More Rust Removal. See previous blog post for tools.
This one is mostly about school bus floor removal.
The video starts off with a traditional title screen made in physical space on the project. Then I start working on cleaning the rust off a small part of the floor to get an idea for how the process will go.
For some reason I wanted to make the gas cap look really good. I think I was zoning out listening to something and I just kept working on it until it looked great.
Existing School Bus Floor Removal
After fluffing around with the gas cap, I cleaned out the bus so we could remove the floor. The floor was attached with steel nails. We pulled all the black existing school bus material up with the plywood. No need to pull up the rubber first, just go straight to the plywood.
The key is to use what I call a decider.
A decider is a giant prybar. Something like this. It’s really expensive to buy one, so if you don’t have one you can use a giant steel pipe over a more regular sized pry bar. The one I had is a friends who has had it in the family for a long time. It was amazing.
One thing that made a big difference was preparation. Because we took great care to remove all the metal trim from around the plywood, the floor came out with some heavy pry work. If we hadn’t spent much of the day preparing the floor to come out, it would have been a nightmare.
Floor Removal Process:
- Remove all metal that overlays the floor
- Insert sharper prybar between steel floor and ply wood at the rear of the bus
- Use the gap to insert a decider pry bar (meaning a really big one)
- Hold it like you’re doing a dead-lift (straight back, lift with hamstrings)
- Once flooring is raised to be perpendicular from floor, have someone use a razor knife to cut the black existing bus flooring
- Take the floor board out of the bus to maintain a clean working space
- Remove all floor boards, then go around cleaning up left behind screws and nails
- Shop-vac everything, clean shops are critical to success
Tools and Products Used
- CLC Mechanic Gloves – These make everything I do better during the conversion
- Milwaukee Cordless Grinder (Not recommended, get one with a cord)
- Blaster Penetrating Catalyst – Liquid which helps clean up grimy spots
- Husky Razor Knife – Disposable blade for cutting gross things
- Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer – Great for cleaning up rust… not recommended for entire floor.
- Knot Brush – Put this on a cord grinder and you become a rust killing monster. I used one of these brushes to remove all the rust on the sub-floor of our 40′ 2001 Thomas School Bus
- Blue tooth head phones – These are way more expensive than normal ear protection, but I love these headphones. They cancel noise, but you can listen to an audiobook or music while doing something super loud
- Vise grips – Multi-use, great for removing exposed screws with stripped heads
- Shop Vac – I like the Ridgid for the lifetime warranty. This one is the perfect size for this small project.
An Australian Friend Had a Question:
If you guys know anyone or see a small van that might do the trick let us know!
Just wanted to pick your brain because you guys have travelled so much more than us. Is sleeping in a van in the states relatively safe? Any suggestions on how to transfer money from Australia to USA? We missed out on burning man tickets but are still trying.
USA Road Trip Advice
Well, I’m an expert on this. I’ve made my response to my friend public here so that someone else hoping to fly to the USA, buy a van and drive across the country (maybe even go to Burningman) has access to this information too.
Living out of a van in the USA
Living in a van in the USA is considerably more challenging than in Australia.
In Hawaii it’s nearly impossible and I would NOT suggest it. California is easier than Hawaii, but it’s a nightmare compared to Australia. The non-California western states (Nevada, Utah, Colorado, etc…) are perfectly fine.
You can always park in land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Those lands are public land so you are legal to park there any time. There are some rules against staying a long time, but you’re going to be moving around too much to worry about those rules. By the way, Nevada is like 85% BLM land so you could boondock for years there.
How to Trasfer Money From my Country to the USA
TransferWise.com is my favorite for transferring money from Oz to USA. I wrote about my experience in detail by clicking here.
Buying a Van – Living in it – Selling it
The USA is fine to live in a van. But the California coast isn’t as hospitable as the Gold Coast or other Aussie spots. The worst thing that will happen is the cops might knock on your door and tell you to keep driving.
The USA isn’t a dangerous place, we just have a really ridiculous news system that makes it seem like the sky is constantly falling.
If I were in your shoes, I would buy a van from a private party. In the USA, we use CraigsList.org.
Everyone uses in the USA. Los Angeles has killer deals on cars. New York and Miami are also great places to buy vehicles.
Use Specific Search on Craigslist.org
Craigslist is great for finding specific parameters for your purchase decision.
