Dave's Bus Conversion

Maintenance Log

"A mobile home with a flat tire is a home" - Demetri Martin


2005/08/18 Bought bus from Mike Kadletz.
The bus was originally an "Azteca De Oro" coach which I'm told was a Southern USA/Mexican coach lines, possibly a Greyhound subsidiary that went bankrupt around 2004/2005.

I pay him to:

  1. Remove bathroom & luggage racks
  2. Remove A/C unit
  3. Cut holes for rooftop A/C (wrong location)
  4. Remove seats
  5. Repair luggage bay door
The tag axle has a bearing that needs to be replaced. He pretty much lies and cheats about everything.
2005/10/12?? Oil change
2005/11/31 Parking brake sticks on, I have someone show me how to unlock it using the gentle application of a hammer.
2006/02/19 I finally get the tag axle fixed. (East Bay Truck) Also repaired thermocouple for radiator shutters.
2006/02/13 I finally weigh the bus (with some cargo inside)!
(Done near East Bay Truck in Oakland)
Steering Axle: 9120 pounds
Drive Axle: 19380 pounds
Gross Weight: 28500 pounds
2006/03/02 Hub Odometer: 234700
2006/08/?? Drive up to Oregon to Wrico to get 10kW Genset and 10 Group D batteries. Attempt to build genset doghouse while in the Wrico lot. Almost succeed.
2006/08/19 (In Oregon) Deep right turn starts to stick (extra battery weight??)
2006/08/26? Slobber tube starts dropping lots of oil. Remove and clean (but not after first confusing it with a check valve and attempting replacement! Smoke!
2006/09/20? Repaired windshield chips.
2006/09/24 Unwittingly drove back from Burning Man with the left tag axle unloaded (the warning light is disconnected, I now know). This destroyed the tire due to sliding whenever I braked.
2006/10/09 Gray Line puts spare on tag wheel and repairs the trans - it was leaking at an O ring. They couldn't find the steering problem.
2007/01/10 Bus won't start. Battery ground cable has melted. I replace the cable and discover that the starter is fried, so I install a new starter.
2007/04/03 Bus temporarily goes into storage while I do some contract work.
2008? Power steering fluid is leaking, much to my ignorance, and the power steering pump blows, which I am sad to learn is very expensive to replace.
2008? Steering problem solved! Issue was due to the leveler not working completely, now the bus is fully level during turns and the steering doesn't stick.
2009/11/30 Bus comes out of storage! Fulltiming!
2009/12/04 Start to hookup propane tankless hot water heater. Fail! It needs an impossible to find and expensive vent system. That's what I get for buying on ebay. Need to consider getting a diesel furnace that also does hot water and tossing the separate heater idea.
2009/12/05 Incinolet (incinerating toilet!) arrives, but UPS has damaged it and part of the body is bent. I manage to get it somewhat working, though the pedal now sticks. Need to figure out if I want to send it back to get the insurance or not, and then be without a toilet until I find another one on ebay/craigslist. Damn you UPS!
2009/12/07 Power steering fluid has leaked out again. So has ATF fluid. Annoying. I'll need to take it to Coach USA to figure out why at some point.
2009/12/11 Started to build my Murphy bed container ($200).
2009/12/21 Installed second Xantrex inverter. They don't charge together if one has a batt temp sensor and the other doesn't because they don't agree on the voltage. Second sensor on the way! I'm skeptical that they'll be able to charge together period, perhaps split the bank into two or get an SWI/PAR kit to run them in parallel?
2009/12/27 Finish box for bed, need to get pullies to lift it, it's heavy! Put new aluminum coil in the clean WVO tank. Total nightmare job, and now I'm having problems geting WVO to work again.
2009/12/28 Added oil and antifreeze, replaced driver tire valve stems (leaking) and finally got new (used) tag tires (one was bald!)
2010/01/05 Bus hell. WVO system stops flowing heat. Generator stops working. WVO also starts sucking in air at filter. Squirrel cage fan #2 dies (due to an internal short. Squirrel fan #3 fails due to capacitor fault. Change genset oil, oil filter, air filter, fuel filter, antifreeze. Install baffling on air intake and finish putting up insulation (though doghouse still not fully assembled).
