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Old 01-02-2021, 05:07 PM   #1
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2019
Location: Rhode Island
Posts: 144
Year: 2002
Chassis: Ford e450
Engine: 7.3 Powerstroke
Bus at mechanic for 2 months!

Hey all, I am wondering if anyone has any thoughts on this situation I have with my bus. While I had it inspected before purchase, and the mechanic found only a couple minor issues, I wanted it looked over again before going any further with the conversion, gone over thoroughly to make sure I'm building on a solid platform.
So, I took it to a mechanic that's also a salvage yard, recommended by another mechanic who didn't have time but said this guy will be affordable and honest.
He said he would look it over and give me, if necessary, a checklist of what would need to be fixed and cost.
That was about two months ago. I guess I made the mistake of saying it's not my everyday driver. He seems very nice, and every time I call, about every couple weeks, he says it's imminent. I now see it's in the front of their shop.
What do I do? I really want to get going, and imagine this guy would make any repairs for a fair price. What might I say to him?
Thank you so much.
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Old 01-02-2021, 06:19 PM   #2
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my first thought

Your idea of a "fair price" might be a mechanics idea of "working for not much of nuthin"

I can make more in a day doing brakes, timing belts, exhausts and CV joints, than I can doing clutch jobs or chasing electrical problems..... I have cars lined up for two weeks in advance..... I never catch up.

Like many here in the US we have more demand than we have supply for mechanics. Means we pay more for good ones, If they will even take the time to do it. A good mechanic in his own shop, I think can gross $800 to $1000 a day in labor charges. 8 hours of work on your bus... $800 bucks in labor...

you get the idea. I am sorry you are having a hard time. I am in the same boat. I am having a rotten time getting my bus back inside so I can work on it. I could rent a shop but that is going to cost $1000 a month. Then I have to move the bus by tow truck .then I have to move all the tools, then I have to move all supplies. Then I have to spend all the time there. It is a bum deal. I am looking at places to buy so that I can have a space to work on busses. But so far I figure $150,000 to do that. As a business. But then I have to get folks to come in for that can and will pay for the work. I invest $150,000 of my own money, I am not going to charge $50 an hour.....


good luck. I hope you can get the work done soon.

Go find another place that can work on it...... where do other busses get repaired?

william
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Old 01-02-2021, 06:20 PM   #3
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tell him that it is getting urgent for you to get your bus back if he could get it looked at soon would be a huge help for you..



or if you dont have time to look at it anytime soon, may I come and pick it up?
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Old 01-02-2021, 07:41 PM   #4
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What CadillacKid said, but in person.

Kind and gentle squeaky wheel.

My guy is also backed up.

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Old 01-02-2021, 09:42 PM   #5
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I agree it's a crummy situation, but I wholeheartedly agree with mk, no one wants to hear 'fair price' because that usually means 'whatever *I* think is fair, not what your time is worth'.

However, seeing as it is now in front of the shop, what's another couple days at this point? It could be the guy wants to give it a full day with no distractions to go over it.

If it's not inside being gone over in a couple days, then I imagine some query might be in order.

But a few things to remember with most situations, especially repairs...

1) Fast, cheap, and good -- you get to pick two, not all three. Fast and good won't be cheap, fast and cheap won't be good, cheap and good won't be fast.

2) You either want it done right, or you want it done right now. The two don't mix. Basically a reiteration of #1.

3) Put yourself in the other guy's shoes. Boss comes to you and asks you to work for half an hour's labor, or 2/3 your usual salary. Maybe even work a special project off the clock. That's more or less what a mechanic hears when you say 'fair price'.

4) Time is money. If yours is worth something, everyone else's is too. Guy might take more time and charge a little more than expected, but they could find something minor that if left unchecked can blow the engine. And that can be worth its weight in gold, just like some say my safety inspection checklist thread is. 30 minutes looking over your bus prior to travel can prevent a lot of small problems from becoming expensive ones. I've heard of a certain $4 part (forget which one it is) that can destroy a 7.3 if it goes bad and isn't caught.
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Old 01-02-2021, 10:29 PM   #6
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Thank you so much. Just to clarify, we did not discuss his labor fee. I didn't ask him to work for a low rate. Just I was told he's reasonable. We discussed him going over it, telling me what needs to be done to make it road worthy, and cost estimates. And from talking to him about where I'd brought it right before him, which was to the local school bus mechanic, he said, 'Well, that's like bringing it to the union guy. Then there's...us.'

