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Old 07-05-2017, 09:35 PM   #1
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Talking School bus conversion questions and advice!

My name is Amanda and I am looking forward to converting a plain jane school bus into an awesome full time home with a one of a kind look and feel. I have never lived in an RV before only camped a night or 2 in my ford explorer. I've seen a lot of nice new RVs and was planning on buying new to avoid any issues but realized after quite a bit of research, that wasn't the route for me, seeing as how new doesn't meant worry free. I have seen so many videos on bus conversions that i have decided to go this route due to my creative ways and wanting everything of mine to be as unique as my personality and I are. So... i have joined a few forums to get some much needed advice and help. Aside, from the basic things like what tools are needed and such i really need to know more of the legal side of things as far as getting it tagged and registered as an RV and do I need cdl to drive in the state of California? Some decisions I have already made are that i want one where the engine is in the front, not the back. I want one that is about long, with an Allison trans. Year and mileage don't really matter but aside from that and no rust I'm not even sure of what else to be on the look out for. I have read that "split rims" are not something one wants but have no ides which buses have them and which don't. Any help that you guys can give to noob to rving and bus conversions would be greatly appreciated but this little person with a big dream.
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Old 07-05-2017, 09:46 PM   #2
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You have set quit a goal for yourself. Not anything I'd want to tackle.
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Old 07-05-2017, 09:46 PM   #3
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Amanda;
You are setting yourself up for lots of work. Once you are done you will know everything there is to know about your unit.

We did one years ago and because of the inside height and wanting in floor heating ended up raising the roof to have enough clearance. With duct work in the floors we were able to stay nice and warm. We stripped everything out and insulated with spray foam.

I am not a fan of front engine as you have a very long drive line (that prevents full pass through compartments.

I like lots of planning. Lay out your floor plan to see if it works before starting to cut holes in the walls or roof.

I am a fan of residential fridges. May not be totally practical for boon docking but it works for us.

Legal side for us was we had to register the product as a hybrid. This was years ago as the school bus VIN was not recognized. They issued us another serial number and all was well.

Nowadays I am not sure of what inspections you would have to go through to declare it road worthy. Have to check with DMV about that. While you are there you could inquire about DL knowing the size of the unit.

Good luck. Start a thread and post pictures. We will be watching and willing to provide any wanted or unwanted suggestions. LOL
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Old 07-05-2017, 11:30 PM   #4
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To Mr. D- I usually set really large goals but so far only didn't obtain one by medical default.

To Gordon Dewald- The first thing you said is one of the biggest reasons i want to do it this way, so that in any event anything breaks I will know exactly where it is and how to fix it.

Can you tell me more about raising the roof i.e. cost difference, work involved, and most importantly aren't you worried about clearance space?

I'm not too worried about pass thru compartments as the floor plan i have in mind will allow a space for longer/tall items to be stored standing/laying.

Do you know what the max weight when full on a school bus? (I have no clue, does it differ significantly?) I don't want to go over and am not sure if it differs from state to state since i will be living in all of them at least for a little while.

Will most definitely post lots of pictures along with videos in you-tube as others have.
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Old 07-06-2017, 10:41 AM   #5
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Amanda; good questions. We started with a cab forward bus (42' from windshield to the back wall inside) with the engine at the rear. We left the cab area at the original height and started the raise about 3 feet from the front. Raised the roof with a bunch of friends who had the equipment. Stripped the inside and windows out of the bus, then cut the metal risers between the windows. Welded new risers to increase the height about 13 inches. At 12' we were well under the 13'6" max.

Then sheeted the sides with sheet metal and cut holes at desired locations for windows. Closed the front door and cut a new opening midway for an entrance door.

Max weight on any vehicle is limited by regulation, actual weight is limited by axle rating which includes tire size. Rules are confusing as there are exemptions for buses and motorhomes on some roadways. You will be OK with up to 20,000 lbs on a tandem axle (4 tires) and 10,500 (http://www.dot.ca.gov/trafficops/trucks/weight.html on the front axle (some jurisdictions allow 620 lbs per lateral inch width of the front tires so wider tires can have more weight, our coach is rated for 15,600 and there are others rated 18,000 or more).

