The Bus is Registered!

The Bus is Registered!

I am so so happy right now!

Today I walked out of the TMR office with a pair of shiny new number plates for my bus.

She is now an officially registered motorhome!

I almost can’t believe that I am finally here, after so many years of dreaming about bus life, saving money, getting my own bus and all the work to get to this point. It now seems a bit surreal.

But it is real and I couldn’t be more proud of myself and what I have managed to do.

Of course, the bus is a long way from finished and I still have a lot of work to do, but I can relax a little now and finish the rest of the build in my own time, without worrying about having to pass inspections or being caught out by changing rules.

I was so nervous yesterday, waiting for the inspector to arrive. I honestly did not know whether he would approve of how I had built the inside, or even whether the bus would pass a roadworthy, given that she had not been off the driveway in almost a year!

But in the end, she passed both the roadworthy and the motorhome inspection with flying colours.

The inpsector also gave me the certification and mod plate I needed for the change in number of seats, and then all I had to do was take all the paperwork into the TMR office and hand over my money.

Registering a Toyota Coaster as a Motorhome in QLD

For those wondering what you need to register your coaster as a motorhome in Qld, I thought I would share my experience.
To qualify as a motorhome in Qld you must have:
  • residential quarters permanently fixed to the vehicle
  • rigidly fixed sleeping berths
  • rigidly fixed cooking facilities
  • rigidly fixed table (may be removable)
  • travel seating for all sleeping berths
  • rigidly fixed storage facilities
  • an approved fire extinguisher in the living quarters
  • at least one outward opening or sliding door on the left hand side or rear of the living quarters
  • the vehicle must NOT have designated load carrying area
Note that you do NOT need any plumbing or electrical setups installed for purposes of registration.
You may however need these to meet insurance company criteria for a motorhome, and if your cooking facilities are gas or electric, then you need the appropriate certification for that installation.
My stove is a metho burning alcohol stove so I didn’t need anything for it.
 
To get the motorhome certification, you need to have the coaster inspected by an approved inspector. This can be a mobile inspector. You don’t have to take it into the TMR.
I highly recommend Craig Haswell from Performance Auto Inspections if you’re in the Brisbane area.
The inspector will check that you meet the above criteria, and then do a “measure up” to record length, height etc of vehicle which also goes on the motorhome form.
 
To get registered, you need to take the following to the TMR:
  • Your current Qld driver’s licence
  • Your completed motorhome inspection form
  • A valid roadworthy certificate (mine was a COI as my coaster still has the original GVM and is a heavy vehicle. If your coaster has been downgraded to less than 4.5T you’ll just need an ordinary safety certificate.)
  • Certificate of seating modification if you have had change in number of seats or if you have installed new seats.
  • A record of the vehicle’s tare weight (the unladen weight when empty) You may need a weighbridge ticket to get this. I had last year’s rego papers which had the original tare weight and they accepted this. (this may have been because I wasn’t changing the GVM at all. If you are also changing the GVM they may be a bit stricter about needing the recent weighbridge ticket)
You just take all the paperwork in and get your plates over the counter. You do not need to take the actual coaster in to the TMR.
 
So my coaster is now registered as a truck-based motorhome.
12 months rego cost me $1140.45 today. This includes compulsory CTP. That was for new registration – subsequent renewals will be a fraction cheaper. It also included a credit card surcharge.
Please note that I didn’t have to pay stamp duty as my coaster was previously registered in my name and I already paid it when I first bought the bus. If this is the first time you are registering your coaster in your name you will also need to pay stamp duty on the market value of it.
Remember – this was my experience and is only relevant for Qld rego. Each state will have its own rules.
But I hope this is helpful to folks who are wondering what’s involved.
Building cabinet doors

Building cabinet doors

Made my first ever cabinet doors on the weekend.
I was really happy with how they turned out and I didn’t notice until I took this photo that I put the panels on with the grain running in different directions. oops!
And of course I did such a good job of glueing and nailing them in that there is now way I could get the panels out now without wrecking the whole door so they have to stay.
I’m hoping it won’t be noticeable once the doors are painted.

