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tomrasdf 03-28-2021 03:54 PM

Inspecting an '06 Thomas 40' Puller - guidance/opinions?
 
1 Attachment(s)
We've got our eyes on an 84 passenger 2006 Thomas, FE, C7 w/ a MD3060 from TN with just shy of 65k miles.

Asking price is just north of $11k, which seems on the high side unless it turns out to be completely gremlin-free into the future.

Realistically, I'm expecting to be ~$20k-$25k in before we have a bus on which we'd be comfortable beginning our conversion.

This would be the object of a 1+yr conversion into a home for a family of 6+ for the foreseeable future, and (we think) this configuration checks all the boxes in terms of space/power.

We are technical novices, fully aware that we have a TON to learn.

Would love to hear anyone's thoughts on:
Are we on-target / off-the-mark in terms this config being appropriate for our needs?

We're planning an in-person inspection this week (ideally with the help of a mechanic from a local diesel repair shop). What would you expect to see in order to justify paying >$10k for this bus?

Oscar1 03-28-2021 05:03 PM

Hello and welcome
Yes that price is somewhat ambitious on the sellers part. This is a low headroom bus so unless you are planning a roof raise you will likely not be very happy with this bus as a fulltime home build platform. Underbody storage is a nice bonus worth a few $$$ and a bit of time to add to a build. If that bus was in perfect condition, low miles, rust free, good tires and I was planning a roof raise I'd still think that price was high. That mileage seems pretty low so I'd be looking for a replaced dash and pull the hours from the computer to be sure.
Good luck

Oscar

tomrasdf 03-28-2021 05:29 PM

Thanks -

Definitely planning on the roof raise.

tomrasdf 04-01-2021 11:46 AM

Had the opportunity to inspect the bus yesterday with a mechanic.
  • Bus is in excellent shape structurally
  • Appears to have been very well maintained with zero rust
  • Tires at ~65%
  • New alternator & batteries
  • Engine fired up just fine; no red flags at idle
  • Actual miles 127k
  • 9,500 engine hours
  • Signs of oil leak from engine (video linked below). The mechanic said there was no evidence of oil streaming behind the engine, it was likely a valve cover gasket leak, which should not be a deal-breaker

I'll be heading back next week (or so) to give it a test drive.

My questions:
  1. What would be your biggest concern about the oil in the engine bay (i.e., what land-mines might I be stepping on buying this bus)?
  2. What's the most I should pay for this bus?

24 sec video of engine bay:
https://youtu.be/3MOJY-_kHKA

o1marc 04-01-2021 06:02 PM

To me that bus is worth half the asking price. It has potential epa gremlins. :whistling:

o1marc 04-01-2021 06:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Oscar1 (Post 432607)
Hello and welcome
Yes that price is somewhat ambitious on the sellers part. This is a low headroom bus so unless you are planning a roof raise you will likely not be very happy with this bus as a fulltime home build platform. Underbody storage is a nice bonus worth a few $$$ and a bit of time to add to a build. If that bus was in perfect condition, low miles, rust free, good tires and I was planning a roof raise I'd still think that price was high. That mileage seems pretty low so I'd be looking for a replaced dash and pull the hours from the computer to be sure.
Good luck

Oscar

School bus usually sees 10k a year, that bus is right on that schedule (13y-127K) I would not be concerned that this has had a speedo change, unless the speedo shows 65k.

Simplicity 04-01-2021 10:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by tomrasdf (Post 433141)
Had the opportunity to inspect the bus yesterday with a mechanic.
  • Bus is in excellent shape structurally
  • Appears to have been very well maintained with zero rust
  • Tires at ~65%
  • New alternator & batteries
  • Engine fired up just fine; no red flags at idle
  • Actual miles 127k
  • 9,500 engine hours
  • Signs of oil leak from engine (video linked below). The mechanic said there was no evidence of oil streaming behind the engine, it was likely a valve cover gasket leak, which should not be a deal-breaker

I'll be heading back next week (or so) to give it a test drive.

