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Old 01-09-2018, 07:48 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Grants Pass, Oregon
Posts: 41
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC/2000
Engine: 5.9l Cummins
Rated Cap: 72 - 27800
Willamina checking in

Introducing Willamina - A 1991 Bluebird with a Cummins 5.9l/Allison 545 216,000 on the clock. Yesterday was spent at the DMV and she is now registered and ready to start her retirement officially as an RV.

I've never bought anything that didn't turn out to be a crazy bag of snakes and I'm fully expecting this to be the same but here we go anyway.

So far my only concern is the tranny. Automatics scare me (I'm a mechanic by trade, but I work exclusively on racecars I have never worked on a bus) and this one seems to have a few issues. I'll jump under it today and see about dropping the pan for a service, hopefully that helps. It will shift into high gear but it seems like it doesn't like to. Also, the tranny got pretty hot coming up the driveway, I hope I didn't do any damage there.

Phase I - remove seats, service tranny, order snow socks and figure out how I'm not going to freeze to death when I head to the ski hill in this thing.

Eventually - Full coach conversion

What have I gotten myself into this time
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Old 01-09-2018, 07:50 AM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Grants Pass, Oregon
Posts: 41
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC/2000
Engine: 5.9l Cummins
Rated Cap: 72 - 27800
Can someone tell me what model this is? I can't find it on any of the body tags or paperwork but the insurance company wants to know
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Old 01-09-2018, 08:05 AM   #3
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Eustis FLORIDA
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Year: 1999
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freighliner FS65
Engine: Cat 3126
Rated Cap: 15
Looks like a Bluebird TC2000.

The trans puts a lot of heat into the cooling system. No lockup TC so there's a lot of friction.
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Old 01-09-2018, 08:55 AM   #4
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Coachwork: 97 Bluebird TC1000 5.9
Good to see more OR folks on here.

Nice looking bus.
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Old 01-09-2018, 09:44 AM   #5
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Year: 1991
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Chassis: TC/2000
Engine: 5.9l Cummins
Rated Cap: 72 - 27800
Ah sweet, thanks guys! Great to see a guru is in the area

I really appreciate this site, you guys are gonna come in handy

I always get terrible buyers remorse after a purchase, there were so many buses to choose from. I stayed awake all night thinking I should've bought one of the slightly newer Thomas/cummins buses they had. I really just liked the cockpit a little better on this one I think. I have absolutely no reasoning behind why I fell in love with this one. It has a sort of classic look that I like maybe and I remember riding on one as a kid, you can't forget the sideways stairs. Our school also had an All American and the bus drivers all fight over who got to drive that one. I would hear about it because my friends mom was a bus driver and for a long time drove a bus like Willamina. They didn't have any AA's for sale

I hope my tranny is ok. Any idea how much a rebuild sets you back?
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Old 01-09-2018, 09:49 AM   #6
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A lot of folks start looking into upgrading instead of spending money on another at545.
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Old 01-09-2018, 10:00 AM   #7
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The 545 is adequate, but most complain about it's free wheeling while going down long hills. It's like a bicycle going down a long hill. You easily get going to fast and have to use the brakes to slow down.

It's expensive to change transmissions, and upgrading will cost a little more. It's reportedly worth it.
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Old 01-09-2018, 10:08 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Robin97396 View Post
The 545 is adequate, but most complain about it's free wheeling while going down long hills. It's like a bicycle going down a long hill. You easily get going to fast and have to use the brakes to slow down.

It's expensive to change transmissions, and upgrading will cost a little more. It's reportedly worth it.
It freewheels down hills, and slips and creates heat going up them.
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Old 01-09-2018, 10:16 AM   #9
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Location: Houston, Texas
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Year: 1946
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Engine: Cummins 4BT
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All of the above...and Welcome BTW --- The AT545's are rapidly becoming dinosaur boat anchors but don't feel bad. They are still everywhere it seems. But as previously noted, they are sorely lacking in several areas. No lockup means excess heat, no engine braking on hills, and their age now has them on most folks Most Unwaneted list. Some truck facilities are no longer even servicing them.

Good news is, an upgrade can be accomplished to a newer tranny with lockup and more gears. Bad news is, like most bus related things...it ain't cheap. And given that your motor is all mechanical (pre 1995), adapting a later (electronic) tranny can be tricky. They have to talk to each other and getting the conversation going takes some know how. Best bet for now is to read as many build threads on this forum as you can. This issue has been addressed numerous times and there are folks here who can help with the particulars.

I'm not saying a transplant is absolutely necessary...just something that definitely needs to be looked into.
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Old 01-09-2018, 10:21 AM   #10
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Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Grants Pass, Oregon
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Year: 1991
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC/2000
Engine: 5.9l Cummins
Rated Cap: 72 - 27800
thanks for the info guys



...bought a bag of crazy snakes again
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Old 01-09-2018, 10:21 AM   #11
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Join Date: May 2009
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Year: 1991
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Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
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I did a transplant...AT545 => allison 1000.. Lots of work and some $$ but wow!! my bus runs like a CHAMP now!!!

