School Bus Conversion Resources

School Bus Conversion Resources (
-   Short-Bus Conversion Projects (
-   -   Our Dove: ShortBus - Chevy 3500 6.5L Diesel (

abremer 11-14-2019 09:15 AM

Our Dove: ShortBus - Chevy 3500 6.5L Diesel
I've posted a few topics here in the recent past but this will be my main thread for our conversion. We live just south of Tulsa, Oklahoma and we bought a 2000 Chevy 3500 short bus with a 6.5L Diesel and it has 189,000 on it. It also is a dually and the tires look brand new with great looking tread. The date on the tires is 3/2016.

We removed the wheelchair lift and just yesterday we got most of the plywood floor removed. My wife Robin is helping me and we are both super excited about this skoolie craze. We seem to always be watching youtube conversion videos and hardly watch movies anymore.

We get really caught up in the conversion phase but I am mostly concerned about the engine and making sure it's running good. I am totally new to diesel engines so I'm trying to learn all I can about our 6.5. I already know about re-routing the PMD and changing the Lift pump. I guess the first thing I need to do is to change my oil and fuel filter. I'll have to learn how to do that cause I'm not even sure where they are just yet.

It has always started for me except for yesterday when it was below freezing. I checked the battery and it read 12 volts but it would hardly turn over. Then, after awhile I remembered that diesels have a block heater so I looked around for a plug and found one dangling just below the engine ahead of the drivers side tire. I plugged it in and tried to start it again after about 1/2 an hour and it still acted the same way, barely turning over. How long does it take for a block heater to warm up enough to start it in the cold? Maybe it doesn't work and I need to test it?

Getting back to what we've done so far. We removed all the seats, the wheelchair lift, the heater, the side stop sign assembly and now we are just about done removing the plywood floor. Let me discuss our adventures with our floor removal.

Since our short bus was designed for the handicap, it wasn't full of seats. Nearly half the back was empty and on the floor were a bunch of special types of flat brackets with open grooves in them. They were each bolted to the floor by way of 4 carriage bolts. The bus probably had about a dozen of them. I thought my first step was to grind the top of those bolts off and simply remove the brackets and the bolts would drop out of the bottom of the bus onto the ground, nope! Carriage bolts have a square below their head so they'll not turn and that square will remain after grinding. The square head won't go through the round floor hole. So I sprayed all the nuts underneath the bus with Blaster and simply unscrewed them that way.

Next it was time to unscrew all the trim around the edges and use a pry bar to remove all the plywood flooring. At first I thought I could get away with just keeping all the old rubber and plywood floor and just lay the wood down on that hoping that the floor wasn't rotted too bad. No way, our floor was wet like crazy, totally rotten. You could feel that the floor was a little soft when you walked on it but I didn't expect it to be that bad. We even found a grub in the wood. I guess water gets in from the bottom and also by way of any tiny leaks over the years and just stays in the wood and can't evaporate.

You can't just pry up the rotted floor and call it a day. The plywood was screwed down to the metal floor with a bunch of Phillips head screws. Most of them were really stubborn to remove and I had to hammer them a little bit and spray them with Blaster in order to loosen them.

So, I've never read this yet but I guess rule number one in any bus conversion it to ALWAYS tear up the plywood floor (unless it's basically brand new). Am I right?

We are now just about finished getting all the wood up off the floor. When we reached the drivers seat and stair section, the wood was not as rotten and today we are tackling that section. It's harder to pry up the pieces of wood that are not rotten, it's best to remove the rubber to get at the screws and remove them and then do the prying.

I take a lot of videos and pictures and will be posting them as soon as I upload them to their proper places.

abremer 11-14-2019 10:43 AM

I wanted to ask another question about my wheel wells: Do they also have plywood around them or can I leave the rubber and trim on them?

TheArgobus 11-16-2019 12:17 PM

Congrats on getting the bus. Definitely post some pictures, and no questions are too stupid (I've asked my fair share early on).