This search finds you a private party van between $1,000 USD and $6,000 USD which was produced before 1995 and has less than 90,000 miles on the odometer.
Don’t go CNG in the USA. Diesel and Gas should be your only options. CNG is natural gas. You’ll find those cars hard to sell and hard to fill up.
Also, CraigsList is full of sketchy folks. Be careful meeting someone sketch-ball in a non-public place with a hand-full of cash. Make sure to jump on the phone and get a good read on the person before heading out there. Also, their post will tell you a lot about who they are.
Great photos? Well-written description on the vehicle? Probably a good sign.
Two bad photos and the seller can’t spell well? Keep looking.
Cell Phones for Travelers in the USA
When you get to the USA and are looking for a cell phone, go with a PrePaid AT&T SIM card and use your unlocked smart phone.
AT&T has the best service when you’re driving across the middle of nowhere. T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint all offer prepaid plans, but they won’t work in the mountains or anywhere rural. If you’re staying in New York City and you want to spend an extra $5 a month, go with T-Mobile…. but that is silly.
I suggest AT&T prepaid for $45 a month. You only get 6 GB of data at fast speed, but you’ll just be throttled back after that and have slow internet after 6 GB per month. You’ll still have unlimited talk and text and the throttled speed is still good enough for emails.
That’s the best deal in the USA right now.
Make sure your cell phones are unlocked before leaving your home country too.
Want to Go To Burningman?
For years I bought my ticket in the last week before the Burn.
It’s possible that living in Reno made it easier. Reno is the biggest city near the event so we get almost everyone coming through town. I never had a problem finding a ticket as the event drew closer. Craigslist.org always paired me with someone. We talked on the phone, confirmed identity and expressed a commitment to meet and make the deal. It works all the time.
Man! I like talking about this stuff. Please let me know below if you have any questions and I’ll try my best to answer them.
Mt Rose is sort of like my home away from home. I’ve been a pass-holder there since 1992, which is probably longer than I’ve ever done anything in my life.
The Mt Rose Crew
Every once in a while the stars align and everyone is up there. Today was a pretty astonishing day because we had an epic group.
Here’s the trail map that was marked up for the making of the video.
The Chutes at Mt. Rose are pretty incredible. They almost never get much sun so the snow stays really soft. The thing that makes them extra fun is that they are really steep. Not approved for first time skiers.
Thank you for visiting the site. Make sure to subscribe on YouTube.
School Bus Conversion Electrical System
Today was hard to explain. We tested continuity of wires. We wanted to know if a wire runs to a light we didn’t need. If the controls to that wire attached to the fusebox (for lack of a better word) in a way that was no longer necessary, we knew we could take out that component.
The end goal was to wire the bus to run as a vehicle with road legal lights and take out everything else.
Two School Bus Home Electrical System
We have two separate electrical systems:
- The Vehicles Electrical System – Charged by the engine
- The Houses Electrical System – Charged by the solar energy system
Electrical Removal Decision Process
Knowing that the bus’s electrical system would be separate from the vehicle’s system empowered us to take out a lot of wires, relays and other devices. That helped move the project along all day.
“Is that element essential to the bus for regulations or driver comfort?”
If no, get rid of it.
If yes, label it and move on.
Honestly, about 15 pounds of wire was removed after everything was said and done. Some of the wire is this awesome 12 gage copper wire that we can use for lights and whatever else. That’ll save us running a lot of wires later into the build.
Moving the Floor
We’re ready to have a big day of existing floor removal tomorrow. Please feel free to watch that.
School Bus Electrical Disassembly
Today we spent the day removing things that are generally part of a school bus. Things like the kid gate, the stop sign and the internal heaters for the bus.
The back exit (emergency exit) had some sort of a short so we decided to take all the electrical aspects out it. Now the back door doesn’t have running emergency red light or the buzzers if someone opens the emergency door.
There were two heaters that warmed up due to the engine coolant running through the bus. To take those out, I got a little dirty crawling under the bus and reconnecting all the coolant hoses. We have a lot of nice coolant hosing now. That was a really dirty afternoon.
The New Fuel Pump Problem
It lead to a fuel problem. Now when we start the bus, the fuel filter pours out diesel. So I’m seeking a solution to that problem.
Big Thank You
Big thanks to Erik for being our sparky. We couldn’t have done it without you buddy.