My questions:
  1. What would be your biggest concern about the oil in the engine bay (i.e., what land-mines might I be stepping on buying this bus)?
  2. What's the most I should pay for this bus?

24 sec video of engine bay:
https://youtu.be/3MOJY-_kHKA

Engine - I don't know about the C7, yet any engine that has a noticeable leak, I want to make sure where it's coming from and what the cost to repair it will be (negotiating point) before making an offer.

Tranny - 3060 is a great tranny, as long as it drives and shifts as it's supposed to. If you don't know how it's supposed to feel when it shifts, or if it's shifting properly, you might want to bring someone along that does. Great tranny, great price to repair. Ask me how I know.

History - Where has the bus lived its life (rust belt or dry and warm)? Maintenance records? How many owners? As a school bus driver, I'd consider this to be a relatively new bus with low miles. Why is it being sold early from a school district that normally would run these for much longer. Heck, my gas bus at work has 170k. 127k a diesel is just broken in. Enquiring minds "should" want to know.

Mileage - Why was it 65k in the original post and now is 127k? Where did the 65k come from? Odometer or computer? Where did the 127k come from? If there's a discrepancy between the odometer and the computer, I'd want to understand what's going on there.

Emissions - I'm a bit out of my league here, yet if I'm close, 2006 is a fairly early year for bus emissions. I think Cat actually stopped making over the road engines because of all the emissions stuff. I don't know if this engine has emissions or not, but definitely check that. If it does, I'm more leery. If it doesn't, I'd be more comfortable.

Size - 6 people. Any pets? Assuming 4 of the humans are children. Where's everything going to go?
Laundry? I think Bosch makes an all in one washer/dryer. Big electrical draw and takes up room..
Sleeping - Smaller kids, smaller spaces, but kids have a bad habit, they grow quickly! So, you'll definitely need that head room for the bunk (assuming) beds.
Front Engine - Best thing about an FE, you have a rear door that can act as a storage access (garage). Worst is under floor room, keep reading.
Waste - Are you going wet or composting toilet? If wet, look under the bus to see where you will be able to put a black tank, and while you're there a space for a grey tank and space for running your lines to the tanks (gravity flow) and from the tanks out. Since you'll have a drive line, underneath between the frame rail room is probably going to be pretty limited if any.

Hope this helps.

Best of luck.

tomrasdf 04-02-2021 07:40 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Simplicity (Post 433231)
Engine - I don't know about the C7, yet any engine that has a noticeable leak, I want to make sure where it's coming from and what the cost to repair it will be (negotiating point) before making an offer.

Tranny - 3060 is a great tranny, as long as it drives and shifts as it's supposed to. If you don't know how it's supposed to feel when it shifts, or if it's shifting properly, you might want to bring someone along that does. Great tranny, great price to repair. Ask me how I know.

History - Where has the bus lived its life (rust belt or dry and warm)? Maintenance records? How many owners? As a school bus driver, I'd consider this to be a relatively new bus with low miles. Why is it being sold early from a school district that normally would run these for much longer. Heck, my gas bus at work has 170k. 127k a diesel is just broken in. Enquiring minds "should" want to know.

Mileage - Why was it 65k in the original post and now is 127k? Where did the 65k come from? Odometer or computer? Where did the 127k come from? If there's a discrepancy between the odometer and the computer, I'd want to understand what's going on there.

Emissions - I'm a bit out of my league here, yet if I'm close, 2006 is a fairly early year for bus emissions. I think Cat actually stopped making over the road engines because of all the emissions stuff. I don't know if this engine has emissions or not, but definitely check that. If it does, I'm more leery. If it doesn't, I'd be more comfortable.

