Juicy Lucy, where all my hopes and dreams lie
I'm not sure if my bus would be a short bus or a full sized bus, so I figured maybe I'll call it a short bus conversion?
I've lurked around this forum here and there for awhile, but have been too shy since there seems to be such a high quality of work everyone does on their busses. However I figure now is a good time to begin logging my progress.
A little bit about myself: I'm an impulsive idiot who doesn't know what I'm doing most of the time. I don't think things through, and I will frequently abandon a project I start after the boredom kicks in. It's also worth noting, I don't know a lick about carpentry or mechanics.
I bought this bus around November of 2013, I'm ashamed to say that I don't have any of the before pictures, my wife does but she can't get them off icloud. I'll get them on here eventually.
I was trying to explain to a coworker at my old job doing Japanese food sales over lunch about my dream to live inside a bus. I was searching craigslist for buss's to show her and stumbled across an ad with a bus with a deck on the roof, and hardwood inside. Without looking into the engine, transmission, or any other fine details, I drove up to Everett WA and bought this bus for 1700 and a 30 pack of Nattie Ice beer. We all enjoyed a beer while they explained to me how to use the airbrakes and I drove the bus home.
Anyway here are some pictures I took after some work I did around spring of 2014.
Here's a picture my wife took when we took the bus down to the redwoods, there's a funny story to this, but I'll wait until I can get my wife's picture before sharing.
My 2014 Accomplishments
I painted the bus, and leveled the back. (I'll get pictures for you guys soon), the bus was leaking heavily, I did not really resolve this issue for a long time.
My 2015 Accomplishments
I waterproofed the majority of the bus, using a lot of caulk and roof sealent. I have coated the roof with some cheap rustoleum paint from home depot, and stripped out the wall and ceiling insulation.
I'm currently managing a restaurant in Federal way WA, and my boss and I recently negotiated an hour decrease from 62 hour work week down to 54 Hour. To celebrate this, I bought myself a shoplight, angle grinder, and decided to strip the bus down. I have now engaged in a ritual for about 4 days where I come home and get a few hours of work in. Since last Thursday, I have stripped out most of the floors, and I am hoping to tackle the rust within the following week.
My current schedule looks something like so,
February: Complete stripping the bus down as much as possible: Get it as close as possible to a metal box. Clean the rust, and give everything a good scrub.
March: Finish waterproofing (currently about 98%) Insulate the floor of the bus, and reapply new plywood flooring, map out rough living plan.
My first few questions for you guys are:
1. I would like to cover some of the windows with sheet metal, from reading online it seems that 18-20 gauge metal is an acceptable gauge, is this something I can get on this spring? Or is it within my best interest to do this when it's hotter outside?
2. I still can't decide if I should try to replace the bus windows with RV windows, I was thinking about making some sort of insulating covers for the windows with wall insulation that would fold down from somewhere, or maybe just velcro onto the windows, would this provide reasonable insulation assuming I cover the uninsulated space adequately?
I just asked my wife to send me some pictures of the bus today, I hope to update this again before I get off work today.
Question 3: What kind of drillbits and screws do you guys recommend I buy?
edit: question 4: What kind of coating should I put on my floors before I put on my insulation?
Sheetmetal work is best done under warm to hot conditions. If applied cold, it will "oil can" due to expansion the first time it sees warmer temps. You can preheat the metal to about 125* with a heat gun but it does make for tricky handling since you have to get it locked into position before it cools without scorching your fingers.
As for windows, there is no comparison between good RV windows and factory school bus windows. The skoolie versions are just possibly the worst windows ever applied to any moving vehicle. They leak water, air, heat, everything. RV windows are available in snug fitting, double pane safety glass and with a range of heat reducing tints. They ain't cheap, but they will contribute greatly to a more pleasant life down the road.
Nice find BTW. Keep the pix coming.