If you’re reading this, I’m in the process of designing the flooring system. So my notes and ideas are shown in real time in this blog.
Once I commit to a strategy and implement it, this blog will explain of the floor’s design and the implementation process.
Later, once we spend more time in the home, I’ll share my results here. Thank you for reading.
To Remove Existing School Bus Floor or Not to Remove
From the looks of our existing floor, it seems like we might not need to take it out. I can’t see any places where the flooring is in terrible condition.
That said, we’re building something that we want to last for at least 100 years. I can’t make the assumption that everything is fine under there. We’ve decided to take the existing flooring out so that we can seal the existing metal floor with anti-rust paint and rebuild a bulletproof strategy for going forward.
Rust Proofing the Existing School Bus Metal Floor
I’m going to experiment with bondo and epoxy to plug any existing holes in the floor. We want to the bus to be water tight. All the holes made to secure seats will need to be sealed in a bulletproof manner.
Once the floors are all sealed up, we will be using Rust-Oleum 7792 Gloss White paint to seal the metal school bus floor.
Flooring Insulation and Finishing
Choosing School Bus Conversion Insulation
We would like this bus to be rated to live in Lake Tahoe in the winter so we are going with the upper range of Zone 5 as recommended by the US Department of Energy (DOE).
This means the following insulation ratings for our walls, floor and ceiling if we’re to spend much of our time in the Lake Tahoe area:
- Floor – (R25 to R30)
- Ceiling – (R49 to R60)
- Walls – (R15)
So it turns out that in order for us to get that DOE rated insulation, we will need to extend the roof of the bus. To get simple R15 insulation, the best thing I could find is 3 1/2″ inches deep which is too little insulation in too thick of a space.
I couldn’t find any R50 insulation that is 2 inches or less in thickness. Indeed, we would need another foot in the roof to get close to the reccomendations suggested by the DOE. This doesn’t seem prudent to me.
Also, the DEO is writing these requirements for relatively large homes. The heating expense of this bus will be a fraction of what a normal house would require.
The Plan for the Ceiling Insulation
We are very lucky with our bus. The existing insulation is in excellent condition. There isn’t a drop of mold on any of the main parts. The biggest weakness to the existing insulation is that it doesn’t fill the roof cavities entirely.
To solve that, I plan to buy some spray insulation to fill the gaps left from the regular insulation. I’m exploring the following products:
* This spray foam could be used on the bottom of the bus as well as the product brags that it adheres to metal
Floor Material Design
We don’t want to build up with floor height much as there is limited vertical space in the bus. That said, the bus needs to be as comfortable as possible. Here is how I see the plan for floor materials:
- Vinyl Plank Flooring (1/16″ – 5/16″) – Floor & Ceiling
- Plywood (3/4″)
- 1.5″ Insulation (link) + Framing (2×4 s are actually 1.5″ thick)
- Existing School Bus Steel Painted with Rust-Oleum
I Hope You Found This Useful
Please let me know any thoughts or comments you have in using the links below. I’m done on the computer for the day, it’s time to go out and remove the rest of that floor in the bus.
Direct SketchUp School Bus Template Download
Thanks to 3d Model Foundation
Big thanks to the creators of this bus 3d model. I used their design, but I modified the scale to fit the reality of our own 2001 Thomas School Bus which we are deconstructing now.
How to Remove a Stripped Screw
When you’ve got a phillips head screw that is stripped beyond repair, what I like to do us use a grinder to cut a slot in the screw. Then that defunct phillips head becomes a straight, fresh metal slot head screw.
Then it’s easy to take out with a nice fat flat head screw driver.
How to Take Ceiling Panels out of a 2001 Thomas School Bus
Use the impact drill. In the movie above, you’ll see me using the regular drill almost the whole time. That was a dumb waste of energy. I was also using the impact drill head with the regular drill, which was also a waste of resources.
After we stopped filming for the day, I started using the impact drill and it worked great. I actually removed more than 50% of the ceiling panel screws. It goes fast when you know how.
Contemplating the Future of the Bus
Aside from a general design idea, I don’t have a specific plan for the build. So today I started working with SketchUp to do some accurate drawings of the bus. More design ideas will come. For now, we’ve got this Pinterest board which contains a lot of ideas for what we’re thinking will guide the aesthetics of what we’re building.