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Old 08-24-2018, 05:43 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Florida
Posts: 26
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Vista
Engine: T444e
End of the Road

Hi all,

A friend and I started our Skoolie adventure in March of this year, but sadly it is now coming to an end.

We bought a 1998 Florida Spec International Thomas Vista with the T444e, about 185k miles on the clock, with all kinds of goodies you didn't usually see on FL buses at that time. It was a solid bus that at the time just needed some TLC.

Our maintenance progress thus far:
New belts
Oil Service
New fuel & oil filters
A variety of replaced light bulbs
New fuel pump
Water-proofed the entire roof
New power steering hoses
A new battery
New thermostat
Replaced and fixed several components to the air brake system

We ripped all the seats, wheelchair tie downs, rubber floor, and plywood out of the 72 passenger Vista, sanded all the nails down, cleaned the floor and treated the entire bus with Corroseal, then plugged all the old bolt holes from the seats.

We were about to get to the fun part of building the inside.

Recently, while idling the bus for a few minutes to mess with the AC system, we noticed a milky white fluid coming out from the engine. After shutting the bus off, we've found out that the T444e has a blown head gasket or has cracked altogether. The coolant is mixing within the oil, so the bus is pretty much ruined. I've been quoted around $3,500 for a rebuild or replacement, which just isn't worth it. We could get a newer bus for that much or less. While we are glad this happened before the inside is finished, we are sad that this will be the end of the road for us. This community has been very helpful, and I've learned a lot more mechanic wise than I though I could. This will not be our last Skoolie, but this will be the end of the road for now. Enjoy the road while you can and treat your buses well.

Now comes the depressing part of trying to sell a bus with a bad engine
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Old 08-24-2018, 06:17 PM   #2
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Year: 1999
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Engine: DT466/3060
Rated Cap: 77
I'd try and get a definitive answer on what the issue is before throwing in the towel. If it's as simple as a head gasket., it might be worth saving. I don't envy you trying to sell it with a bad motor. I'm looking at a couple of buses that have been on CL for months now, because they don't run. Offered at $1300 and $1500 and no one wants them, nice buses, non running motor.
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Old 08-24-2018, 07:20 PM   #3
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Year: 1999
Coachwork: American Cargo 14'L x 7'8"W x 7'H Box
Chassis: Ford E350 Cutaway
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Rated Cap: 11500 lbs
Quote:
Originally Posted by e90bmw View Post
Hi all,

A friend and I started our Skoolie adventure in March of this year, but sadly it is now coming to an end.

We bought a 1998 Florida Spec International Thomas Vista with the T444e, about 185k miles on the clock, with all kinds of goodies you didn't usually see on FL buses at that time. It was a solid bus that at the time just needed some TLC.

Our maintenance progress thus far:
New belts
Oil Service
New fuel & oil filters
A variety of replaced light bulbs
New fuel pump
Water-proofed the entire roof
New power steering hoses
A new battery
New thermostat
Replaced and fixed several components to the air brake system

We ripped all the seats, wheelchair tie downs, rubber floor, and plywood out of the 72 passenger Vista, sanded all the nails down, cleaned the floor and treated the entire bus with Corroseal, then plugged all the old bolt holes from the seats.

We were about to get to the fun part of building the inside.

Recently, while idling the bus for a few minutes to mess with the AC system, we noticed a milky white fluid coming out from the engine. After shutting the bus off, we've found out that the T444e has a blown head gasket or has cracked altogether. The coolant is mixing within the oil, so the bus is pretty much ruined. I've been quoted around $3,500 for a rebuild or replacement, which just isn't worth it. We could get a newer bus for that much or less. While we are glad this happened before the inside is finished, we are sad that this will be the end of the road for us. This community has been very helpful, and I've learned a lot more mechanic wise than I though I could. This will not be our last Skoolie, but this will be the end of the road for now. Enjoy the road while you can and treat your buses well.

Now comes the depressing part of trying to sell a bus with a bad engine
What transmission model is in the bus?
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Old 08-24-2018, 10:12 PM   #4
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Join Date: May 2018
Location: topeka kansas
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Year: 1954
Coachwork: wayne
Chassis: old f500- new 2005 f-450
Engine: cummins 12 valve
Rated Cap: 20? five rows of 4?
hey! hold up there a moment!

Do you think you could keep building and save to buy another bus that has a good engine? or do you think you could build and take apart that engine and make repairs? options......

how many would come down and help do an engine swap. or do cylinder heads?

william
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Old 08-25-2018, 05:07 AM   #5
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I sure would not stop just because of engine trouble. Head gasket is not a big deal. Even if the engine is ruined( i do not think so) another junkyard engine should be easy enough to find.