I like rear engine as it is better balanced overall IMO. Also will have a shorter rear overhang. I have often thought an old city transit bus would be ideal as it already has a mid door, sits lower and had good head room inside.

The advice I will give you is to plan carefully, determine all of the features you want to include and determine a build process so each feature goes in at the right time. Think about adequate access to repair items so you place items in the best locations. Try to have your water localized. Bathroom, kitchen, water tank, water heater and pump as close as possible to reduce the amount of lines you install. Water lines all inside to reduce freezing potential. Lots of drains on the water line to assist with winterizing.

Big water tank if you plan on boon docking much. We had a tank custom built at 250 gallons, with a residential hot water heater. Overkill but worked for us. If you are by yourself and staying in RV parks a smaller tank and hot water heater would reduce the amount of space used.
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Old 07-06-2017, 01:40 PM   #6
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I have heard that many parks do not allow school bus conversions. You might want to look into this.
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Old 07-06-2017, 02:02 PM   #7
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Amanda,

You sound determined. If you have the money and skills, I would say "go for it".
You would need to understand that it is never going to by just like a mass produced MH... that may be a good thing.
I would try to find a pusher (rear engine) bus. Front engine would be noisier running down the road and they have to be rough on u-joints.

Seems to me that most buses would have a more durable exterior.

I am guessing that you do not plan on any slide-outs. Probably not impossible to add, but would probably require some pretty serious engineering.

I have helped with some structural repairs and modifications on campers through the years. Most are pretty simple construction.

Once you get back past the cockpit area, it is an open slate to do as you please and to make as unique as you want with the spaces you need.

Good Luck! I hope you will start a thread and post your progress.
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Old 07-06-2017, 03:44 PM   #8
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To Gordon- Awesome advice, love it! I totally understand what you're saying about the front end engines being noisier, however the floor plan goal I'm looking at kinda needs that last 10' or so of the bus to be as open as possible, which is why I inquired about raising the roof. I have come to the conclusion, if possible (while staying under weight), taking off the side walls along the back, with just a few supports bars as needed, to park my little ford explorer on it so I don't have to tow it(its a 4x4 so towing it would be a hassle). And when at a camp ground I can pull the truck down and have a covered patio(screened) free from bugs and my cat can enjoy the outdoors too, without the annoyance of a leash. As for the the water tank, my thought was definitely go big to allow as much boon docking as possible, without being too big. I feel like 150G is sufficient. I've also planned on a compositing toilet, so there is no need for a disgusting black tank(or its weight), and less use of my fresh water to flush. It will be just my cat Felix and I so not in need of too many bells and whistles. Please let me know your input, all is wanted.

To halfwright- I was totally not even thinking about that. Thank you so much for mentioning that. I guess I just figured since it would changed registration to RV or MH I'd be ok. Well, looks like it back to more research. Again, thank you.

To TRebel- I am Very determined, traveling the U.S. has been a passion of mine for a very long time, but my fear of flying has kept me grounded. Until recently the thought of living on road seemed like a fantasy, instead of a reality. I am totally ok with it not being like everyone else's. That makes it 1000x better. I am a super individualized person, but also a minimalist, so all those cool flashy upgrades and what nots on new RV just arent necessary for me and my life style. Please look above in my response to Gordon on my thought process for wanting a front engine bus and leave me any thoughts or comments on that. Even if it sounds totally crazy(my dad says it does too). No slide outs, I don't need them. I do plan on doing like Gordon did and removing the front door and putting it further down. Although, I do have friend that is an engineer and has already agreed to help with running all the electrical, plumbing, shower lines, and installing solar panels, water heater, generator, a/c, heater, inverter, converter, and cameras. Honestly, I'm sure there is so much I may not have even thought of yet. Any tips, tricks, thoughts, suggestions, criticism, etc all welcome. Like I mentioned from the beginning, TOTAL NOOB here!
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Old 07-06-2017, 03:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by halfwright View Post
I have heard that many parks do not allow school bus conversions. You might want to look into this.
Yes, I saw this posted at a park on my last road trip. No school bus conversions.
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Old 07-07-2017, 09:35 AM   #10
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Yes, I saw this posted at a park on my last road trip. No school bus conversions.
This will certainly exclude you from some parks. If it is done well, painted nicely and well maintained many will accept. IMO there will be one that will accept you close to the one that wont.