1. The skinning should conceivably be over empty holes. Remove the existing windows first and then tack the skin into place before welding them shut and achieving, hopefully, watertightness(?). Then, on the inside, install insulation or plywood where the windows were.
2. By all means, keep one or two windows, preferably away from the privacy areas, i.e., bed, bath. That way, you can get some ventilation. Then, some removable insulation, either rigid foam or bubble-type, can be held in place over them using Velcro.
Guys, thank you so much for your advice. Tango, I like the idea of the heatgun, do you think it would be realistic of me to rivet one or two corners in before heating it? Then have my wife stand over me with a heatgun while I go to town?
CaptSquid: I like the idea of keeping one or two windows for ventilation.
I'll may bite the bullet and get some double pane windows, I'm just doing my best to cheat myself out of a better life so I can save money.
The wife just took and sent me these.
edit: I unscrewed the ladder here so I could chuck the wood out the back, (reversing the bus into the driveway at night is really challenging)
The weather is so nice today, I'm going to try and get her to send more.
edit: she sent more
I locked the tools up in the box to the left, that will likely become my temporary/(maybe permanent) battery box in the near future.
I want to remove the rear heater (right) or move it to the front, to remove this I'm just to loop this right? Is this ill advised?
Removing the seat, left console, and ply wood flooring is my project for the next few days, then interior rust (which is not as bad as I thought)
Probably an unnecessary picture, but maybe someone will appreciate it.
Pix no workie, but I did an end-around run and saw the GREEN bus. Suggest the front four windows and the back two windows be left intact.
On your side emergency exit, you can thief-proof it on the inside by a simple method. Inside the bus, the lever on that door is protected by a shield. Drill through that shield AND the inside handle and install a cheap snap-link (looks like a carabiner). Doing this will keep some slugs from opening the door from the outside and on the inside, you STILL have an emergency exit. Oh, make darn sure you insulate that door, too. Even a simple expedient of covering it with plywood will be better than just the bare metal.
I have a really similar locking system for my side emergency door, but it has a metal loop thing that swings over(I'll try and take pix later), however since my front side door (the only one I can unlock from the outside, erm well for the most part) has a mud puddle in front of it, and is kind of inconvenient to access, I decided to take the lock off the front and just put it on the toolbox inside, that way I can go in and out the side door as I please.
I will try and get a few deadbolts sometime soon to secure the bus better. My confidence in installing them, is low but I think if I get a drill and deadbolts I'll figure it out within an hour to a few days.
Tango- I dunno about the heating of sheet metal-never heard of that. I I would think just leaving it in the bus so they are at the same temp when you attach them would be just fine. They ARE going to be same temp forever after that anyways. Why would you want to start out with the rivets under stress?
I just got before pictures of the bus. The people who had the bus before us were really something else, when I see these I wonder why I would ever buy a bus that looked like this. Obviously painting was our top Priority
Note: The people were really nice (if you're reading this, I have nothing against you personally, just your taste). We got the bus with lots of plastic shot glasses and party cups all over, apparently they took the bus up to the mountains and partied up and down. They had a wood furnace they took out, which left me with a huge hole in the roof. I'll show you my shoddy fix for it later, maybe.
After we got it
I called this back corner the "AIDS wall" (is that offensive? I'll probably edit it out later)
I hope you guys enjoy the prior pictures as much as I do, now here's the transformation (late spring of 2014).
My wife led a painting party with my roommates at the time, I won't include pictures of them without their consent and I'm too lazy to ask.
One of my favorite photos of Nana (the wife)
The info I got regarding warming sheetmetal came from two different sources. Once from a trailer builder in Fort Worth (all aluminum) and the second time from an old time rod builder here in Houston (all steel). They both said that panels of sheetmetal, whether steel or aluminum, should be applied only when warmed above ambient temps and that they should be in slight tension. Not too much mind you, just a bit. They recommended tacking or riveting one corner then continuing to apply heat while working out and around from that corner to the opposite one.