In my unprofessional opinion, the reason we convert busses instead of buying RVs is to make it as high quality, luxurious, and awesome as possible. It's a lot of work (seriously... I'm 1.5 years in and only just installed seats/seatbelts) but most of it is only a one time thing. So it would really suck to not pull out the rotting floor or the ceiling and leave the stock insulation, only to finish your build in a year and then after cruising around for a while, wish you would've cleaned it up before hand. The insulation is the biggest thing here, as with all the windows you'll need as much insulation as you can get. So not only should you rip up the floor and replace with proper insulation and a plywood base, you should also rip out the walls/ceiling/insulation and replace it with proper high quality materials.

This is just my opinion I'm sure others disagree.

Also for the wheel well, it's kinda hard to answer your question without pics, but my wheel wells were simply sheet metal with no insulation or plywood or rubber. I kinda wish I would've shaved them down a bit to get extra storage, but oh well.

Truthseeker4449 11-16-2019 12:40 PM

Is it cranking consistently, just won't actually fire up? Or is barely turning over at all?

You appear to make it sound like it is the latter. It's very common on GMs to have the battery terminals come loose and corrode. Poor connection will drastically cut the power making it to the starter. Give the battery cables a good, strong wiggle, they should not move. Loose or not, remove the cables and check the ends for corrosion and clean as required.

You mentioned battery as in just one. There should be a second battery under the bus, most likely on the right hand frame rail. You need to check that one too.

I had a 6.5 for a while with a bad injection pump and it had no problems cranking in the cold without the block heater. It would take a lot of cranking before it would actually fire and run. That wasn't so much because it was cold tho, it was because the pump was shot and the truck wasn't worth the cost of the pump.

abremer 11-25-2019 09:50 AM

More Progress...
Have been working on the bus every chance I get. Trying to get ready for its first long trip to Florida - it'll be over a couple thousand miles. I've got 18 full days total to paint it, put a floor in it, walls, a seat, a bench/table, and what ever else I can do within that time.
I've changed the oil and oil filter, re-routed the pmd (6.5L Diesel), am about 1/2 way done with the floor, removed the wheel chair lift. I have decided to keep the upper A/C unit in the back and also to keep the heater. I removed the door mechanisms and that created a lot of room. I was trying to think of a way to open and close those doors without the long handle rod but then just decided to put it back in after I do the floor.
Here is a pic of my relocated PMD:

abremer 11-25-2019 10:08 AM

More pics...
Had to tape my engines 'dog house' and I added regular aluminum foil. I used Gorilla tape:
Here's my fuel filter that I have to change (it's actually called a Fuel/Water Seperator):
It has brand new tires with great tread (3 years old):
Roof will be prepped and painted:
Removed our wheel chair lift:
Also changed my serpentine belt:

abremer 11-27-2019 08:57 AM

A little further progress...
About the A/C under bus 'massive' unit: Our bus has a Carrier Model CM-3 air conditioning unit that we have decided to keep in our conversion process. That massive unit is held under the bus by 6 long carriage bolts that were put in through the plywood floor. Weird thing is, the bus is a year 2000 bus but the Carrier A/C unit under the bus has a manufacturing date stamped on it of 5/18/2005 so either the original one failed or they added a new unit after the fact?
Anyway, after we removed the plywood from the floor, those carriage bolts were loose because the plywood they were bolted through no longer existed. So I removed each bolt individually and put washers under them and re-tightened them.
We also laid down our 2nd sheet of 4x8 1/2" plywood down over the wheel wells. I'll also be insulating and covering the wheel wells with plywood.
I've got a ton of pictures and videos that I'll be adding to threads and to my photo gallery here so stay in tune (standard tuning or open tuning, don't matter).

abremer 12-04-2019 08:01 AM

Started Walls...
Wall studs going up.

abremer 12-08-2019 05:37 AM

Painted our Bus...
Painted our bus:

Frochevy 12-08-2019 05:27 PM

Looking good! What type of paint did you go with?