Amanda - Loading an Explorer on the back of an old school bus is going to be highly problematic. I am sure you have thought this through so bus length and living space are not an issue.

My explorer weighed about 5200 lbs. I note the base weight is about 4700. Consulting with a structural engineer will help selecting the correct bus (frame).
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Old 07-10-2017, 12:20 PM   #11
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Thank you very much for those numbers. That may be one of the more important thing I didn't even look up. I have laid out a floor plan that fits and I will have to find a 38' bus to accommodate my floor plan. Again, thank you so much guys, all of this info is extremely helpful and openly accepted. I will gladly take whatever you are willing to spare.
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Old 07-10-2017, 09:49 PM   #12
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Couple things to think about.

1. Insurance. This was a huge hassle for me. State farm agent wrote a policy for me, and the underwriters cancelled it. Progressive wouldn't write a policy at all for it. Allstate is who I currently have, but they have not taken another payment, so I have to call them. I have $250 towing coverage good to the closest shop, but I have to pay out of pocket and get reimbursed. The only truck in my area that can pick up my 21' 11,500# short bus charges $100 to hook up, and $4 a mile. I found that out the hard way, fortunately the tow was only 5 miles.

2. Busses have a wide range of weight limits. The gvwr is usually on a sticker by the drivers seat. I've seen them up to 80k (class 8) quick measure to figure how much weight you can add and still be safe is to multiply the passenger capacity by 100. Transit busses you multiply by 150. The driver is considered in that capacity. My bus is a 19 passenger, and I'm 250#. So for me it's (19x100) - 250. So I can safely add 1650# to my rig. I didn't bother to weigh the seats that I took out, but I can add that weight back in if I wanted to.

3. Build mockups, and try it out. I moved into mine the day I got it. I did the absolute minimum to get it registered and insured, and I lived in it for a month afterwards. Having lived in it, I'm realizing they layout is wrong for me. I'm fortunate that I had the parts I put into it from previous camper demolitions, and I've put in $100 in lumber. I know the changes I want to make, and what I want to add to her. I'm still focusing on working out design flaws while she is rough so I don't have to tear my work apart after I've spent $1000's on her.

4. Stop in at your DMV and ask about licencing and registration requirements. Each state is different. I know MN registration requirements because I have dealt with them. Not sure on our licencing because I have a class A CDL with all the endorsements except hazmat and motorcycle. Not much I can do to upgrade at this point.

5... I know I'm missing something, but I don't know what it would be.

I know I got long winded, but if you can learn from my mistakes, so much the better. Above all, stay safe, have fun, and enjoy.
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Old 07-10-2017, 10:09 PM   #13
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Oh. If you get a bus with low miles, it got retired because of age. Bring it into a shop and have them make sure you can get all the tires off, and see if you can watch how they deal with the duals. Get a bottle jack that is capable of lifting the bus, and get familiar with the lift points. If you get a bus with a lift, try to plan in a place for a spare, and get one. Even if you have to rely on a good Samaritan, or a mobile shop, it will save you the headache of being stranded because you have to wait for a shop to get a tire. It's a 2 day wait for me.

Here's a split rim, and a multi-piece rim. You couldn't pay me to own one of these. And I'm even less likely to work on one. Shops do charge extra for working on these. People have been seriously injured by the ring separating while inflating a tire. My dad had a close call with one of these years ago.
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Old 07-28-2017, 12:26 PM   #14
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Amanda, I saw this bus for sale on CraigsList, and thought of you.
https://oklahomacity.craigslist.org/...237172708.html

It's not exactly what you are wanting to build, but you might get some encouragement &/or ideas from the photos

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