[Generator hell]
2010/02 I receive the takeout Proheat diesel furnace I bought from Bruce Knee. I open the box and dump out a bunch of dirt and rust. I wonder if I've been ripped off. A few hours of work later and I've cleaned off the furnace which actually looks okay, and I've cleaned and 'de-rusted' and repainted the enclosure. Some time a few months later I setup a testbench to run the furnace and it won't start. Fuel pump is broken.
2010/02 I pull out a bunch of the heating vents along the walls - opening up another 6" of width, which is about a 7% improvement, actually. I toss out/recycle most of the vent covers before realizing that it's a bunch of aluminum, and it turns out the scrap price for aluminum is over $.50/lb. Oops.
2010/02/15 After a great deal of planning and work, I install the toilet and run the vent up to the roof. Hallelujah!
2010/02/17 And in another burst of work, I setup the shower pan, drain and shower curtains and take my first (cold!) shower.
2010/03/06 I get my Fan-tastic Vent and finally move the front A/C so it doesn't block the emergency exit anymore (and stops leaking!). Thanks Mike Kadletz for being such a jackass and a con-man. The fan is hooked up and the A/C is working and I finally have access to my roof!
2010/03/17 I build a solar water heater for the shower and install a thermostatic shower valve. Unfortunately I use PVC cement instead of ABS cement (not knowing the difference) and the joints leak, but I test it out in the morning and take my first hot shower in the bus!
2010/05/10 Tire blowout! My left inner drive wheel explodes and the steel belting rips holes in the airbags. I get the drive wheel fixed but need to order the air bags.
[Fucking tire gremlins]
2011/04/05 253476 miles: Replaced fuel filter, air filter and bus batteries
2011/04/06 Tire blowout! Now it's the right inner drive wheel, and I find out it's because the alignment has too much sway and the inner tires can rub until they blow. Again, I lose an airbug, and again, it costs an unbelievable amount of money to repair. Need to get extras, and need to fix the sway.
[Fucking tire gremlins]
Changed oil on Genset (1096.5 hrs)
2011/08/23 Oil change (pre-BRC)
2011/09 Finished deck and installing Solar Panels!
2011/10/20 Tire blowout! WTF? This time the air bags don't pop. Inner right dualie. Replaced w/ new.
[Fucking tire gremlins]
WEIGHT: Front 12800 pounds, rear 23460?
2012/03/01 My other curse returns. The generator squirrel fan stops working (Fan #4). This time the fan has actually sheared off the motor, for no particular reason. Wrico told me before they had never seen one of these fans fail. I'm on failure number THREE, each for different reasons.
[Generator hell]
2012/03/10 I disconnect everything, disassemble and pull out the battery bank and manage to get to the squirrel fan from the back side. It might actually be a better way to get to the squirrel fan, I hope I never need to test that. Repair squirrel fan (using parts from fan #1 that I hadn't thrown out), reassemble, then install new batteries (Deka Gel 8D) and reconnect everything. 13 hours. As a note, there was a 2x4 section across the floor under the back row of batteries that I forgot to reassemble, but I don't think it was holding weight since the lip of the battery is taller than the case.
2012/04/05 I come back from Denver (10 days) and the outer right drive wheel is flat. There goes another $500. Not sure what happened - possibly running over something when trying to park it in storage?
2012/04/11 I install a keypad door lock
2012/10/15 Unbelievable. The generator fan fails again. Same failure as 7 months prior, the fan sheared off the motor axle. That's failure number FOUR for a fucking fan that's supposed to be indestructible. I am, evidently, all four failures Wrico has ever seen. I'm ready to give up.
[Generator hell]
2012/11? The fan failure is from the set screw coming off. I take the set screw off a previous failed fan. I climb underneath and cut off one of the fan blades and spend a couple hours with magnets and socket extensions trying to get the set screw on and in the right rotation. It is not fun. The fan wobbles and is noisy, eventually I cut the other opposite blade off and it settles down.
