First thing first – you need to strip your bus to an empty shell. There is a lot more work involved in this than you would initially think.
This was hard work as our bus is over 10 years old and a lot of the bolts were rusted tight. We still managed to take out all of the chairs in about 4 hours and sold them the same day on eBay for GBP45 for 14 of them, just to free up the space, as they had quickly filled up the garage. We then took out all the big yellow metal bar frames from the bus, which came out fairly easily. The lift wasn’t too difficult to take out, but be aware they tend to be very heavy so you will definitely need two people to do this. We sold the lift for GBP60 on eBay very quickly too.
(TIP: If the bolts require an Allen Key to undo, spraying them with WD40 helps loosen them sometimes. If you can find a thin steel pipe or something similar (we used a long screw driver with interchangeable heads) you can place this over the Allen Key and this will create force multiplying effect and give you much more leverage and torque when turning the Allen Key. If that fails, it’s time to get out the angle grinder I am afraid.
Essential Equipment for this stage: Spanners, Allen Keys, Allen Key Extension, WD40, Gloves, Possibly Angle Grinder.
Taking out the inside windows frames is very straightforward – you just need to unscrew them. In our case they were simple fibreglass frames covering the joints of the glass to the steel frame. It is essential to really strip the walls back as far as possible to search for any leaks underneath the frames. (In our case I would say that we had around 40-50 leaks at this stages of varying sizes!) We removed the side panels and then the ceiling panels, which came off quiet easily. There was a lot of dust and mould underneath so I would suggest using a mask here. The centre part of the ceiling, which had a large metal light fitting running down it, was a lot harder to take off. We had to use the angle grinder to saw into the bolts and then chisel them off with a screw driver (ideally a Cold Chisel would be better) and hammer. We pulled off all the fabric on the side walls so that we could get to the pop rivets underneath and then drilled out the aluminium side panels, using the chisel method again to get behind the metal as they were also glued in place! We did the same for the aluminium sheets on the ceiling, and took out the polystyrene insulation – which was soaking wet in some parts. Stripping it all the way back like this enabled us to find the leaks and fill them. in but also gave us a good idea of where the steel box frame lay, so that we could build our timber frame secussefully on top of this.
(TIP: For removing pop-rivets choose a HSS (High Speed Steel) Drill Bit slightly larger than the centre shaft of the pop-rivet. As you drill through this the rest of the front of the pop-rivet will come loose.)
Essential Equipment for this stage: Electric Drill with various HSS Bits, Angle Grinder, Hammer, Screw Driver, Masks, Stanley knife
We did not take out our flooring as it was in relatively good condition. We could not get the metal chair track system out of the floor without someone getting underneath and holding the bolts with a spanner under the bus, which given the tiny clearance of our bus just isn’t possible. This is a shame as these tracks, even though they are aluminium, do weigh a considerable amount in total. However with some buses it is a lot easier to take out the floor, especially ones with frames above the wheel arches, and we would highly recommend removing any track systems (and potentially even the wood base as these can be inches thick in some cases). If you are looking to downgrade the weight category of your vehicle as it is potentially a great deal of unnecessary weight. We decided to build our floor over the track system, and insulate them as they will surely act as a cold bridge across the wooden base.
Essential Equipment for this stage: Huge Allen Keys, Spanners, Bus ramp.