(By which I think he meant one, that guy would give a big cost estimate, two, a school bus mechanic would tell me to run from any medium to major issue that could actually be fixed as he keeps his school buses in tip top shape? That school bus guy had kind of given it a half look over, told me it needs injectors without actually testing or confirming that it needs them (it starts roughly and is hard to power from first to second), then because of that told me to find another bus and that I could nab one on craigslist for $1,500...despite the fact that this one has so much going for it, rust free, 7.3 powerstroke, lowish miles). Hence the second opinion.

Going in person and saying it is urgent and that it would be a huge help sounds like a very good idea. Also, I hadn't thought to ask other people around here with buses where they go. This is in Rhode Island, I don't know any local skoolies personally but will hunt online. If anyone knows someone I'd love to know.

And yes, I expected to not have it done quickly, but hopefully well done and at reasonable cost. Guess that's what I got. But now it's just been so long. Don't wanna just go pick it up and feel like two months were wasted.

Do you think offering to pay higher than his usual labor rate would offend or not work?

I'm also just worried, as it's also a scrap yard, that things are being taken out of it, but I guess can do without that beach chair I sit in inside when taking a break from pulling up the floor.

Thanks for that safety checklist Cheese Wagon! Mine is a 7.3, so, very helpful to have and hopefully go over once I have my bus back!
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Old 01-02-2021, 11:59 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awilder View Post
And from talking to him about where I'd brought it right before him, which was to the local school bus mechanic, he said, 'Well, that's like bringing it to the union guy. Then there's...us.' (By which I think he meant one, that guy would give a big cost estimate, two, a school bus mechanic would tell me to run from any medium to major issue that could actually be fixed as he keeps his school buses in tip top shape?

I'm also just worried, as it's also a scrap yard, that things are being taken out of it, but I guess can do without that beach chair I sit in inside when taking a break from pulling up the floor.

Thanks for that safety checklist Cheese Wagon! Mine is a 7.3, so, very helpful to have and hopefully go over once I have my bus back!
Pilfering can be a valid concern, be sure to note anything missing. There are other threads referenced in my sig that can also be helpful... Good luck!
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Old 01-03-2021, 01:49 AM   #8
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At my shop my guys have to generate $1000 billable a day or I am not making money. We charge $140 an hour and pay the tech $200.00 a day $1000 billable is like 2 complete brake jobs or a complete brake job and shocks etc. every vehicle in my parking lot is costing me money because the longer it sits there the slower the flow of vehicles. I am also liable for any vehicle in my possession the longer I have it the more risk of getting dinged or damaged. I suspect most serious shops operate like I do. There are a lot of talented guys out there who just can’t get stuff done, I don’t envy their customers. There is fast, good quality and cheap, generally speaking you can get two out of the three.
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Old 01-03-2021, 02:56 AM   #9
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How about telling the shop owner that you'd like to get working on the interior so you would like to have the bus back. Tell him he can contact you when he gets time to examine it for you and you will bring it right on over.
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Old 01-03-2021, 08:02 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awilder View Post
Do you think offering to pay higher than his usual labor rate would offend or not work?
If a mechanic is offended by being prompted to work on a bus they've had for two months, you might be better off taking it elsewhere.
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Old 01-03-2021, 08:41 AM   #11
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I might also add that anything even based on a van is not very high up on a mechanic's list of favorite vehicles to work on. Even oil changes are a royal beyatch because accessibility is limited in these platforms.
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Old 01-03-2021, 08:30 PM   #12
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2019
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
How about telling the shop owner that you'd like to get working on the interior so you would like to have the bus back. Tell him he can contact you when he gets time to examine it for you and you will bring it right on over.
Thanks, Native, the thing is this bus may become a tool shed and not my home depending on what's discovered and the repair costs (jk on the tool shed..?). Or, are you saying to say that in order to get him to just go ahead and work on it so I don't bring it back?

musigenesis, you're right, I may be tiptoeing around with this too much.

CHEESE_WAGON, definitely understood, he made it very clear to me this was going to be a PINA, because of what you said and because he can't fit it in his shop so won't work on it when it's raining. Sigh...Full size busses look more and more appealing.
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Old 01-04-2021, 01:03 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awilder View Post
Thanks, Native, the thing is this bus may become a tool shed and not my home depending on what's discovered and the repair costs (jk on the tool shed..?). Or, are you saying to say that in order to get him to just go ahead and work on it so I don't bring it back?
Right ... use it as a gentle means of urging him to work on it. Most shop owners know that if you remove it from his property, the odds of it returning are low. So if he really want to work on it, the gentle pressure might get him moving.


Anyway, I thought all he was doing is taking a look at it. Two months is WAY too long to have it on his property just to look it over.


