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Old 04-14-2021, 05:12 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Refridgerated Truck (Reefer)

Hi,

I went to see a bus and the fellow offered me a 26 foot reefer in great condition. Is there a reason why no one seems to convert these since it is already insulated, flat floor (no seats to remove) with no corners. 96" high x 102" wide. Higher off the ground.

Just wondering!
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Old 04-14-2021, 07:51 AM   #2
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I'd love a 26' long reefer. I'd enjoy it with my morning coffee.

Some trailers are pretty flexible, that may be a consideration.
There's a guy that shows up to skoolie meetups in a converted cabover with a semi trailer.
The idea of the toterhome is an old one, but not sure what kind of trailer would be best to use.
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Old 04-14-2021, 08:33 AM   #3
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main reason alot of people dont like trailers is the fact a family cant legally ride in a trailer.. a motorhome makes it easy for a family to spread out rather than be cramped in the seats of whatever the toter is.



ive often wondered why people dont convert Reefers.. heck if the reefer is still with it you have some potentially good parts for building a custom generator and it is after all air-conditioned
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Old 04-14-2021, 08:46 AM   #4
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It is not a trailer. It is a 2005 Freightliner business class M2 106 with reefer box.
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Old 04-14-2021, 03:37 PM   #5
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Fantastic!

So long as you're comfortable handling a real truck and all that entails

all passengers in the front while rolling as stated

Quite possible while driving you'll get stopped by DOT and LEO querying your non-commercial usage

get registration shows a clear "motorhome" tag designation should help.

Heavy rig won't be fuel efficient but that's obvious

at least no worries highway gearing, shoot straight up the rockies without slowing down since you'll always be "empty".

Would tow a big boat too!

Personally I'd try to rig the ability to drop the living pod and drive away

but a rollback / tiltbed / flatbed would be better for that
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Old 04-14-2021, 04:05 PM   #6
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A big-rig reefer truck has the same kind of downsides as a big school bus, but not as many, so yeah not a bad choice. Better is a smaller one. I got a Ford E350 reefer box van, great start for a DIY motorhome.
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Old 04-14-2021, 04:17 PM   #7
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Old 04-14-2021, 06:09 PM   #8
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At first glance it does seem like a reefer is even more ideal than a school bus for RV conversion but it's not without it's own obstacles and headaches, as have already been mentioned. I'll point out that while it is reasonably well insulated, by the time it hits the used market that insulation is probably moldy/mildewy from a decade or two of thermal cycling, washouts, and extreme duty conditions. No doubt you'll still want to gut the interior skin and replace that mess!

Also a refrigerated unit is not the same beast as an air conditioner so if you're thinking, "Sweet! Ice cold air!" think again. On these reefer trucks the unit is also usually driven by the engine so you'd have to idle the truck to have air. Reefer trailers have that larger head unit which has its own small diesel engine to drive the unit but I cannot ever recall seeing a box truck unit that's stand-alone operation. That's not to say you couldn't rig something up with a small generator but at what point were you just better off going with the convention of a rooftop unit.

Retitling could be problematic. I'm sure many motor vehicle departments are familiar with skoolie conversion but a box truck turned RV is much more exotic. Either they'll be lost how to proceed or they'll need lots of validation. I know in Indiana there's a form and a state police officer has to physically do an inspection of the vehicle to confirm it conforms to the proposed new title as an RV.

Center of gravity could be a factor as a box truck rides higher than a school bus. However, in an RV situation I would imagine all the weighty stuff is low anyways. If it were me I'd be building side boxes and packing water tanks and generator and batteries and so forth at the frame level so that kind of resolves that concern.

Passenger capacity and comfort in the truck cab will be very minimalist. If you get creative and start cutting a passage between the cab and living area I'm not sure that's really going to 'cut it' in terms of calling it one continuous living space like a class A or class C RV... At least I can't foresee someone signing off on that. Therefore passengers in the box while in motion, nope. Also, honestly, those box bodies are not durable at all. If you've ever seen a box truck rollover accident it's usually a cloud of debris and freight strewn everywhere. Safety and survivability is one of the biggest selling points for the skoolie movement!

Just my $0.02
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Old 04-14-2021, 07:19 PM   #9
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reefer engines are noisy and some use vacuum cooling which would be a bit dangerous to air breathers plan on some changes
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Old 04-14-2021, 07:32 PM   #10
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Thanks for all the feedback.