-Christopher
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Old 01-09-2018, 10:25 AM   #12
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I am currently doing a 545 to 643 swap. Waiting on the transmission as we speak. Got a remain from International dealer for about 2500. You could find for less online, but I wanted a warranty. I should have it Thursday or so and the actual swap should be fairly easy as I'm at a shop and they have all the tools...

John

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Old 01-09-2018, 10:40 AM   #13
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Grants Pass, Oregon
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Year: 1991
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC/2000
Engine: 5.9l Cummins
Rated Cap: 72 - 27800
Lots of good info, I'd be into a swap.

Reading Christopher's thread on the 1000 swap right now, hopefully theres an option with a little less electrical wizardry.
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Old 01-09-2018, 11:18 AM   #14
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Rated Cap: 46 Coach Seats, 40 foot
Go to the Blue Bird website, and then to the "Vantage" link.

Put the VIN # in and it will tell you more about the bus, incl. the model.
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Old 01-09-2018, 12:27 PM   #15
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Grants Pass, Oregon
Posts: 41
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC/2000
Engine: 5.9l Cummins
Rated Cap: 72 - 27800
Quote:
Originally Posted by Twigg View Post
Go to the Blue Bird website, and then to the "Vantage" link.

Put the VIN # in and it will tell you more about the bus, incl. the model.
It comes up but there's almost no information on my bus
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Old 01-09-2018, 01:33 PM   #16
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Bag O' Snek

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thanks for the info guys



...bought a bag of crazy snakes again

bag snek.jpg


Bag O' Snek
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Old 01-09-2018, 04:13 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Enrico Carini View Post
It comes up but there's almost no information on my bus
Yeah... I just noticed that you have a '91. They have less info for 92 and earlier.

Contact Blue Bird and see if they still have the original build sheet.
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Old 01-09-2018, 09:52 PM   #18
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Grants Pass, Oregon
Posts: 41
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC/2000
Engine: 5.9l Cummins
Rated Cap: 72 - 27800
Quote:
Originally Posted by Twigg View Post
Yeah... I just noticed that you have a '91. They have less info for 92 and earlier.

Contact Blue Bird and see if they still have the original build sheet.
will do.


Well, there is one thing I've noticed during my transition into a bus mechanic: Everything on a bus is overtightened, I hate that.

The tranny dipstick was leaking at the bottom and someone put silicone on it but as you might guess, that effort was futile. I got it off and I'll see if it can be fixed or if I need a new one. I found lots of parts online including a complete rebuild kit for the 545 for around $500

My trans has a remote filter (NAPA 1268 ) and it was only $8 to replace. I assume this thing has a tranny cooler of some kind?

Anyone know how to pop the center cap off the steering wheel? I don't want to break it, it's old.
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Old 01-09-2018, 10:00 PM   #19
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Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Owasso, OK
Posts: 2,627
Year: 1999
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Chassis: Saf-T-Liner MVP ER
Engine: Cummins 6CTA8.3 Mechanical MD3060
Rated Cap: 46 Coach Seats, 40 foot
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enrico Carini View Post
will do.


Well, there is one thing I've noticed during my transition into a bus mechanic: Everything on a bus is overtightened, I hate that.
I'm not sure about "over-tightened". The torque specs for some nuts are very high, but they are usually related to the diameter of the bolt, and there are some very large bolts.

Lug nuts ... 500 ft lb. Outrageous compared with a car, but have you seen the size of the studs ... Some suspension components are specc'd at 1000 ft lb.

Everything is just bigger and you are not shifting those things without a torque-multiplier ... Cheater bars will just break your expensive socket handles.

So I guess at some point I'll invest $200 or so on a torque multiplier and another $50 0r $60 on one for the lug nuts. Then all the tools I already have will work.
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Old 01-09-2018, 10:39 PM   #20
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Grants Pass, Oregon
Posts: 41
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: TC/2000
Engine: 5.9l Cummins
Rated Cap: 72 - 27800
Quote:
Originally Posted by Twigg View Post
I'm not sure about "over-tightened". The torque specs for some nuts are very high, but they are usually related to the diameter of the bolt, and there are some very large bolts.

Lug nuts ... 500 ft lb. Outrageous compared with a car, but have you seen the size of the studs ... Some suspension components are specc'd at 1000 ft lb.

Everything is just bigger and you are not shifting those things without a torque-multiplier ... Cheater bars will just break your expensive socket handles.

So I guess at some point I'll invest $200 or so on a torque multiplier and another $50 0r $60 on one for the lug nuts. Then all the tools I already have will work.
So far I've only taken off the dipstick tube, drained the pan and taken off some Phillips head screws. The screws looked innocent enough but required an Impact driver to remove. There's no reason I should've needed such a giant cheater bar (or any at all) for the tranny drain bolt, which is no bigger than one found on any other automatic transmission I've seen. Whoever put that in last was a banana. I know better than to go at anything suspension related with my tiny racecar tools. I'll have to buy some giant air tools soon I'm sure.
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