[Generator hell]
2013/01/27 The back right corner of the rooftop wood deck was damaged during a parking incident and I finally repaired it today.
2013/08/19 Hub Odometer: 263733 Flat tires! Repaired rt tag (wood screw puncture) and replaced very worn outer lt drive, and filled up flat lt tag (which probably needs replacing soon). Check/inflate all tires. And then...
[Fucking tire gremlins]
2013/08/19 My worst nightmare happens, and the same day I checked all the tires. The front right tire blows out at 80 mph going down I-80, and the front end of the bus dives down and we go careening across three (thankfully empty) lanes of traffic before I can control the bus again. The advice I've heard many times of accelerating to gain control (to lift the front of the bus) didn't work - the bus was just shaking violently and the rim dug a nice long groove in I-80 until we came to a stop. The front tire and rim were both destroyed. Amazingly the bottom of the bus didn't sustain any damage, even the skid plates were fine, it seemed it mostly bounced/skidded on the rim. The brake hose was taken out by the tire. R&B Road Service from Suisun came out and managed to fix everything and amazingly get us on the road about 3.5 hours later. We used the wheel/tire from the tag axle, so I'll need to replace that. I also noticed that the shock on the left tag was split into two pieces (possibly from the violent shaking?) - but it doesn't seem to hit while driving, so I'll have to get that taken care of soon - the right tag didn't even have a shock attached, so I might just remove them both. An incredible and more-exciting-than-necessary experience. And thank goodness it didn't happen a couple of hours later as we were climbing the Sierras.
[Fucking tire gremlins]
2014/02/21 I finally find a replacement shroud for the A/C on top and replace the broken one. I also forget to put in that many months ago I finally removed the wood siding for the solar decking and finally painted it black, it looks far nicer.
2014/03 I put in wood floors!
2014/08/20 Check/inflate my tires again before Burning Man. Because of last year, I am nervous and pull over to check pressure regularly. This is fortunate since a stop in Sacramento reveals that the inner left drive tire came off the rim for no apparent reason. No damage, no puncture, we put the tire back on and inflate it and it holds pressure just fine.
[Fucking tire gremlins]
2014/09/15 After a 20 mile drive I park and discover that the outer left drive tire has gone completely flat for no apparent reason. No damage, no puncture, we refill and it holds pressure just fine.
[Fucking tire gremlins]
2014/09/?? After hours of grinding/pounding/bending, I finally remove the stainless steel metal bracket that was sticking up under the fridge
2014/09/?? The generator refuses to come on. I talk to Wrico and they send another generator start unit which I replace, but that turns out to not be the issue so I send it back. Turns out that because I removed the ground on the inverter so I wouldn't have two ground bonds at Burning Man is now strangely driving a 60Hz ghost voltage on the inverter *input* which is confusing the generator into thinking it's already running (the red "running" light comes on before it will start)
[Generator hell]
2014/09/27 Left tag tire keeps leaking down to 90 psi. No damage. Then it goes back to holding pressure fine.
[Fucking tire gremlins]
2014/10/01 Right outer drive tire down at 90 psi. Re-inflate, holds pressure fine.
[Fucking tire gremlins]
2014/10/04 More of an infrastructure, but I finally start my Raspberry Pi Bus Thermostat/Controller system - currently it starts the genset based on temp so that my electric heaters come on.
2014/10/30 Brought to Hillsboro (OR) Diesel Service. Fantastic people.
  1. Air dryer is near new ("can still read the sticker") so no concern there. Learned that back tank is wet tank, clear occasionally, if it starts filling with water/oil/.. then that's when I need to worry about air dryer. Front tanks are dry, clear sometimes as well
  2. Brakes: S-cam bushings are worn causing play in brakes. Someday get new bushings, wheel seals (and maybe shafts, though the wear is probably in the bushings). Avoid doing rears or else I could end up replacing rear drums ($$$). Front left is worst off (and evidently caught fire one day before I owned it - still had flame retardant on it)
  3. Took off rear right air box cover and looked at two of the piston rings and they looked fine! :)
  4. Engine has plenty of oil leaks (obviously)
    • Small 90 degree tube to drive for power steering fluid. Tried tightening, should replace, looks like it leaks quite a bit.
