The First Things I Did With My Bus

There are myriad things that need to be done immediately after you’ve bought your school bus and this is already after the hullabaloo of getting it insured and temporarily licensed for the drive from wherever you’re buying it. This also assumes that you’ve bought a working bus that you can drive off of the lot. A lot of buses on run just fine, but are still in various stages of disrepair. They vary from city to city and school district to school district. If you’re in doubt, pay a mechanic in that area to go out and inspect it before you start bidding on it. If you’ve been through this whole process then you’re probably committed to starting on your skoolie.

Even though I’ve traveled into the future to bring you this photo, you can see that I’ve covered the wheels to protect the tires from the Texas sun.

Even though I’ve traveled into the future to bring you this photo, you can see that I’ve covered the wheels to protect the tires from the Texas sun.

Check Your Tires: Make sure that you check your tires before you make any significant drives. School buses are constructed well, but they’re not maintained in a way that would lead them to last more than 20 years in service (many are in service for much less time). The tires are no exception! Tread wear and sun rot are the easiest to spot, but the tires can be lopsided from sitting in one place for too long. Tread wear is not preventable, but sun damage can be negated by covers. They’re worth the investment, since a new set of rear tires can easily cost $2,000 for 4. Drive tires are about $1,000 each and must have an adequate amount of tread. They are, after all, steering your 20,000+ pound monster down the road. The entire weight of your bus rests on those tires, so skimping isn’t a smart option. Don’t start your journey with an uncertain ride and leave yourself open to a preventable accident.

Choose Your Site: If by this point you haven’t already chosen the site for your bus work, there are a few things to consider.

  • You’ll want to find as flat an area as possible. In bus work, “level” is impossible to acquire. I build everything to be “square to the bus.” If anything, this will prevent your tools from rolling/sliding while you’re working

  • If you have access to an area that’s sheltered and can fit a bus, I’m unbelievably jealous. For sun protection in the summer and rain protection at any other time, a covered barn or shed is a luxury.

  • You’ll have to make sure that your neighbors are alright with you doing work on the bus late into the evening if that’s something that you plan to do. My current neighbors are horses and they don’t mind at all.

  • While we’re talking about neighbors, you’re going to want to be in an area that doesn’t have a Home Owner’s Association. They’re typically sticklers for parking “eyesores” in your driveway. Know your neighbors/neighborhood and you’ll hopefully avoid this.

  • Safety is my final criteria. I had to move my bus about 5 months into the build because I had some fairly expensive tools and raw materials in the bus. There were a lot of stray dogs in the area and the police were called to the neighborhood every other night. While the rent for the space was super cheap, I was eventually limited. As soon as I got doors on the bus, I started locking it up, and as soon as I found a safer location, I moved it.

Blank Canvas

Your bus is a blank canvas. Be prepared to apply layer after layer of paint, wood, and hard work to it.

Strategize: I’m actually pretty happy with how I strategized doing work on the bus. I used my early motivation to start planning difficult things, and waited for others to fall into place in the timeline. Overall, If you think about the bus as a series of layers, it is a lot easier to visualize the planning process. In my opinion, the way that I structured my build allowed me to make changes at the last minute, or when my designs changed.

  1. Metal

  2. Flooring/Walls

  3. Utilities/Ceiling

  4. Furniture Framework

  5. Decorating

  6. Relax!

Looking forward to finishing, relaxing, and traveling with my bus has kept me driven during this entire process. I have taken a few small breaks throughout the build, which have kept me sane. My next post will go into the metal work that I did to lay the foundation for the flooring.

Keith HarrisComment