Removable table

Removable table

I made some more good progress this week and built the table.

I wanted a big table so I could use the space to work on my books and jewellery etc, and have room for sewing machine, printer and other things.

Originally, I was going to have the table hinged and able to flip up against the window. This is because I need it out of the way when I want to extend the bed out at night, and I am also putting something under the table that I need access to.

But I realised if I hinged the table this way, it would block the view when up, so I decided instead to have the whole top removable and just used some latches to hold it in place while I’m driving.

The table is made from pine so is very lightweight and easy to lift on and off.

The three studs you can see on the wall under the table are for support brackets that will hold up the thing under the table when I build that later. This will all be trimmed and painted later when it’s finished.

Entry Step Storage

Entry Step Storage

The next think I want to build in the bus is my tabke, but before I can do that, I needed to build a little wall in the entry that it will attach to, so this week I have been working on the entry stairwell area.

I hadn’t done anything with the step since buying the bus, so it needed a good clean. It had a little bit of surface rust so I treated that with Penetrol and then painted it with Rust Guard paint.

I boxed in part of the stairwell to cover awkward brackets and holes that were there and then built a shelf unit that can hold things like sunscreen, insect repellant and whatever else I decide I need easy access to from outside.

Eventually I will add a couple of hooks to the front for hanging Pepper’s harness and lead.

On the other side of the step, I added a bit to the wall that will be behind the passenger seat, so I could mount one of my fire extinguishers there.

These are only small additions but I’m pleased with them because I have stained the timber and it gives me a sense of what the rest of the bus will look like when it is finished. I’m enjoying the rustic look very much.

The entry step before:

 

And after:

The shelf unit was a huge design challenge because I had to allow for the door arms which turn in as the door closes.

Ignore the green masking tape – it is marking where I have studs in the shelves so I know where to screw my table support in when I come to do that.

Kitchen cabinet with slide-out stove

Kitchen cabinet with slide-out stove

I now have my first kitchen cabinet in tyhe bus!

Well, I still have to put on the doors and the benchtop which will make it look better, but the main structure is finished and I am really happy with how it turned out.

I am using plastic storage crates which are very sturdy instead of built-in drawers because I didn’t want the hassle of building and installing heaps of drawers and these are much lighter weight than drawers would be. The two middle shelves on either side are removable if I decide I need more space.

The slide out stove works really well and will hopefully satisfy the inspector that it qualifies as “fixed” into the bus. (motorhome must have fixed cooking facility)

There were a lot of little design challenges to overcome with this and it was the first time I have ever built a cabinet, so I am really proud of the job I did.

Framing out the pantry and electrical bay

Framing out the pantry and electrical bay

This week I built the framing for the walls that will form my pantry, wardrobe, fridge space and electrical bay.

This was by far the most frustrating job in the whole build!
Trying to build square walls in a space that is not square was a nightmare!

You would not think it has taken me almost 6 days just to build these.
But I got there in the end, and while I am still not happy that it isn’t totally square, they are at least parallel so I should be able to fit doors etc, and they look straight when you stand at one end of the bus.

At this point, I am calling it good enough!

 

 

This is the driver side where my fridge will go.  The narrow space next to this is the wardrobe:

 

On the passenger side directly opposite is the space where all my electrical components such as batteries, inverter, solar charger etc, will be installed. The narrow space on this side will be a pantry cabinet:

Building an extendable bed

Building an extendable bed

I had a very productive weekend and have finished the bed in my bus!

I tested it out with the mattresses today and it works really well so I am very happy.
Even Pepper liked it. I had her test it out and she immediately went to sleep on it!
It is a bit high for her to get on and off easily though so I will need to build some sort of step for her. Always things to add to my challenge list!

The bed will act as sofa during the day and pull out to a larger bed at night.

I could sleep on the day version if I needed to, but the night version gives me more room when there is a 30kg dog taking up 2/3 of the bed.

I will have big storage containers that slide out from under the bed at the front.

First wall going in!

First wall going in!

