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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Diesel Guys

H and I are considering a bus to serve as double duty: RV-esque vehicle to get us to CQB and III gigs in more comfort and space than the milk truck.

Second duty will serve at the Citadel Beachhead as a short-term "apartment" when required - guests can sleep indoors with a few creature comforts.

A few questions:

It comes from a school system, obviously, and I don't know which one.  I "assume" that school systems adhere to a pretty good maintenance schedule - I may be wrong.  Anyone know?

Next: Drivetrain is a DT466E Diesel with auto tranny and about 120,000 miles on it.  It has a hydraulic wheelchair lift that can be useful.  190 Horses.

I know these buses are not geared for a lot of highway driving, but I think my mechanic can improve that ratio.

How is that engine as far as diesels go?  Is it one of the new "high rpm" diesels?  I think at 120K the diesel is just getting broken in, and should run 400K+, yes?

If we decide to go this route (it is merely a concept being explored), we'd also make it a III Project, outfit it for cool III events, graphics, III Arms promo, etc.

Anyone with any insights to the mechanics?



  1. Kerodin,


    Pleaes don't buy anything with a Navistar diesel. They are nightmares to work on and the worst diesel platform in the nation (Navistars are also the driveline for the MRAPS APC's and are also have mechanical, electrical and A/C nightmares)

    I worked at a Navistar dealership and repair shop as well as Freightliner. I have many years experience in the diesel world. If you purchase this bus, you will regret it.

    find a bus with a Cummins, Caterpiller or Detroit diesel. Make sure its pre 2006 and there is no DPF (diesel particulate filter) or EGR (exhaust gas relay) on anything you buy. This is all EPA garbage and will be a nightmare to maintain and repair.

    one final note, Frieghtliner, Peterbuilt, Volvo etc. are all good truck and bus platforms. Just don't get an International (Navistar)

    If you have any questions e-mail me at coffeeinjection@yahoo.com

    1. Captain Crunch: Thank you! That is EXACTLY the kind of guidance I needed. It probably explains why the bus was let go with so few miles on it (relatively speaking)

      Thanks for helping me miss a landmine.


  2. Kerodin, in a former life, I was the fleet manager for Tulsa Public Schools. We ran that bus/engine in about 90% of a 300 bus fleet. The IC school buses can be of variable quality, depending on whether it was made in Tulsa or Conway, AR. The DT466E is a good engine, but has a couple quirks. First thing I'd recommend is replacing the cam sensor, they go like candy. If you ever see that your engine oil level is increasing, get to the shop immediately. It means you've blown a fuel injector o-ring, and are dumping fuel into the oil. If you can find out the school district, I'd recommend doing so. Most have no problem supplying maintenance records for old equipment.
    The automatic tranny can be an issue depending on tranny model. The Allison 545 is a real dog if not cooled sufficiently, and wants LOTS of cooling. The largest aftermarket tranny cooler you can buy is in order if this is the transmission the bus has. I'd also recommend an immediate tranny flush, and DO NOT refill with Allison TranSynd fluid. This applies to any automatic. I would recommend using Hydrotex HyTorq transmission fluid to the exclusion of anything else on the market. Also, I'd use Hydrotex 5W-40 engine oil to the exclusion of anything else on the market. You'll see a mileage improvement in two areas, (1) it's a lighter viscosity, (2) it's synthetic oil. These oils are not cheap by any means, but they will also outperform anything else. When I was the fleet manager for Tulsa Public Schools, my first action was to change the oils/greases we used, and put the fleet on an oil analysis program. If you're not familiar, this is a program where rather than changing the oil every 3000 miles like they'd been doing since school was invented, it was changed when the oil analysis said to do so, using science rather then marketing hype. My 300 buses were going 35,000-40,000 miles between oil changes. You absolutely cannot do this using off the shelf oil, under any circumstances. The cost breakdown goes like this...regular oil is about $12/gl. You bus will use 7 gallons (28 qts). That's $84, plus a filter ever 3000 miles. REALLY GOOD synthetic oil goes about $32/gl, with one oil filter for the duration of the life of the oil. As I said, in my experience getting 30k miles is a no brainer. In 30k miles with conventional oil, you'll spend $840 just on the oil. Another $250 on the filters. Compare to $250 or so for Hydrotex oil, and one filter. Spend another $20 or so every 3000 miles for the analysis. The analysis interval can be extended once you know what the engine is doing by establishing a trend. Each time you analyze it, you'll get a new printout showing wear metals, and other significant parameters. I'd also recommend using synthetic grease in every spot that has a zerk. If you haven't guessed, I'm big on synthetics, and have the training/experience to back up the recommendations. Let me know if need more info.
    P.S. We met at the Tulsa Gun Show, you gave me a knife....Many thanks!!!