    • Air box breather tubes - going to leak at idle, so idle less. Learned: Bus doesn't like idle - idle less and use fast idle so blower comes on (at 1000 rpm) so it doesn't blow out oil as much, *also* briefly idle when stopping in cold climate so turbo can cool down. Consider making two air box breather cans to catch drip.
    • Blower base gasket is leaking - and that's a big job, pull out the engine...
    • Governer gasket (front of engine (rear of bus)) right near camshaft, but those generally sweat some - would fix with blower base gasket.
    • Probably end plate gasket + flywheel (also big job)
    • Either air compressor or generator gasket
  5. Power steering leak looks like it's *not* the hose or street 90, there was power steering fluid coming off the box above that.
2014/11/03 Found two used tires at Industrial Tire Services in Seattle. Replaced leaking left tag and worn inner right drive. Put old inner right drive on a new hub and put in spare tire compartment! Also got gator caps (inflate thru valve cap or "double seal valve cap") for all tires, and all for $400 with tax. Great people.
2015/04/23 Bus is burglarized while in storage while we are travelling in Europe. We learn that the Stor-All in Gentilly Woods has *zero* security at night, and a thief spent about an hour rummaging through our bus. We will find out more when we return.
2015/08/01 We go to see the bus. It has been ramsacked. The burglar didn't even bother opening simple latches on cabinets, instead ripping them open and breaking latches and doors. Much has been stolen, and much is now broken. Some rats/mice moved in due to the bus being open and made a disaster even worse, now there is rat feces covering everything and everything in the bus needs to be cleaned. Since that's clearly not bad enough, it also seems that just about every system on the bus is now failing: water, generator, A/C, etc..
2015/08/06 We spend a few days at Baton Rouge Bus and Todd helps us get a few things on the bus in order. To wit (fixed and listing what's broken):
  • Replaced bent bay door on electrical side
  • Repaired horn and turn signals and tail light (still need to fix reverse lights)
  • Raspberry PI custom control system that I built was ripped off the wall and stolen
  • Diagnosed genset: When the PI was ripped off the wall, the genset evidently tried to run, and it, believe it or not, broke the squirrel fan again. Unreal. That's failure number FIVE for these fans that Wrico has seen, and ALL OF THEM IN MY BUS. I'm going to switch to a different cooling system. I started to cut the floor of the bus and it looks like I can extract the fan through the floor, which will save days of work. I succeed. You can see this in my album
    [Generator hell]
  • Diagnosed A/C: Motor is burning out on front A/C
  • Battery bay door has ripped off, we repair.
  • Todd replaces passenger door window with Lexan (more zombie proofing!)
  • He doesn't have seals for the lexan windows I have (they are too thick, and evidently they are Greyhound stock, not MCI stock), but he has two windows that are less cracked then mine, so we put those in on the side as temp replacements.
  • MaxxFan ceiling fan is broken (possibly damaged by Burglar?)
  • House water pump dies (this is like the 5 or 6th ShurFlo/Jabsco to die on me, I no longer believe their claims of reliability). I replace it with a 110V 3GPM on/off unit and am surprised that the flow is comparable to the 5.4 GPM units (perhaps my hoses are too small?) and the responsiveness is fine w/out an accumulator (perhaps the stretchiness of the hose is the reason?)
2015/11 I spend some time on a ladder and replace all the bulbs/lenses around the bus.
2015/11/18 I build a wall unit that holds all the folding tables and chairs. Then, feeling really proud of myself, I manage to knock the driver mirror off when pulling out of a really tight squeeze in the woods. I take it to Began Tank Truck in Portland and they fantastically help me pull off the mirror mount, drill it out and fashion a new bolt mount to hold the mirror.
2016/01/20 Dashboard becomes possessed:
  • If I put the defroster on low, the defroster doesn't come on, and sometimes the headlights turn off.
  • If I put the defroster on high, the defroster may or may not come on - but if it does, then the headlights definitely turn off.