I am very happy right now. Have finished the framing for the first wall in my bus 🙂

I have a couple more “noggins” (horizontal pieces) to put in but will wait until I decide what I am doing with the space on the other side, as I will be attaching the storage there to the back of this wall.
The walls will eventually be lined with tongue and groove pine.

Now it is time to build the bed!

Cab area Part 3 – side wall lining

Cab area Part 3 – side wall lining

I’ve been finishing off the cab area renovations this week. More carpet laid. New piece of ply cut and painted to line the passenger side wall and seats reinstalled.

I had to clean a bunch of interior stuff like the drivers door panel, handbrake cover, sunvisor etc. After a year of sitting in the shed they were all very dirty. Hot soapy water did the trick and then I reinstalled everything.

I will be getting a moulded cover made for the engine hatch, and at some stage I will also be getting the seats recovered.
One day, when I’m on the road and have time on my hands, I may even pull the dash apart and repaint it as it is looking a bit worn.
But for now, I am done with this area and that means….

I am FINALLY ready to start building the walls and furniture inside!

Cab area Part 2 – carpet install

Cab area Part 2 – carpet install

The next stage to finish off the floor in the cab area was to lay new carpet. 

I chose to purchase a moulded carpet from Trufit carpets that was specifically made for my model coaster.

However, despite it being supposedly premade to shape, I still had to do a crazy amount of cutting and moulding to get it to sit right.

In the end, it turned out ok, but it was the first job I did in the bus where I wasn’t really happy with the end result.

But it will do. 

Cab area Part 1 – Sound deadener

Cab area Part 1 – Sound deadener

The next part of the bus that I want to work on is the driver’s cab area at the front. 

It needs a good clean, and I need to replace the manky old vinyl that was on the floor orginally.

This week, I laid down sound deadening matting over the entire floor in this area. This will hopefully reduce the noise and heat that comes up from the engine which is right beside the driver seat.

This was by far the easiest job in the whole bus conversion so far!

 

Before sound deadener installed:

 

 

And after:

 

 

Shiplap lining for the ceiling

Shiplap lining for the ceiling

The ceiling is done!
Well the boards are up at least. I still have a lot of filling and sanding and painting to do but that will come later.
It went up much easier than I was expecting and having two people helped a lot, although I did manage to get the final outer pieces up by myself after Dad had to leave today.
My neck is very sore now after looking up at the roof all day drilling and screwing but I am very pleased to have this job done.
It is starting to actually look like something now!

The sections on the sides where you can still see the insulation will be covered by overhead cabinets.

Lining the walls

Lining the walls

I finished putting up the ply on the side walls this week.
It’s only a small job but it makes a huge difference to how the bus looks inside. It is starting to look a little more like a house and less like a bus which is exciting.
Most of this ply will form the backs of cabinets or be hidden behind other things so won’t be seen unless you open a cupboard door.
I still need to do the back wall which I will do once I make a final decision about my bathroom layout.

Insulating the bus – Part 2

Insulating the bus – Part 2

After weeks of not being able to work in the bus because of constant rain, I was finally get back into it this week!

I installed the final stage of my insulation – lining the entire inner surface of the bus with Ametalin Thermalbreak to add extra insulation and also to create a vapour barrier.

Laying the vinyl flooring

Laying the vinyl flooring

 

Another massive job ticked off the list!

I just finished laying the sheet vinyl flooring.

I decided to go with sheet vinyl because a lot of people have issues with vinyl planks moving and lifting in their buses, and I wanted the added protection for water spills etc that you get with one continuous piece.
I was so nervous about doing this step. As with just about everything on this bus, I have no experience doing this kind of thing.
Vinyl is quite expensive and I was afraid that I would muck it up and have to buy a whole new piece.
Thankfully that didn’t happen, and the adhesive etc turned out to be easier to work with than I anticipated.

