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Old 04-09-2021, 03:53 AM   #1
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Towing a bus with tow bar

Hello out there! I am in need of some advice on 4 down or flat towing my 1967 International school bus. I have a tow bar and a ton and half truck, but am needing to know several different things:
1) can it be towed with a tow bar?
If so...
2) do I need to drop the driveshaft?
3) Can trailer be applied to air brakes?

ANY input on this being done would be greatly appreciated!

ANY photos of it being done would also be great!

Thanks!
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Old 04-09-2021, 05:38 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iHCoolBus View Post
Hello out there! I am in need of some advice on 4 down or flat towing my 1967 International school bus. I have a tow bar and a ton and half truck, but am needing to know several different things:
1) can it be towed with a tow bar?
If so...
2) do I need to drop the driveshaft?
3) Can trailer be applied to air brakes?

ANY input on this being done would be greatly appreciated!

ANY photos of it being done would also be great!

Thanks!
Can it be flat towed with a towbar, absolutely. There's a number of people who export buses. They pair them together and drive down to the border. That said, much consideration must go into ensuring this can be done safely.

The drive shaft or axle shafts must be pulled, otherwise the transmission will be destroyed very quickly. Even manual transmissions in semis are disconnected for long distance travel. For long distances, if pulling the axle shafts, then it's highly recommend a block off plate be installed to keep lubricant in the wheel bearings.

Secure the steering wheel with ratchet straps to keep the bus from wandering behind you.

What exactly is a ton and a half truck? What's its towing capacity? How heavy is the bus? Double check that rating on the tow bar as well. Another critical thing is that the bus as a whole must be road worthy enough to be towed. How long as the bus been sitting?

Stopping the bus is going to be another important matter. The towing vehicle sounds likely to be much lighter than bus. Throwing a gas powered air compressor in the bed of the truck and plumbing it into the bus's air system and using a remote braking box designed for flat towing operations is perhaps the easiest solution. However the gas compressor will be very noisy and the bus's brakes are going to have to be in decent condition to prevent loss of control.
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Old 04-09-2021, 09:05 AM   #3
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“Can it be flat towed with a towbar, absolutely. There's a number of people who export buses. They pair them together and drive down to the border. That said, much consideration must go into ensuring this can be done safely.”

I live on the highway where these idiots do this. First they are over length. 2 buses 37 foot long plus the towbar is well over 65 feet. Brakes? They cage the Maxi’s don’t tie off the wheel and take off. And NM State Police ignore them. If I did this I’d be stopped with in 5 miles. Late one night I was coming home from Hobbs and I passed one that had a pickup being towed behind the last bus. 100 foot load. Just don’t follow their example. What you want to do can be safe if you do it right. Can you tell us more as to why you need to tow it and how far you need to go?
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Old 04-09-2021, 10:09 AM   #4
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I'm going to assume that you bought said 1967 IH bus non-running and are moving it off it's current location to another property to do the restoration/conversion.

You CAN damn near flat tow any vehicle, buses included. As others have said it is done frequently by exporters. It's not legal for various reasons, one being length, another being gvw, but they're not stopped or harassed because the officer(s) don't want the paper work/headache. You'll likely fall in the same boat and won't be paid attention to. But if you are stopped, be prepared for the consequences.

I've flat towed buses before that were dead on the road a few miles from the shop, so it's definitely doable.

If I was in your shoes and was only going a couple miles with it, I'd drop the driveshaft, check the tires and bearings, and tow away. Take your time with it, don't cause an accident, and don't do it during rush hour traffic, and you'll likely be fine. But I would definitely not recommend anyone else to do this, and doing so you're assuming all risks involved.

If it's anything more then a few miles, call a wrecker and have them do it.
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Old 04-09-2021, 10:57 AM   #5
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This is not advice. But we do have a Brake Buddy "Vantage Select" unit which we've used and been quite happy with, for tows of a reasonable distance. Our tow vehicle, a Freightliner FL60, has a protected air connection which supplies air to the towed bus brake system...through a check valve, so if they separate the towed bus retains air in its system. The Brake Buddy has a breakaway switch, which would apply the bus brakes in the event they were to separate. Since this unit actually presses on the brake pedal, it also worked with a hydraulic brake bus we bought.

We only do this when we're comfortable with the condition of the bus and the tow distance, and even then we go slow and stop often.