Where in Florida? I do come down to central Florida once or twice a year.
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Old 08-25-2018, 07:19 AM   #6
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Join Date: Dec 2015
Location: pa
Posts: 1,609
Year: 98
Coachwork: 1. Corbeil & 2. Thomas
Chassis: 1 ford e350 2 mercedes
Engine: 7.3 powerstroke & MBE906
Why not a leaking oil cooler? Was the oil contaminated the first time you changed it?. Head gasket should give you white smoke. What kind of coolant was in when you bought it? The 444te is electronic so it would have a codes for overheating.
Same as 7.3 power strokes. Or at least similar enough. Those are now not expensive and easy available. They are also more easy to turn the power up.

Good luck
J
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Old 08-25-2018, 07:40 AM   #7
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Posts: 1,609
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Engine: 7.3 powerstroke & MBE906
Sorry. I did not see your other thread about the same subject. Forget about my suggestion.

Good luck.
J
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Old 08-25-2018, 08:53 AM   #8
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 12,821
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
the oil cooler is a somewhat common issue on these to leak.. and its an external part, easy to take off and have checked out on the 444E.. witr ha blown headgasket you normally have some type of driveability issue.. a mixx in a cylinder, white smoke, hydro locking (engine starts to crank.. then makes a thunk.. and wont turn over till you feather the key), constant over-heating, boiling coolant out of the coolant overflow..



all common signs of head or head gasket failure..
-Christopher
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Old 09-08-2018, 05:07 PM   #9
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Do a little more research before you give up on the bus. The oil pan should come off relatively easy. Refill radiator and pressurize system. You could easily see if water was coming around pistons or liners or running down oil passages from top of engine. Even if you put a couple grand in the repairs, you would have a little piece of mind over the condition of the engine...…..You have the seats out and floor done. That's the hard part in my book....
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Old 09-10-2018, 11:10 AM   #10
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Posts: 17
I may be able to help

Where are you located in Florida? PM me...u had a similar problem with my bus and its repaired now. Don't throw in the towel!!
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Old 09-10-2018, 11:25 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Moq145 View Post
Where are you located in Florida? PM me...u had a similar problem with my bus and its repaired now. Don't throw in the towel!!
What did you find as the problem? How expensive were the repairs? Or did you do them yourself? Thanks Tailgate
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Old 09-10-2018, 01:10 PM   #12
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Mine ended up being the oil cooler leaking. It was leaking water into the oil and I was able to fix it myself......a lot of work but I'd say only ended up costing me about $450.00 including new oil, oil filter, water filter, antifreeze and a whole lotta time!e Please let me know if I can help you, I'm located in a small town outside of central Florida called Howey in the Hills and my build sounds very similar to yours.
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Old 01-03-2019, 10:14 AM   #13
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Florida
Posts: 26
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Vista
Engine: T444e
Quote:
Originally Posted by alpine44 View Post
What transmission model is in the bus?
It has an AT545

Quote:
Originally Posted by magnakansas View Post
Do you think you could keep building and save to buy another bus that has a good engine? or do you think you could build and take apart that engine and make repairs? options......

how many would come down and help do an engine swap. or do cylinder heads?

We ended up selling the bus, buyer also believed the head was cracked.

william
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronnie View Post
I sure would not stop just because of engine trouble. Head gasket is not a big deal. Even if the engine is ruined( i do not think so) another junkyard engine should be easy enough to find.

Where in Florida? I do come down to central Florida once or twice a year.
Bus was in Keystone. We ended up selling it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tailgate View Post
Do a little more research before you give up on the bus. The oil pan should come off relatively easy. Refill radiator and pressurize system. You could easily see if water was coming around pistons or liners or running down oil passages from top of engine. Even if you put a couple grand in the repairs, you would have a little piece of mind over the condition of the engine...Ö..You have the seats out and floor done. That's the hard part in my book....
We decided to sell it. The day we sold it and drove it to the tow truck, coolant started pouring in to the cabin from under the driver's seat bubbling up from somewhere in the floor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moq145 View Post
Where are you located in Florida? PM me...u had a similar problem with my bus and its repaired now. Don't throw in the towel!!
Bus was in Keystone and has been sold.
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Old 01-03-2019, 10:16 AM   #14
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Florida
Posts: 26
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Vista
Engine: T444e
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moq145 View Post
Mine ended up being the oil cooler leaking. It was leaking water into the oil and I was able to fix it myself......a lot of work but I'd say only ended up costing me about $450.00 including new oil, oil filter, water filter, antifreeze and a whole lotta time!e Please let me know if I can help you, I'm located in a small town outside of central Florida called Howey in the Hills and my build sounds very similar to yours.
We ended up selling the bus. The day we sold it and drove it to the tow truck, along with the milky white fluid running down the back of the valley, coolant started pouring in to the inside of the bus from the floor somewhere under the driver's seat. Thanks for the offer though.
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Old 01-03-2019, 11:00 AM   #15
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Location: Virginia
Posts: 1,487
Year: 1971
Coachwork: Wayne
Chassis: International Loadstar 1700
Engine: 345 international V-8
Sorry to hear that. Hope you find something else.