I found sourcing the vinyl one of the hardest parts of the whole build so far. Most of what is available in stores is way too expensive for me, especially since a lot comes in 4m wide rolls, and the bus is less than 2m wide which means you are paying for twice as much as you need (if you want the timber pattern like I have). Bunnings had some that were 2m wide and I also looked at commercial vinyls which come in 2m widths too but the colours are much more limited and I couldn’t find one I was happy with. Eventually, I found a store that had a bunch of rolls of leftover stock that were half price and I found a colour I liked. It was 4m wide but I got them to cut it for me so I had two pieces of 2m width. I didn’t muck up the first piece so I am hoping I can sell the other piece to a fellow bus builder and recoup some of my money too. I normally would prefer darker colours but I am trying to stay a bit lighter with the bus so it doesn’t feel too dark inside. I’m a bit out of my comfort zone choosing lighter tones. Hopefully the colour will look ok when everything else is in. In any case, there will be rugs on the floor and most of the sides will be built over so you won’t see much of it in the end.

I had to cut the vinyl to shape which was a bit tricky especially around the wheel arches.

Then before I laid the vinyl, I tried to get the floor as smooth and as level as I could. I sanded it down to get the joins as flush as I could and I filled in all the screw holes and gaps between the ply sheets with a filler compound.
Then I primed the whole floor and applied the adhesive before rolling out and sticking down the vinyl.

 

Insulating the bus – Part 1

Insulating the bus – Part 1

 

Another big job on the bus is now complete – the first layer of insulation is installed!

I am using Foilboard (polystyrene sheets with aluminium foil on each side) in the cavities of the walls and the roof for a number of reasons but mostly because it won’t hold moisture and it won’t sag over time with gravity and the movement of the bus like woollen batts would.

This was a time consuming fiddly job especially on the walls because there were so many odd shapes and angles to measure and cut. I tried to get it as tight a fit as I could.
I also put the insulation over some of the windows at the back that will have walls and cabinets etc built in front of them.

 

The build has finally begun!

The build has finally begun!

Finally, after all this time spent stripping the bus, and making repairs, the inside build has finally begun!It may not look like much yet, but it felt so good to be starting the next phase of the bus conversion.

This week, I built the framing that will be used to attach my ceiling lining.

 

Installing my Maxxair fans

Installing my Maxxair fans

This week I installed the two Maxxair fans in the roof of my bus.

It was a bit nerve-racking cutting the holes in the roof because you only have one shot to get it right, but it turned out ok.
I still have to connect the wiring to the fans but will do that at a later date when I do all my electrical work. I have run the wires in conduit inside the ceiling and where they come out will be overhead cabinets so I will have full access to them when I need.
There is also a trim piece that goes around the fans on the inside but that gets installed once the ceiling lining is done.

More leaks

More leaks

It has been a frustrating week! I was hoping to be able to install my roof fans this week, but instead, the heavy rain we’ve been getting exposed quite a few leaks and I spent the week trying to deal with them.

I patched up holes, resealed windows, and eventually ended up plastering pretty much every join I could see with sikaflex.

The bus is now leak-free. 

Hopefully she will stay that way!

Bus has some new shades!

Bus has some new shades!

I was finally able to pick up my bus this afternoon after three weeks being at the repair shop. Windscreen rust looks to be gone. Driver door is fixed and now shuts properly (so hopefully won’t leak now)
And all the windows have been tinted.

I am very pleased with the job they did on the tinting. There is no way I would have been able to get it that good, (at least not without a lot of swearing , who knows how many hundreds of hours work, and probably a lot of ruined tint film LOL!) so I am glad i decided to pay the money for that.
The photo does not really do it justice. I will try to get a better one tomorrow with the bus parked in the same spot as the before shot.

I got the front driver and passenger windows, as well as the window in the rear door tinted with 35% film, which is the maximum legal tint for the driver area. Most of the side windows are done with 5% (limousine tint) and there are a few windows at the very back that I had done with black opaque vinyl for complete blackout (these windows will be built in and mostly not seen from inside). The vinyl looks identical to the tint film from the outside.

Only problem now is that the scratches on the glass (large scratch down passenger side) show up a lot more LOL! I will try to deal with that at a later date.

Now that I have the bus back, it is time to summon up the courage to cut the holes in the roof so I can install my fans.