I would not use the reefer unit for cooling the box. I would remove it.
We are only 2 and I would install a side entrance. Passage through is not important to us.
As far as accidents it will not be loaded like a normal truck load.
Retitling here is not a problem here in Canada I checked.
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Old 04-15-2021, 08:27 AM   #11
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People go with school buses because the passenger compartment is overbuilt and extremely robust compared to an RV, and you typically can purchase a school bus pretty cheap. A box truck/refer truck won't have the robustness of a bus body, and they're typically double or more then what a school bus costs. 20 year old buses can be had for 2-5k, a 20 year old box truck is around 10k. Heck even the boxes themselves are worth 2-3k, as I was looking for one to park my lawn tractor in.

But, if you can get it for cheap, I don't see why it wouldn't work and do what you want. It'd be similar to the people converting uhaul moving vans/trucks. I'd definitely gut it for the reasons others have pointed out. But I see no issue in using one for a conversion.
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Old 04-15-2021, 09:24 AM   #12
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Yes the whole premise is based on finding one that's great value for money in the first place.

For arctic or tropical conditions, the tight high R-value insulated straight box design gives an excellent foundation.

But you lose the Electric Kool-Aid charm element for sure.

The Vermont rego path helps for difficult 'Murican states. . .
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Old 04-15-2021, 10:16 AM   #13
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What is vacuum cooling , tried to Google it but no hits.

Thanks johan
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Old 04-22-2021, 11:18 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben3361 View Post
Hi,

I went to see a bus and the fellow offered me a 26 foot reefer in great condition. Is there a reason why no one seems to convert these since it is already insulated, flat floor (no seats to remove) with no corners. 96" high x 102" wide. Higher off the ground.

Just wondering!
They make great tiny homes on wheels. Ruth and I li ed in a 16 foot box truck for a year before upgrading to a 40 foot bus. We eyed a couple of reefer trucks but got such a good deal on our bus. Go for it.
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Old 04-22-2021, 12:56 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post
What is vacuum cooling , tried to Google it but no hits.

Thanks johan
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_cooling

Since reefer trucks are generally associated with perishable food transport, this wiki link should pretty fully explain what is vacuum cooling or evaporative cooling. Hopefully then the reason it would be unsuitable for living in will be apparent.
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Old 04-22-2021, 03:56 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sehnsucht View Post
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_cooling

Since reefer trucks are generally associated with perishable food transport, this wiki link should pretty fully explain what is vacuum cooling or evaporative cooling. Hopefully then the reason it would be unsuitable for living in will be apparent.
I see nothing there making apparent it is not suitable for a DIY motorhome.
Are kids throwing up in school buses an issue to you?
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Old 04-22-2021, 06:18 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sehnsucht View Post
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_cooling

Since reefer trucks are generally associated with perishable food transport, this wiki link should pretty fully explain what is vacuum cooling or evaporative cooling. Hopefully then the reason it would be unsuitable for living in will be apparent.
I wonder just how large the vacuum pump is for this sorta thing, I wouldn't regard the average box truck as being air tight even with plug doors, especially after a couple dings and rips.
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Old 04-22-2021, 07:20 PM   #18
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Just to be clear. I would buy the reefer box truck but I would not use the refrigerating unit, I would remove it!
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Old 04-22-2021, 10:19 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Truthseeker4449 View Post
I wouldn't regard the average box truck as being air tight even with plug doors, especially after a couple dings and rips.
Yes of course mods needed for controlled ventilation, otherwise will grow mould from the condensation.
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Old 04-28-2021, 01:07 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Ben3361 View Post
It is not a trailer. It is a 2005 Freightliner business class M2 106 with reefer box.
Considering that you don't need extra passenger space I think a reefer or box truck would make a great conversion.

Overall height will be a factor in some campgrounds but there are a ton of upsides in terms of building a comfortable living area.

Once the refrigerating engine is gone it would be easy to build an extension out over the cab (like on a camper) and slope it as a wind fairing to help with fuel mileage. This would make a bunch more storage space or a sleeping area for not much effort.

You get to put your windows where you want them and you have tons of head room.

As previously mentioned you get lots of space under the floor for tanks and storage lockers, maybe a generator.

My focus would be on the drive train. What condition is it in? What is the expected mileage left in this engine? If you have been following skoolie for a while you will be familiar with the problems endemic to engines since about 2004. These problems are not confined to school buses. Before you determine if the drive train is suitable you need to have some idea of how many miles you intend to drive it. Your best value is not determined by the buying price, repairs are the killer. You are looking at a lot of truck and if it has 100,000 km of service life left in it that should be reflected in the price.
I would definitely be hiring an experienced, qualified truck mechanic to check this rig out.

Oh ya, one more teensy detail, do ya like driving buses and big rigs?
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