My panels will all be welded, so I need to really be careful regarding heat. Too little overall and it will oil can. And too much in any one area will cause serious oil canning and warping. Lots of widely spaced tacks that are slowly filled in is about the only way to avoid it. Riveting is much easier but the bizarre, two piece ribs on my antique were never meant for riveting.
2-23 Late post.
Monday was a rough day, I learned that getting the front panel of plywood out would not be easy - I had a small suspicion/fear regarding this. To get the front panel of plywood out (as most of you probably know) I have to remove the drivers seat, the electrical console(is that what it's called?), and the front heaters. Or at least that's what I assumed I have to do. Luckily Monday I got out early at 6pm and was able to get a head start on this project.
Objective 1: Drivers seat removal: I went at the bolts above like a monkey for about 15 minutes with a socket wrench praying that I wouldn't have to go underneath the bus. Probably for the best, I soon came to peace that I would need to go underneath the bus.
As I was hitting random flooring with the back of my hammer in frustration from lack of progress, I discovered that my bus has a hole in it covered by a piece of steel (which I will call the manhole cover). This manhole cover was great help for me as reference (due to the light shining through to the bottom) to figure out where my drivers seat is. I wrangled my wife Nana outside and she helped me. The first 3 bolts were easy, I went underneath the bus held the bolts as Nana went at it with a socket wrench from above. We also got to pass tools through the manhole which was novel.
The 4th and last bolt was extremely unpleasant, I had a little under 3/4 of an inch to work with and wasn't able to get a good grip on it due to a bunch of bus components blocking any arm path. I probably spent a solid 20 minutes sitting under the bus muttering profanities to myself as my lovely Nana patiently cranked the socket wrench from above. We took a brief break to regroup as I went back and forth between my therapy beer and underneath the bus to brainstorm solutions. I finally was prepared to give up when I came up with this brilliant solution to catch the bolt.
Wrench taped to the car jack stick.
Here's a crappy picture of me using my contraption to secure the bolt from below. karma rewarded my prior efforts favorably, the amount of bus dust that was farted on my face by this point had decreased a bit and I was able to keep a steady eye on my bolt-grip status
Pulling the bus seat out was both satisfying and demoralizing, this bus is now temporarily not drive able(at least safely, I could sit on a bucket I guess) and I felt like I was tearing apart something I loved. There's a piece of steel that looks like the floormat between the hammer, gloves, and crescent city cardboard (this was used for hitchhiking on the redwoods trip, and was kept for sentimental value): This floormat is the manhole cover.
I still have the left seatbelt bolt in tact, but the right one I went ahead and tore the top off with a cutoff wheel, I hope this wasn't a mistake.
Next up my electrical console
As I stared into this rats nest of wires, my heart, soul and body studdered in total fear. I have always been aware that I have no idea what I am doing, but staring at this intimidating pile of wires really demoralized my progress for the night. I finished my beer and invested the rest of my consciousness towards a solution for a clueless guy like me to resolve this electrical insanity.
Captsquid: You were right to lock up the bus, by the end of monday night I had no interest in cleaning up and locking up my tools. I went ahead and latched up the side emergency door
The rear emergency door is pretty comical. It is locked with two i bolts bolted in from inside, on the outside there are two deadlocks locked to each of these i bolts, these two deadlocks are then connected to a bigger deadlock. Of these 3 deadlocks working together to lock the back emergency door, none of which came with keys when I purchased the bus. I just take the contraption on and off based on the context of our situation.
So my old job/one of our vendors for the restaurant occasionally lets me pick through their recycling and take back used label sheets which often have a few labels still on them. Yesterday I printed off a few sheets of labels with everything from "A1, A2, A3" all the way to "T1, T2, T3" I also had "AA" all the way to "ZZ", "11" all the way to "00", and another "A1" to "T3" except highlighted pink incase 20 letters wouldn't be enough.