Before tinting:

After tinting:

Reinstalling the Windows

Reinstalling the Windows

It has been so long since I’ve been able to post any updates on the bus project. My elbow tendonitis continued to trouble me and I ended up having to get a cortisone injection and take time off to let it heal.

It still isn’t 100% but it is certainly better and I have been able to get back to working on the bus.

Last week, I finally managed, with Dad’s help, to get all the windows back in the bus!

sealing the plywood floor

Getting the windows in was the easy part. It then took me an entire day to clean up all the excess mastic that oozed out around the edges when I clamped the windows back in place. Such a messy, tedious job.

I finally had the chance to test the windows for leaks this past weekend and am very pleased to report that they are watertight! Still shaking my head wondering how I managed to get all 7 back in with no issues.

Sadly, though, in the process of testing the windows, I discovered that the taillight I replaced was NOT at all watertight and was in fact leaking lots of water. I tried taking it off and refitting but it made no difference. It feels as though there is a slight dent in the body of the bus where the water was getting in which probably means the light casing is not sitting perfectly as it should there. So I ended up just putting a heap of sika sealant all around the edge, and when I tested it again there was not a drop getting in!

So now I can fairly confidently say that my windows and the taillights are watertight. :)

windscreen rust

Now I just need to sort out the roof. There is at least one leak that I know of, but I’m about to cut large holes to instal a couple of fans as well, so will be sealing everything up after that.
Just today I finally came up with a solution to the challenge of fitting all the things I want on the roof, and now I’m excited to start cutting holes up there LOL.

But before I do any of that, I am getting the windscreen rust and driver’s door fixed, and all the windows tinted. Bus is booked in for all that on 1st November so will be a few weeks before I can move onto the next job.

Replacing window seals and preparing to refit windows

Replacing window seals and preparing to refit windows

Before I could reinstall the windows there were a few more things I needed to do to fix up the frames.

Firstly, I gave them all a fresh coat of paint since the black was wearing off and quite a few of them were scratched and scuffed.

 

painting the window frames

And I also cleaned the rust off the clips that go back on to hold the windows in place.

Before:

rusty window clips

And after rust treatment:

window clips after rust treatment

The next task was to replace the rubber seals.

Many people buy generic bailey channel rubber by the metre and cut it to size to fit their windows. That would have been a much cheaper option.

But I decided to instead pay the extra money and get genuine OEM Toyota Seals for a number of reasons:

1) The Toyota seals are made specifically for each window. They are a one-piece continuous loop with no joins.  My top priority is to have a watertight bus, and so I wanted to maximise my chances of getting a perfect fit with the new seals.

2) The Toyota seals come with all of the drainage and other holes pre-cut in exactly the right places. If I’d used the generic bailey channel, I would have had to measure and hand-cut all of these holes myself which would have been a fiddly, time-consuming job.

I’d heard a few people report they had problems with leaking when using the bailey channel and I just didn’t want to risk having to redo everything. 

It was still a rather fiddly job to insert the new seals into the window frames, but thankfully once they were in, it was a nice tight fit.

new Toyota coaster window seals

Now that the new seals are in, the windows are finally ready to reinstall.

I had hoped to be able to get all the windows back in this week, but sadly, I have had to put the bus work on hold for a couple of weeks because the tendonitis that has been plaguing my right arm for many months, has worsened again and I now have a tear in the tendon at my elbow. This week, I had to have a cortisone injection into the joint in an effort to try to get the inflammation to settle down. As frustrating as it is not being able to continue working on the bus, I know that if I don’t properly rest it now, it may never heal.

 

I did manage to get one window reinstalled, with Dad’s help. Once the window had been reassembled, it was a relatively simple process to put new mastic on the frame and lift it up onto the bus.  Once it was in place, I got Dad to support it from the outside, and I went into the bus to reinsert the clips that hold it in place.

It looks really good. The test now will be to see if it is actually watertight which I will hopefully be able to do in the next week or so.

window refitted

I decided not to tint the windows myself. While I was cleaning the windows I found it really hard to get them totally dust free and I just decided it would be too hard for me to get a neat finish with the tinting if I tried to do it at home. So I will just pay to have them professionally done.