Size - 6 people. Any pets? Assuming 4 of the humans are children. Where's everything going to go?
Laundry? I think Bosch makes an all in one washer/dryer. Big electrical draw and takes up room..
Sleeping - Smaller kids, smaller spaces, but kids have a bad habit, they grow quickly! So, you'll definitely need that head room for the bunk (assuming) beds.
Front Engine - Best thing about an FE, you have a rear door that can act as a storage access (garage). Worst is under floor room, keep reading.
Waste - Are you going wet or composting toilet? If wet, look under the bus to see where you will be able to put a black tank, and while you're there a space for a grey tank and space for running your lines to the tanks (gravity flow) and from the tanks out. Since you'll have a drive line, underneath between the frame rail room is probably going to be pretty limited if any.

Hope this helps.

Best of luck.

Thanks - this is SUPER helpful

Engine - yeah, definitely want to know where it's coming from also. Looks like the top of the engine, so a valve cover gasket seems plausible, but we don't like that I don't know for certain.

Tranny - drive test is next. Anyone in Louisville or western KY who has done this sort of thing before want to go test drive a bus with me (seriously)?

History - No rust to speak of. This bus was retired along with a batch of similar busses from Williamson County TN, where they had been run on standard bus routes since new. They were all retired based on age, not mileage. The other busses from the batch were bought by a charter school in NC, and this bus was one more than they needed (which, yes, means it was likely the sickliest of the litter...) No maintenance records...

Mileage - It had a dash replacement at some point in time (presumable, about 62k miles ago). Dash mileage shows 65k; wasn't until we made them plug it in to get engine hours that we got real mileage. Not sure if this is common practice? All the other busses from the same batch had very similar stated mileage.

Emissions - no DEF/DPF to speak of :biggrin:

Size - 6 people (4 kids 0-7) and a Dobermann. We've been on a downsizing kick for the last 18 months; we'll need to be creative (isn't that what this is all about?), but we'll find a way to make it work without losing any part of our sanity that we would really miss. We are also planning a roof raise.
Laundry - thanks for the recommendation!
Sleeping - We will definitely build the bunk room for growth!
Front engine - yeah, realizing that it will limit what we can do sub-level, but I'd rather have the space in back than underneath
Waste - definitely going composting!

Simplicity 04-02-2021 10:38 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by tomrasdf (Post 433253)
Thanks - this is SUPER helpful

Engine - yeah, definitely want to know where it's coming from also. Looks like the top of the engine, so a valve cover gasket seems plausible, but we don't like that I don't know for certain.

Tranny - drive test is next. Anyone in Louisville or western KY who has done this sort of thing before want to go test drive a bus with me (seriously)?

History - No rust to speak of. This bus was retired along with a batch of similar busses from Williamson County TN, where they had been run on standard bus routes since new. They were all retired based on age, not mileage. The other busses from the batch were bought by a charter school in NC, and this bus was one more than they needed (which, yes, means it was likely the sickliest of the litter...) No maintenance records...

Mileage - It had a dash replacement at some point in time (presumable, about 62k miles ago). Dash mileage shows 65k; wasn't until we made them plug it in to get engine hours that we got real mileage. Not sure if this is common practice? All the other busses from the same batch had very similar stated mileage.

Emissions - no DEF/DPF to speak of :biggrin:

Size - 6 people (4 kids 0-7) and a Dobermann. We've been on a downsizing kick for the last 18 months; we'll need to be creative (isn't that what this is all about?), but we'll find a way to make it work without losing any part of our sanity that we would really miss. We are also planning a roof raise.
Laundry - thanks for the recommendation!
Sleeping - We will definitely build the bunk room for growth!
Front engine - yeah, realizing that it will limit what we can do sub-level, but I'd rather have the space in back than underneath
Waste - definitely going composting!

Engine - This may be your achilleas tendon.

Transmission - I'm not a tranny guru, but lacking any input or assistance from someone who is, here's my suggestion if you go this by yourself.

1) Make sure the tranny is up to temperature. Thicker fluids can hide things that thinner ones can't.