We bought our unit as a refurbished unit for about a grand. It's a legacy model which I don't think they sell new now, but they have other versions and the Vantages are still available on ebay I think.

https://www.brakebuddy.com/vantage-select.html

I will freely admit that I found this system after towing a bus home from just 5 miles away, on slow speed (35 mph posted) paved and dirt roads using a lighter vehicle than the Freightliner. Feeling the bus inertia (or is that momentum here?) pushing from the rear really puckered me right up...even at about 15 mph. I learned from my mistake, thankfully without damage or injury.
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Old 04-09-2021, 04:34 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by s2mikon View Post
ďCan it be flat towed with a towbar, absolutely. There's a number of people who export buses. They pair them together and drive down to the border. That said, much consideration must go into ensuring this can be done safely.Ē

I live on the highway where these idiots do this. First they are over length. 2 buses 37 foot long plus the towbar is well over 65 feet. Brakes? They cage the Maxiís donít tie off the wheel and take off. And NM State Police ignore them. If I did this Iíd be stopped with in 5 miles. Late one night I was coming home from Hobbs and I passed one that had a pickup being towed behind the last bus. 100 foot load. Just donít follow their example. What you want to do can be safe if you do it right. Can you tell us more as to why you need to tow it and how far you need to go?
I must admit I was not aware this was not legal, not that ignorance of the law is a valid excuse either.
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Old 04-09-2021, 04:41 PM   #7
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The brakes are the big thing. In NM any vehicle being towed with a towbar over 3500 pounds must have an auxiliary brake system with brake away activation. Most states have something like that now. It just varies by weight.
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Old 04-09-2021, 06:13 PM   #8
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You can flat tow a bus, yes... but not with a pickup, dually or not, on the highway... It is suicide! You won't stop it at 50 mph!

Too much weight and since the bus has air brakes and a pickup truck does not, you will have no braking power to the towed unit! ... SUICIDE !

Back in the '80's my dad and I exported busses to central america, we drove them to Honduras.
On one trip we had a twin screw R model Mack with a 300hp Mack engine.

Going up the hills in Guatemala and Honduras... first or second gear only!
coming back down the hills... first gear only... SUICIDE !!!
We actually had to hire a guy to sit in the bus and apply the foot brake when we gave him the hand signal. It worked, we lived another day!

We didn't flat tow that one though, we put the front axle up on the frame of the Mack and towed it like a trailer so we had an air line from the tractor to the bus.

If your going on flat land, real slow and it's an emergency...ok.
If your going more than a mile or two, not really worth the risk.

If I was gonna flat tow a bus I would make sure the pulling unit is strong and stable enough to handle the weight at highway speeds.

Also on a flat tow, you can't tie down the steering wheel. The front wheels MUST be able to turn otherwise the bus won't turn any corners.
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Old 04-09-2021, 06:14 PM   #9
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Also technically any towed unit or trailing unit over 10k pounds is supposed to fall under commercial driver's license but that's another one that seems to go under the radar a lot because I see plenty of contractors pulling heavy-@$$ trailers with no USDOT identity on them. RVs are almost always exception since it's not commercial even though by size they should be classified as such. Even if the federal government excepts them some states require RV owners of larger classes take a supplemental driving course and then they get some state specific non-CDL endorsement on their license.
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Old 04-09-2021, 10:12 PM   #10
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I've seen both "tie the steering wheel" and "keep the steering wheel free" messages, both here and in towing "guides"...and I'm firmly in the keep the steering wheel free camp.

The caster (having the axle behind the steer pivot/kingpin) keeps the wheels tracking when moving forward. If you tie the steering wheel to prevent the wheels from tracking, they will stay straight when you turn a corner. One of two things will happen...either you'll scrub the front wheels of the bus and drag the front sideways...or...more likely, the bus being towed will continue straight and push the end of the lighter tow vehicle around. On one tow, this happened to me at about 3 miles an hour going around a corner. The steering box was stiff and didn't allow the bus wheels to turn, so the bus continued straight and pushed the end of my vehicle around until the left rear corner crunched against the bus bumper. I ended up having to take the pitman arm off to allow me to tow her the rest of the way.

I learn lots of things the hard way...
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Old 04-10-2021, 09:49 PM   #11
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As a follow up to my post, above, here's a photo of the minor...but annoying...damage. Like I said, this was just a 3 mph turn. The sad bit is that I didn't take my Freightliner, because this was a small bus. But it pushed the rear end of my Expedition right around as I took a slow corner. I ended up parking it in a dirt lot and returning a few days later to get it with the Freightliner. And...sadly...this was just two weeks ago. I should know better!

photo_2021-04-10 19.35.11.jpeg
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Old 04-11-2021, 09:54 AM   #12
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Yup. The only time the steering wheel should be locked or tied down is when the tow vehicle uses a wheel lift or when the tow vehicle is a dolly.

I tow my Toad 4 down and always stop to check how it is tracking a few hundred yards after each hook-up. On one occasion I absentmindedly pulled the key out of the ignition and the steering wheel lock engaged locking the front wheels in a slight turn position. I couldn't feel it at all in the bus so it was lucky I checked. I removed the wheel lock from the column so it can't happen again--and it means I don't have to leave the key in the ignition for every wannabe car thief to see.
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Old 04-14-2021, 03:19 PM   #13
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Towing a 8- 10,000lb bus with a 6,000lb pick up? No way. The bus will push the tail of the pick up around corners and jack knife the whole affair.
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Old 04-23-2021, 07:20 PM   #14
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Tow complete

So we have successfully gotten our bus to it's destination to begin the conversion. Although we had to shell out some cash to have it towed the rest of the way due to a mechanical issue on the tow vehicle we did have a successful tow for the first hundred miles. Thanks to all of the folks who provided such valuable input. This community rocks!
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