I have also decided not to replace any of the windows with aluminium panel, and will instead just cover the ones that will be built in with an opaque vinyl or something.

I’ve just reached the point in the build where I don’t want to create any more unnecessary work for myself. I may still have to remove the windows at the very back to fix the seals, if they leak, which I will test next week, but they look fine and I don’t think they leak so fingers crossed I won’t need to do that.

Once I am able to get the rest of the windows in, I will take the bus into town to get the windscreen rust fixed, and the windows tinted. Then I will be getting an awning installed, and then the next task for me will be to install the roof fan and mounting for the solar panels. Once all that is done and I can make sure the bus is fully watertight, I can finally start building the inside!

I just hope this blasted elbow heals.

Removing mastic and cleaning the window frames

Removing mastic and cleaning the window frames

After taking out the windows, I pulled them apart and cleaned up the frames. They were covered in caked mud and dirt as well as spider webs. And then there was the remnants of the mastic – the horrible black sticky stuff that was used to create a waterproof seal between the frames and the bus. It took a long time to get all the old mastic off but I eventually got it done. I found the easiest way was to scrape off as much of the bulk of it as I could first with a paint scraper, and then use a piece of duct tape to remove the rest.

removing mastic from bus windows

Once the mastic was removed, I then washed the frames, as well as the walls of the bus where the windows were.

Thankfully, there were only a few tiny patches of rust starting, so I painted the edges with Penetrol to prevent any more.

washing window frames

The bus before washing:  

And after cleaning:

Removing the bus windows

Removing the bus windows

I spent the weekend taking out most of the bus windows. Man now that was a big job! (LOL I seem to say that with every part of this bus build lately!)

A couple of the windows were leaking and all of them had very old, deteriorating rubber seals that were coming away in the corners. Also, the windows are very stiff and hard to slide open. So I decided to take them all out to give them a good clean up and replace the seals.

The windows had clips that needed to be removed, but the main thing holding them in place was the sticky, black mastic sealant (same stuff they use to install windscreens). Cutting through all that so I could pry off the window was hard work and I broke quite a few knife blades in the process.

cutting mastic around windows

I had to get Dad to help pull the window away from the bus. I could possibly have done this myself if I had to, but the windows are quite heavy and two people is better. I can’t afford to break any of the glass, so didn’t want to risk it.

lifting out the window

Once the window was out, it was relatively easy to unscrew the frame and pry the glass panels out. The windows were absolutely filthy, full of dirt, dead spiders, leaves and who knows what else. It’s no wonder they were leaking.

I’ve now taken out all of the windows except for the 4 small fixed ones at the very back. These are quite different to the others in terms of how they are installed so I need to think about what to do with them. I would like to completely remove them and replace them with aluminium composite panel which is lighter (and better for insulation compared to glass). My bathroom is going at the very back of the bus so it will mostly be built in over those windows anyway. But I’m not yet sure whether it is worth the work involved.

Toyota coaster with windows renoved

The next job I have to do now that all the frames are out is to clean them up, treat a tiny bit of surface rust on the bus where they were, and put the new seals in.
I also want to have a go at tinting the glass myself while it is out. Not sure how that is going to go LOL!

Fixing my Leaking Tailights

Fixing my Leaking Tailights

The next phase of my build. before I can get to the fun part of building the inside, is to get the bus watertight.

This week, I tackled the taillights, which both leak. (Toyota Coasters commonly leak in this area and it is a common source of water damage and rot in the floor of the bus)

In order to fix the leaking taillights, I first removed them from the bus, gave them and the frame underneath a good clean and then replaced the rubber gaskets that had deteriorated.

I ended up having to completely replace the passenger side taillight with a new assembly as the old one was broken and didn’t have the correct number of bolts to properly attach it. (I suspect it was an aftermarket version)

Pleased to say that they are now both watertight and shouldn’t cause me any more problems for a while.

unplugging taillights

This is what the taillight on the driver side looked like when I removed it. Full of caked dirt and mud, and the rubber gasket completely deteriorated. No wonder it was leaking!

dirty old taillight
deteriorated taillight gasket

And this is the same taillight after I cleaned it and replaced the gasket:

clean taillight with  new gasket

My Interior Layout Plan Revealed

My Interior Layout Plan Revealed

FINALLY!  After months and months of spending poretty much every waking moment thinking about different layout ideas for my bus and agonising iver how I was going to fit everything in, I have finally decided on the interior layout plan.