2) Tests:
Test A) Just normal driving, no full throttle, how does it shift, smooth or clunk, and does it go through all gears and at what speed / rpm. Noting this will help others here tell you if it's shifting correctly.

Test B) Dead stop, full throttle, note the same things as in test A.

Test C) 30 mph, punch it, full throttle, does it downshift and then start to upshift as it picks up speed. Note the same things as in Test A.

Test D) Find a fairly steep and long (couple of miles) grade on a highway. Approach at cruising speed and keep adding in throttle until it's to the floor. Wait for it to slow and see if it downshifts. If it doesn't downshift on its own, manually downshift it around 2000 rpm so you don't wreck the tranny.

Test E) After all the tests, get under, besides and on top of the tranny and engine and see if you can see any fluids and then follow them to where they begin.

Others may have a simpler way to test and tell if the tranny is good, but this is what I've learned from the others here.

Mileage: Seems sneaky to me that they all stated ~65k when it's really almost twice as much. Could have been a simple mistake that someone took it off the odometer, wrote up the ad and did a copy and paste. But still...buyer beware.

Emissions: There's other emissions besides DEF/DEP, just make sure you know what there is and what the track record of that emission system is. My understanding is Cat stopped making over the road engines because of emissions, so I wonder if their early attempts had problems?? Research. Place a specific thread in the Drive Train forum for the engine and one for the tranny (after of course searching for previous related threads).

o1marc 04-02-2021 01:25 PM

It is a very common failure of the speedos in buses. MANY have failed and been replaced without correcting the mileage shown. Not at all unusual that the seller doesn't know this. A school bus typically sees 10k a year, if the speedo shows something significantly different, chances are a speedo failure has occurred. :thumb:

Washing machines consume an ungodly amount of water. Keep that in mind if boondocking. I have one I can hook up when near shore power and water. I only bought it because it was only $40 at the liquidation hut.

https://hosting.photobucket.com/imag...080&fit=bounds

tomrasdf 04-06-2021 12:55 PM

Did some sleuthing, and was able to track down the maintenance shop for the school district that had the bus in service. An extremely helpful shop tech looked up maintenance records for this bus for us.

The verdict (according to the tech) - the engine is in needs a cylinder head replacement; there is a leak inside the head, and the oil is mixing with the coolant. No other issues noted; everything else is in excellent shape.

We're hearing $4k-$5k to repair? We may see if the dealer is willing to let us have the bus at just over scrap value and have the engine repaired. With this bus being i) the config we want, ii) in great shape otherwise, and iii) so close to us (right here in KY), I'd rather try to make this work rather than go back to searching.

Talk us down if this is asking for trouble.

Simplicity 04-06-2021 01:30 PM

Great job researching!

Depending on what scrap value + repairs are, and everything else on the bus is good, compared to comparable buses, I think it's a reasonable way to go. At least you know where the engine stands.

I would get a couple of other written estimates to assure the cost doesn't creep, or worse, leap, higher.

Oscar1 04-06-2021 02:16 PM

Great work on figuring that out, that's the kind of research everyone needs to be doing. Scrap price might not be a bad way to go if as you say everything else is checked on your list. (I still think it's a great bus) And like you say if you can make that work then you're done searching and getting to work.
Simplicity already said it, do some more research on what those costs could get up to and the scrap value also as it's really not worth much more than that with a pooched motor. If the dealer doesn't even entertain the idea of your offer then he's sure to try and pass it off on someone else so keep everyone here informed.
Good luck
Cheers

Oscar

WIbluebird 04-06-2021 02:25 PM

Low headroom bus with known mechanical issues AND an $11k asking price??? I want whatever that dealer is smoking :biggrin:

tomrasdf 04-06-2021 02:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WIbluebird (Post 433822)
Low headroom bus with known mechanical issues AND an $11k asking price??? I want whatever that dealer is smoking :biggrin:

Maybe I can ask him to throw some of it into the deal as part of negotiations?

rgjarrell 04-10-2021 03:43 PM

This is a very high price. But it's just money. For any person, there's always non monetary considerations that could justify a higher price.