  3. Kerodin,

    Our church has bought several old International buses and shipped them to Haiti. All of them have either the DT466 or DT466E. The ones ending in E are electronic direct injection which is a CAT design and the ones without the E use the old style Bosch. I have worked on all of them. The CAT design is more expensive to fix than the old Bosch style.

    Our buses in Haiti take maga abuse. The oil does not get changed regularly, diesel is usually a lot dirtier down there and the filters don't get changed regularly. We have 2 buses that have done more than 100,000 miles down there and are still going.

    These are inline 6 cylinder engines and they are not high RPM, ours are governed to about 3300 RPM. Depending on the transmission (which most likely an Allison) and the governor setup, these buses can cruise up to 70 MPH on relatively flat ground. Haiti is very mountainous, depending how much load they are hauling, they will slow down in the mountains.

    The bus in your picture looks like a 20 passenger, so it should do all right in the mountains. Our buses are 52 passenger models.

    The DT466 design has been around for a long time. I knew a couple of farmers who had big tractors with this engine design in it back in the late 70's.

    If you keep the oil changed, the water pump and radiator functioning properly the DT466 can easily make 500,000+. We use synthetic oil in our buses in Haiti as well.

    Most school systems have a pretty good maintenance program, but it really depends on who is working in their shops. So that part is a crap shot.

    Hope this helps.


  4. Thanks guys - this information is priceless. The seller wants $6K for it, so obviously I need much more info before even considering it. I have put 7500 miles (all highway) on the little milktruck in te last month, which put me at 75K on a 2.2 4 banger. She won't tolerate that for a long time, especially if CQB continues looping me randomly across the country.

    That's why we are looking at a bus- they are relatively cheap, can be converted to comfortable levels pretty easily, and if we start with a good one, I think we can get a lot of life out of it.

    This is all a BIG help/


  5. Kerodin, I completeley disagree with the above comment. I used to be the fleet manager for Tulsa Public Schools, and had a 300+ bus fleet that was 90% International DT-466E. The engine is not at all hard to work on, and works well. As with any other engine, it has a couple quirks. Change the cam sensor immediately. If you see the oil level increasing, get to the shop immediately as you've blown one or more injector o-rings and are dumping fuel into the oil pan.

    Also, immediately change all oils to synthetic, and start using oil analysis as a basis for oil changes. At Tulsa we'd run about 30,000-35,000 miles between changes. You'll save a pile of cash compared to off the shelf oils such as Rotella. I recommend Hydrotex oils to the exclusion of any other. If this bus is equipped with an Allison 545 transmission, get it flushed immediately, and get an external oil cooler installed. Again, use Hydrotex transmission fluid (HyTorq), don't waste your time with Allison Transynd fluid, it's a truly mediocre oil.

    Using a high performance oil such as Hydrotex will save you nearly $1000 over the course of 30,000 miles. If you'd like more on this, holler.

    We met when you were at the Tulsa gun show. Thanks Again for the knife!!

  6. Just an FYI - my dreal is a bus about this side that is a factory built 4x4. I know it will suck fuel like crazy, but when it comes to Citadel use, it will be priceless (not to mention the PR Value).