Just my 2 cents.
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Old 01-04-2021, 01:36 AM   #14
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Sounds to me like procrastination. Maybe he reallly doesn’t want to work on it? Or else he figures there’s no money in it?

If he’s moved it, did he do so to work on it or to make room for something else?

I think I’d just go say hi, see how things are going, try to size it up. No presure. See if you think it’s going to happen or not.
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Old 01-06-2021, 08:50 AM   #15
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2019
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Posts: 144
Year: 2002
Chassis: Ford e450
Engine: 7.3 Powerstroke
I called the mechanic yesterday. Would have gone in person but am out of state at the moment. As he always is, he was very nice on the phone. Said he replaced the oil pressure sensor, which he had on hand, hasn't checked yet if that will help the rough start and 'skip'. I went with advice on here and told him it was more urgent now, that my living situation has become stickier and I need to start making moves with this bus or another. Asked if I should come pick it up to work more on the interior and bring it back to him. He said no, no to that idea, and that he would get this done (the bus gone through and a checklist/estimates made to have it pass inspection and road worthy) by this weekend. Admitted he's dragged me along for too long.
We shall see!
Thanks for all your thoughts!
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Old 01-13-2021, 04:30 PM   #16
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FWIW I just had some work done on my bus, full fluid and filter service, fixed a couple fuel leaks, replaced a sticky throttle cable, brake service, etc. I was thinking a few days, took 3 weeks and north of $3k. I'm happy it's done, but now kind of wishing I did it myself.
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Old 01-13-2021, 06:11 PM   #17
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Our bus sat at the shop for a month waiting for parts from Blue Bird. It was excruciating waiting that long but it was worth it. We made sure not to give the shop a hard time. Their costs were already fair; far lower than I expected for a commercial vehicle repair shop in our area.

What helped was talking through the repair with them and comparing things we've noticed and things they've noticed. We were open and honest on both sides because t the end of the day, this is our vehicle we're trusting our safety to. The shop reciprocated that honest attitude and didn't try any BS. They were also upfront that Bluebird is tough to get parts from for older vehicles. The actual labor was only 10 hours but the parts took 3.5 weeks to arrive from Bluebird direct.

We were grateful and gracious for the shop's willingness to cooperate because we both knew it was costing them money to babysit our bus for a month when that same lot space could have been used for dozens of other vehicles that could have been repaired the same day. They weren't obligated to be bothered by our 20 year old niche vehicle and could have just kicked us to the curb to find someone else to do the work. It's all about perspective.


The other thing about bus conversions people always mention on this forum is, in most cases your bus is going to need repairs when you first get it. It's not going to be cheap and it may take a while to get it fixed but it will be worth it in the end.
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Old 01-13-2021, 07:48 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awilder View Post
Said he replaced the oil pressure sensor, which he had on hand, hasn't checked yet if that will help the rough start and 'skip'.
That has nothing to do with the rough start and skip. It may be you need an oil pressure sensor, but it won't affect it starting or running.


It sounds to me like he doesn't really know how to attack the problem. Remember, junk-yard mechanics take things apart. They don't do diagnostics.



Likely, the injectors like the first guy said would be the problem. I don't know of any way to "test" them, but if someone does, let it be known. Or maybe it could be the high-pressure pump. It ain't cheap to fix.



I was told once that my truck would be in the shop for a week to replace the front A-arm bushings that press into the frame. I didn't care if it would take 1 week or 10. I just needed to know so I could make plans with my other vehicle - I wasn't going to start that if my truck came back in a week; but if it would be 2 or more, I could finish the other project.


Two weeks later he told me the back wheel's brakes were seized, and they couldn't move it to work on it. These guys are mechanics? I showed up on Sat. and broke it free.


Five weeks into waiting, I towed it out of there, around the corner to another shop. Two days later I picked it up and paid them $150 in green paper cash for 2 hours labor.


Really, if I was you, I'd look for another shop.
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Old 01-13-2021, 10:28 PM   #19
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Run

Google school bus pre trip inspection and "look over it" yourself.
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Old 01-14-2021, 10:32 AM   #20
Skoolie
 
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My original mechanic specialized in bigger trucks mostly government service trucks. I had to wait 2 months to have all 6 brake lines replaced and some other stuff so my bus would be driveable. I didn't mind waiting because I knew the local fire truck was in good shape. I asked if I could work on the inside while I waiting until they had time. They moved it over to the corner where I would not be in the way. And I started cleaning. After getting stuff fixed I drove across the street to get all tires replaced. While it was there they removed the homemade bumper for free because they said they could use the pieces. I kept in touch with all the mechanics weekly and stopped by to look at my bus weekly (without taking up any time with the mechanics).
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