Distance and gas and time to deal with that distance from you for example. Or the logistics and permissions to get inspections and be picky and indecisive. Auctions don't allow that.

So to understand if it's a high price, find actual comparable buses and their asking price and see if you still want to buy the one you've asked about.

Unless you the buyer do the actual legwork to find actual comparables, you'll never really know.

This thread is basically stating this is a high price.

But no commenter here is doing the leg work to give three comparables at three different prices and demonstrate exactly how high the $11k price is.

Once you do the exercise of finding actual comparable vehicles and their listed price, you will be easily able to consider whether you want to buy that vehicle.

That said, there is no shame in overpaying!! Half the buyers of something pay over the median price.

Sometimes the intangibles matter. Is the current dealer easy to work with and trustworthy compared to shady operators who might list a better price?

In my research of what most buyers of a used school bus do:. They convert them to party buses. Take out several seats, leave a few in, throw in a few sleeping births and maybe some equipment to tailgate / drink. That generally will supply a party of 30 40 people pretty nicely. And about 12 people can be transported by the bus. This is great for football tailgating, race car events, etc...

A high price isn't so bad for the minimal conversion situations. But in my opinion if you're going to put a huge amount of money in after purchase, feeling good about the bus being solid and inspected is much more important than a few thousand dollars of purchase price.

1dmpo 04-12-2021 07:52 PM

Buses in Tennessee can only be used to carry children on regular school routes for fifteen years, so retiring a bunch of 2006 models is right on time in 2021 here in Tennessee. Williamson County is the most affluent county in Tennessee, if they're are not keeping up the maintenance on their buses, something is wrong. I am in the adjoining county and have an 04 bus with the md3060 and a 96 TopKick box truck with the same transmission, I am familiar with how they shift and operate. If I can help you out I would be happy to. It's only a 45 min drive for me.

tomrasdf 04-18-2021 08:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by 1dmpo (Post 434557)
Buses in Tennessee can only be used to carry children on regular school routes for fifteen years, so retiring a bunch of 2006 models is right on time in 2021 here in Tennessee. Williamson County is the most affluent county in Tennessee, if they're are not keeping up the maintenance on their buses, something is wrong. I am in the adjoining county and have an 04 bus with the md3060 and a 96 TopKick box truck with the same transmission, I am familiar with how they shift and operate. If I can help you out I would be happy to. It's only a 45 min drive for me.

Thanks! We'd be grateful for all the help we can get, especially when it comes to safe operation. PM on its way

enigmamdw 05-20-2021 04:59 PM

IF the oil on the C7 is coming from the top and it's a light weep leak, it's normal, the factory head and block do not sit perfectly flush and it'll weep a bit, if it doesn't you're way low on oil. There will be about a cup or two missing at your next oil change but its normal. Any other leaks or dripping is abnormal and should be avoided, likely has a coolant/oil mixing leak that would necessitate a rebuild which is at or above half the asking price for that bus. Avoid.

tomrasdf 05-28-2021 01:17 PM

Well, after weighing all the feedback we got along with our other options, we decided to move forward with this bus, which we got for 2/3 asking price including a delivery to Louisville.

While we'd love to have paid a few grand less (and I'm sure if we'd looked long/hard enough, we could have found something in that range), the convenience factor for this bus was a big factor. The idea of having to fly across country to pick up a bus w/o the benefit of an in-person inspection prior has little appeal.

SO - we're off to the races.

Demo starts as soon as the bus arrives. Then we figure out who can help us with a roof raise (if you know anyone in/near Louisville, KY interested in taking on the job, please reach out - we will be outsourcing all/most of that part of the project!)

THANKS EVERYONE for your guidance to get us to the starting line

...now the fun part :biggrin::biggrin:


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