins 5.9.
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Old 05-14-2020, 06:59 AM   #16
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Head gasket failures aren't any more common on the 3126 than they are on a cummins 5.9.
Maybe so, but when I hear about this somewhat frequently from various people, that makes it fairly common in my book. Commercial diesel should not have these kinds of problems before 300-400k. Last I checked, Caterpillar was a commercial diesel. Guess it's kind of like the polls we hear about on the news all the time. The percentages truly depend on which people you ask.

Not being a smart-ass or argumentative, mind you, just calling it like I see it. Not saying it doesn't happen, but I've driven many a Detroit DD15 with well over 500k, some over 700k, and I had one DPF replacement, one DEF nozzle replacement, and a fuel tank sender. The 3126 may be a reasonably decent engine in its own right, but it's no 3406.
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Old 05-14-2020, 07:22 AM   #17
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this is how internet myths start.

I've never compared the 3126 to a class 8 engine. Its a parent bore engine, for one. But head gasket issues aren't a specific or widespread problem with them.
The problems they do have are well outlined by adept ape.

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Old 05-14-2020, 08:02 AM   #18
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this is how internet myths start.

I've never compared the 3126 to a class 8 engine.
I'm not necessarily comparing it to a Class 8 offering, either. I'm just saying that some of these newer medium-duty truck offerings aren't necessarily all they're cracked up to be. And in my experience and research, emission-equipped diesels have two fatal flaws.

One, the engine has to run a bit hotter for the exhaust to be hot enough for the DPF to do its thing. This usually means making a smaller engine work harder to generate this heat. Second, from what I understand, the commonly-used DPF arrangement hails from Europe, where commercial diesels have an entirely different set of operating conditions.

European trucks are typically shuttling between common locations less than 200 miles apart, far from the typical 450-600 miles per day that an over-the-road truck runs, and I imagine the DPF system was designed for this type of duty cycle, whereas that type of duty cycle is largely not that common.

As for myths, I stand by my assessment that the truth of a statement generally depends on which people you ask for their experience, and whether you consider those people reliable sources. Or in the words of the late great Bo 'Bandit' Darville, "When you tell somebody something, it depends on what part of the United States you're standing in as to just how dumb you are."

That's not to say anything about anyone in particular, mind you, my point rather is to further reiterate that the truth in a statement tends to depend on how many people have found the aforementioned statement to be true or untrue. And apparently, some have found such issues with the 3126. Guess I just happened to ask the right people to hear it enough that it seems common. Doesn't necessarily mean it is common, just means that I've heard of it a bit more than others.
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Old 05-14-2020, 08:31 AM   #19
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The c7 doesn't have a dpf, man. A rare late S-model c7 would but they're uncommon.
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Old 05-14-2020, 10:41 AM   #20
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The asking price is 5300. If the mileage checks out, i might pay close to that. Ill have 10 trips across the country before we even hit six digits! The tires are a problem. Hopefully I can find good sets to swap in on their lot to swap in that will give me a couple years. We just havent seen buses this clean going for less than 5k. Auctions have been cheaper, but i dont want to buy a bus without looking at it first.



The leaks all seem to be from the oil and transmission fluid pans. The engine bay was pretty dry and nothing apparent on the transmission. The mechanic will answer a lot of these questions, and i will be shadowing them so it will be a learning day fir suuure. I'll have my notebook ready. Hopefully I'll absorb enough to do my own general inspections.
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