  • If I use the right turn signal, everything works fine.
  • If I use the left turn signal, then either the headlights blink on and off while the turn signal blinks off and on, or else the headlights stay on and the turn signal flashes quickly.
I've also noticed that sometimes if I try to run the defroster, the left turn signal indicator light on the dash will glow slightly.
2016/01/27 Replace bus batteries w/ used from Battery Systems (2*$66). I need to get a battery equalizer.
2016/03/20 [approximate date] Everything goes black on the bus at once and the generator shuts off and even the voltmeter on the battery bank goes dark. For a moment I almost wonder if we've just been hit with an EMP. Yikes. Turns out there were two failures stacked on top of each other. The top inverter (for still unknown reason) is linking it's AC ground to it's DC negative. If I disconnect the DC negative, the inverter stays powered up, even without AC power! The link reads about 4V, so it was heating up the 400A fuse that I had on the DC negative. the fuse blew and the inverters shut down, thereby turning off the genset. I had forgotten that I'd also put the voltmeter on the fused side, so that's why that went dark as well. I noticed the burned fuse and pulled it out, and then the top inverter came back on and started smoking. I had to frantically start disconnecting cables. I think it's because the link between the AC ground and DC negative (with it's voltage drop) isn't able to handle the current the inverter pulls, and so it started to smoke. Perhaps I should have let it burn out whatever the link is. But when I reconnected DC negative, it came back on just fine. For now I'm leaving it disconnected until I can have both sides switchable (and maybe even fused) - so I'm missing out on the extra current (and more importantly, the extra 30A of charge)
2016/04/06 Nail in sidewall of front tire. Sabotage? Sad.
2016/05/20 I rip out the makeshift bathroom wall, toilet and closet. I finally find the leak and fix it, the bus seems to finally be leakfree again! I reinstall the toilet sideways and build a sliding privacy door for the bathroom/shower area that opens up the kitchen space enormously and then I extend the closet. I also scrape and repaint the roof deck which surprisingly peeled after a few years.
2016/05/27 Driving to our wedding I notice a stream of coolant spilling out from the engine. The water pump seal has failed. We make it to Tacoma, WA (en route to Cle Elum) and have it checked out and spend half a day looking for a replacement to no avail. We decide to buy lots of coolant and keep topping it off and checking temp and make it to the wedding fine (though late for setup, and losing 5 gallons of coolant every time we use the engine).
2016/05/31 Post-wedding we go back to Erker's in Tacoma and they have managed to find the pump! Water pump replaced.
2016/06/11 I finally do the rewire that was needed from the failure on 2016/03/20. I run the positive through the switch and rerun the jumper to the bus batteries. I replace the bus master switch with a 4-way marine power switch that now lets me turn the bus on and off and separately turn the house<->bus charge jumper on and off. A few issues left:
  • I still need to install the equalizer I purchased - trying to figure out if I want to include the house bank as well
  • When charging the house bank while driving the bus sounds weird - this used to work fine before, so need to investigate
  • The top inverter is fried - I tried restarting it when everything was wired up properly and it released some more of the magic smoke
  • For some reason the solar charger wasn't turning on, claiming the solar panels were over voltage at >150V, which doesn't make sense since they should be at 6*17=102V. They started working fine the next day - maybe just needed to recalibrate??
2016/06/13 I finally fix the dashboard possession issues from January. It was a number of failures that either amplified each other or happened to hit at the same time.
I had a headlight out that came on when the brights came on, I mistakenly thought that the brights were just turning on both headlights as opposed to the regular headlights being three wire, and it happened at the same time so I thought there was a wiring problem there. Just needed a new headlight.
Both the front turn signal sockets had been wired up incorrectly, in different ways.
The headlight switch and defroster switches were flakey and would work intermittently, though that was only making it confusing to debug.
There is a ground in the service panel that is shared by, you guessed it, the turn signals, the defroster and the headlights. And it was floating somewhere between 0V and 24V. It was enough to turn the headlight relay on. Or the defroster relay. But not both.
And grounding it and fixing the switches and the turn signal wiring solved everything.

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