If this description wasn't confusing or clear enough, here's a screenshot of my word document I made. (it's probably just a waste of space)
Anyway, I went ahead and attached each of these labels to the wires attached to the electrical console in the most systematic order consistent with my instinct I could think of. Meanwhile I had Nana bring in her space heater so she could help me cut apart the labels and record the progress.
Here's some pics of the labels in action
edit: Here's an excel spreadsheet I made to help organize the labels, I ultimately hope to replace my "1" "2" "3" with more productive labels such as "positive, negative, ground", but for now I will leave them as "1,2,3"'s since I barely know what I'm doing. I also grayed out the stuff I don't think I need anymore.
Unfortunately, I didn't realize that the flash kind of ruins a lot of these labels hah!
After 90-120 minutes or so of this I felt pretty relieved to begin separating wire bundles and observing patterns as well and seeing the rats nest lose some density. We even successfuly isolated the "red bundle"! edit: I just gathered that the red Bundle consists of the 1's and 3's of my Left side heaters as well as my Left Defrost. This leads me to believe that the Right heater and the right defrost are also probably bundled.
Here's an after picture. Edit: I forgot to mention, I noticed a lot of my "2" labels stayed latched onto this device, I don't know what this means but I am going to keep this in mind while I google dc electrical systems.
Now for my questions!
I'm hoping you guys can help me label these following parts so I can google what their relevance/function is. (red, pink, and blue) I'm assuming pink is a ground?
Now I am going to try and study some of these pictures and try and provide some clarity for myself.
Tomorrow's my day off so I'm hoping to make some good progress. I'm planning to drain the radiator and get rid of the rear heater and temporarily remove the front heaters so I can get the floor out! I'm also hoping to do some brief studying at home depot.
shopping/future goals related:
I've done a little shopping this week, I traded some junk I had for a drill press and a queen size bed frame. I got myself an old chop saw off craigy's for $55, I got myself some saw horses last night as well for $7 on my way home from work. Unfortunately my house is pretty small so a lot of this is just going to add to the clutter until I make room. I also impulse bought 50ft of 2/0AWG welding cable off ebay for $100ish (probably a waste of money, with some lugs to go with it; 50 ft of 4AWG welding cable with some lugs to go with it. I should have a magnum MMS1012 inverter/charger coming in the mail some time, and I can't remember if I bought a trimetric 2030 yet, so I'm going to wait a week or two to figure out if it comes in the mail. You'd think my bank statements is enough, but my dreams, delusions and reality all mesh together sometimes - the truth can be hard to discern.
Also, I found this mysterious hint that looks like it holds importance.
I am still trying to decipher these hieroglyphics
Since we're on the topic of electrical, it's also worth noting, that my batteries have a disconnect hooked up to them right now (actually I got distracted and never finished hooking them up, the negatives are just disconnected). The bus has a mysterious tendency to turn the stereo on and off repeatedly until the batteries die. It's obnoxious but I'm hoping I will learn enough about electrical to resolve this issue soon. Then I will be able to hook up my house batteries to the bus batteries with an isolator (I think that's how it works?).
Red circle in second to last picture: solenoid that is likely connected to your key switch. this is very important, it is the same thing as a relay if you know how relays work.
Basically when you turn the key to the on position (or start it) it closes a low current circuit that engages the solenoid connecting the high amp current to everything that works while the bus is on.
the solenoid has 4 terminals: one from key, one grounding that; and one from battery, one that is switched to battery when key is turned on. if you wire to the one from the battery, it will always have voltage weather the key is on or not. if you wire to the one that becomes connected to the battery, it will only have voltage when key is switched on
pink circle: likely a previous owner grounding a circuit (or two)
not to sure what the blue circ is.. maybe someone will know by looking
last circle, the equivilent of a breaker box minus the box... they are auto reset 12v breakers that break the circuit when they get too hot, one side of them (all connected by metal bar) is likely connected to that solenoid, the other side is where all of the circuits take off from
Blue circle-right side--flasher?
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