  7. Love the concept, Rock-n-Roll High School meets the III w/ Zoomie graphics, can’t go wrong
    Rd III

  8. Buy the way, is there a reliable estimate of fuel consumption on these rig, and as a rule with maintenance/repairs/etc - is buying a diesel bus conversion (nothing fancy)a better investment than spending on some sort of gas rig a better investment.

    Speed of travel isn't a real concern - reliability is important - and I like being one of the big boys on the road, just in case there is an accident.


  9. I'll second the "pre-2006" comment. Even though I just drive them, I've been doing it for almost 20 years. The new engines with all the exhaust sensor bullshit are crap.

    When the sensors go...and they seem to go fairly regularly...the engine either won't run at all or will run so badly it won't pull a box of tampons up an anthill.

    Some of the new engines have what I call piss-pots...more commonly called diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tanks, which hold liquid urea which is injected into the exhaust in order to "treat" it and make it cleaner.

    From what I understand from an uncle who works as an engineer for Cummins, the DEF injection thing is an extremely "hot" process. I gotta think the added heat can't be good for overall engine health and life, plus it's a pain in the ass to have to have one more fucking thing to monitor and take care of. Then there's the fact that DEF fluid isn't available everywhere, and that if you run out of DEF fluid funky shit will happen like engine shutoff.

    Just a few things to consider from a dumbass truck driver's standpoint...

    1. DEF is available in any auto parts store, WalMart or truck stop.

  10. Mpg on my big rig is probably no better than 6-8 depending on how I drive it. Bus might get a little better, but probably not much.

  11. Another option would be the airport transport busses for car rental companies like enterprise, hertz...Avis. Had about 2dozen over the years as ag transport busses...after we got them from the car rental companies. Usually Fords....and put all of them thru hell of road and ranch work. Just keep oiled and lubed and clean filters and they go easily 100+k more miles.

  12. The diesel buses will normally be in the 6-8 mpg range. Aerodynamics need not apply.

    Which is a better deal will depend on load. If it's just you and the family, you might be better served by a gas rig. If you plan on really loading it up with stuff, and towing something also, I'd vote for the diesel. One thing you didn't mention...does this bus have air brakes? They're a whole different animal as far as feel goes, and will cost more to maintain.

  13. Pickup and travel trailer; it remains a no-brainer. Ease, cost and especially versatile function. While my personal dream is still a mid-90s Cummins, I've yet to hear a single complaint--ever--about the Ford 7.3, discontinued in pickups mid-'03. I know some of the trannies weren't perfect, and you gotta maintain 'em and the mpg ain't the very best...but you'll always know that your headaches are minimized.

    Hierarchy of values and all that...you're not going to eliminate headaches no matter what you do (unless you go new, and even then), so the goal is to minimize them, I think.

    1. The only reason separate trailer is not an option is because it violates our number 1 requisite - Family stays in physical contact at all times. Otherwise, that is the ideal solution.


    2. Hmm, okay. Then maybe a smaller integrated unit with a diesel; cheapest would be a plain cargo van that you customize. You can make the van nice for driving and still pull the finer accommodations which you seek behind you. You'd lose the functionality of a pickup, but still have the functionality of a van, with the ability to tow other trailers behind it. No fifth wheel in that case, though; anything would have to be bumper pull.

      One of the problems with the bus/motorhome approach is that bigger units tend to mean bigger maintenance bills, and mileage is no small factor either. Plus, the future being such an unknown, I'd think versatility is a fairly high value...don't forget you'll be driving to the grocery too. In any event, you'll know the right thing when you see it. The trick is to never rationalize yourself into something. When it's right, it's usually obviously right.

      Lastly, the real secret to buying any used vehicle is to devote about 20% analyzing the unit and about 80% to analyzing the owner, or at least its history. Naturally the pros will disagree with that, but that's because they're pros and don't need to care.

  14. Kerodin have you looked into a unimog or something similar?


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