We just had two pistons give up on ours. So pulling the engine and trans. Picking up a dumptruck for the engine tomorrow.
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Old 01-03-2019, 11:05 AM   #16
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
Posts: 12,821
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
def sounds like that 444 had a bad head gasket... it fired into the water jacket and probably blew open a heater hose or heater core inside the bus from the pressure.. too much pressure and volume for the radiator cap to release so it busted a hose most likely.. .. ive seen that scenerio more than once on a diesel...



unusual for the 444 to blow head gaskets, massive overheat conditions will do that to them though... the computer wouldve indicated if it had ever been over-temped majorly
-Christopher
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Old 01-03-2019, 03:00 PM   #17
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Florida
Posts: 26
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Vista
Engine: T444e
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronnie View Post
Sorry to hear that. Hope you find something else.

We just had two pistons give up on ours. So pulling the engine and trans. Picking up a dumptruck for the engine tomorrow.
Sorry to hear that, good luck with the repair/replacement! We are considering going with a different motor if/when we get back in to the game. I like Florida spec buses, but most districts here have historically had International motors (at least the ones old enough to come up for auction). Freightliner Caterpillar motors are starting to come up more often, and I've heard better things about Caterpillar.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
def sounds like that 444 had a bad head gasket... it fired into the water jacket and probably blew open a heater hose or heater core inside the bus from the pressure.. too much pressure and volume for the radiator cap to release so it busted a hose most likely.. .. ive seen that scenerio more than once on a diesel...



unusual for the 444 to blow head gaskets, massive overheat conditions will do that to them though... the computer wouldve indicated if it had ever been over-temped majorly
-Christopher
Thanks for the info, pretty likely that this is what happened with ours. We never had the bus overheat on us or give us any type of warning lights while we had it. It really didn't go anywhere. Aside from a two and a half hour drive home the night we got it, all it's other trips consisted of a half hour drive around town a couple times a month to keep everything in good order after we would work on it every other weekend. Was pretty bummed when I went outside and saw the milky fluid leak for the first time. Even with the head issue, it started right up each time I showed it to a potential buyer and would even move under it's own power and idle. It didn't want to quit. It was a good bus the short time we had it, just sad we never got to take it on a trip. We were about to start the inside which was really the home stretch after everything else we did to it. Learned a lot in the process so I treat it as a learning process, I've made peace with my Vista
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Old 01-03-2019, 03:22 PM   #18
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Join Date: May 2009
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Year: 1991
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Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
that 444e was a pretty easy engine to fix issues on... if it were mine id have torn it down and fixed it.. esp if I already had a good bit of the conversion done.. is its new owner going to fix it or is it headed off to the scrap heap?
-Christopher
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Old 01-04-2019, 11:21 PM   #19
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Florida
Posts: 26
Year: 1998
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Vista
Engine: T444e
Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
that 444e was a pretty easy engine to fix issues on... if it were mine id have torn it down and fixed it.. esp if I already had a good bit of the conversion done.. is its new owner going to fix it or is it headed off to the scrap heap?
-Christopher
We are pretty handy, but Iím afraid we arenít that handy. The bus lived about 45 mins away from me and I could only work on it every other weekend because of work, so the idea of an engine rebuild just didnít seem possible. The buyer had it towed home. He said he was going to try to get it back on the road to pick up hauls from things won at public auctions, and if he couldnít get it road worthy, use it as a storage container for the things he did win at those auctions.
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Old 01-05-2019, 10:02 AM   #20
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Sad to see a dead Vista. We're looking to sell ours soon (as soon as the weather cooperates enough to give it a good cleaning!) but it's been a really great bus for us! We just don't need 2 buses so a fond farewell is in order.
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