My sister live in Beggs,OK South of Tulsa... We were just down there for Thanksgiving...

abremer 12-08-2019 05:36 PM

We did a very fast job, rolled it on. Used Rust-oleum High Performance Protective Enamel Oil-Based 'Safety Red'. Also, Rust-oleum was the white paint. We only painted high enough with the white to blend to the existing white. It took us about 8 hours. I kind of had no choice and had to paint it quick that day. It may have been the last 70 degree day here in Oklahoma for awhile due to winter setting in, didn't want to paint when it was real cold. I also scuffed up the yellow with 120 and scotch-bright before we painted. It took me and Robin about 7 hours and it went into the night with flashlight. I definitely have to do some touch up this week.

abremer 12-10-2019 04:10 PM

Solar Mounting Problems...
I've decided to use uni-strut to mount my solar panels on top of my short bus. Would any of you have comments or suggestions or more importantly, instructions, about how to drill, bolt, or screw through the ribs to support my panels using uni-strut, bolts, brackets, etc.? I guess it would be wrong to drill straight through the ribs and use bolts with washers and nuts coming through on the inside of my ceiling.

o1marc 12-10-2019 05:32 PM


Originally Posted by abremer (Post 363076)
I've decided to use uni-strut to mount my solar panels on top of my short bus. Would any of you have comments or suggestions or more importantly, instructions, about how to drill, bolt, or screw through the ribs to support my panels using uni-strut, bolts, brackets, etc.? I guess it would be wrong to drill straight through the ribs and use bolts with washers and nuts coming through on the inside of my ceiling.

Threaded inserts. since the rib is hollow on the outside, drill through the flange for more thickness to attach, but can be inserted through the bus skin in the hollow of the rib.
IMHO unit strut is easy to work with, but I'd use something much lighter that would equal the job. I am using 1' aluminum angle to attach the panels to.

abremer 01-06-2020 11:48 AM

First Bus Trip
First Long Bus Trip Results:
(12/24/2019 to 12/29/2019)

Went from Oklahoma to Florida for the holidays and here are the results:
Total Mileage: 2,891
Total Diesel Gallons: 202
Total Diesel Fuel Cost: $582.91
Average Price per Gallon of Diesel Fuel: $2.88 (highest was in North Florida)
Average Bus MPG: 13.14

abremer 01-06-2020 07:41 PM

Solar Panels Mounted...
Finished mounting my solar panels. Two Renogy 250 Watt 24 Volt system. I used superstrut/unistrut to mount them. I can also remove center struts, add long struts, and then tilt them when I like.

abremer 01-07-2020 08:01 PM

Solar Installed Today...
Solar under short bus bed. Not totally finished just yet but I have all the main components in and working. I plan to enclose the batteries in a box and drill a vent hole to the outside.
I have two 250 watt panels on the roof, four 6 volt Trojan 105's, Midnite Solar Kid 30amp charge controller, Aims 2000 watt inverter/charger, a shunt with monitor, 30 amp fuse, 150 amp breaker, and a battery disconnect switch all in a 24 volt system.

abremer 01-13-2020 08:21 AM

Ceiling in...
Monday - January 13th, 2020
Got the ceiling in now. I didn't insulate, I just screwed the bead boards to the ribs. Next step is to create the bathroom walls, door, shower, and compost toilet area. I'm going to use corrugated tin for the shower walls.

Frochevy 01-13-2020 09:11 AM

That looks great!! I like how you wrapped it down onto the walls.

abremer 01-15-2020 10:47 AM

Bathroom Walls...
Wednesday - January 15th, 2020

Thanks for the compliment FroChevy!
I'm starting to do the bathroom walls and door. It's just about 3' x 3', pretty big for a short bus skoolie. Here's some pics:

Frochevy 01-15-2020 10:53 AM

I'll be starting to frame my bathroom in as soon as I get sheet metal welded in where the windows were! I don't think mine will be 3' wide since I have 4 seats across the aisle...

Are you having a sink in the bathroom or just a kitchen sink?

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:14 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.