I’m sure there will still be a few tweaks and little changes as I come up with new ideas to maximise my storage and how best to utilise the space, but this basic layout will remain the same.

My layout will be a little different from most that you see in buses and vans this size, and it won’t suit everyone.

But I’m not building my bus home to suit everyone. I’m building it to suit me. That is the best part about self-converting a bus. You get to make it exactly how YOU want it.

Toyota Coaster layout plan

Check out my video to see my 3D mockup and walkthrough of how I plan to build things on the inside.

Removing the Automatic Door Opener

Removing the Automatic Door Opener

 The next big jobs I want to get dome on the bus involve taking out windows and cutting holes in the roof.

Because the bus is booked in to have the windscreen rust and driver’s door repaired in a couple of weeks, I want to hold off starting those big jobs for now.

In the meantime, I’m ticking off a couple of smaller jobs. One of which, is to remove the automatic door opener.

It sits in the stairwell, and is quite heavy. I leave it set to manual and never use it, so it’s taking up valuable space and weight that could be used for other more essential things.

Removing it is not just a matter of unbolting it from the bus. I also had to be careful to disconnect the wires in the correct way to ensure that the door open alarm wasn’t permanently stuck in the on position!

I mamaged to successfully remove the door opener and the sensor connections from the side entrance door.  However the rear emergency exit door proved far more challenging!

 

Sealing the floor and what’s next?

Sealing the floor and what’s next?

Just a quick update on the bus. I haven’t done a lot of work since installing the floor. Mostly because work has been busy, then I got sick.

I did paint a couple of coats of sealer on the floor. I intend to lay vinyl flooring over it at some stage, but there is a fair bit of work to be done before that, and the sealer will help to protect the ply from any water that gets on it.
I used Bondcrete, which a few people recommended to me.

sealing the plywood floor

Floor doesn’t really look any different. Just a bit shinier :)

The next step is to make the bus watertight. I intend to take out all the windows, clean up the frames and replace the rubber seals which have all deteriorated. I also want to tint the windows when I do that. There is also some work to be done on the roof to fix leaks.

I also plan to lay some sound deadener over the engine bay in the driver’s area, and cover it with new vinyl.

But before I do any of that, I’d like to get a couple of things fixed that I’ve been putting off at the front of the bus.
Firstly, the driver’s door doesn’t close properly. It does shut, and I can lock it, but it doesn’t close flush with the bus so needs some adjusting.
Secondly, there is a bit of rust around the windscreen. Not bad, and I could probably put it off a bit longer, but fixing it will be a messy job and ‘d rather get it all done and sealed up properly before I do any more work to pretty up the inside.

windscreen rust

Installing the New Plywood Floor

Installing the New Plywood Floor

I have had a big week in the bus. Worked solidly most days and am pleased to say that I have finally got the new floor installed. There were a few design challenges due to the fact that I decided to use 18mm marine ply and the original floor was only 12mm thick, so had to find ways to accommodate the hatches that are in the floor so they still sealed up nicely. Had to re-cut some pieces and I also learned to use a router for the first time.

Even though this floor is only half the size of the floor in the big bus, it was so much more difficult to do. So many odd shapes, and curves had to be cut, and there are two different floor heights to contend with as well. And when it came time to screw it all down, I had to be very careful where I put the screws as directly underneath this floor is a fuel tank, and a whole host of cables, wires and other important stuff.

Anyway, I managed to get it in and I think once everything is built in and the vinyl floor covering is on, it will look fine.

cutting out the plywood for the floor
using a jigsaw to cut the curves
first piece is in

Once I had all the pieces cut to fit, I painted the underside with bitumen paint to protect the ply from dirt and water that would get splashed up from the road.

sealing with bitumen paint

I then applied sika adhesive (I used 221) to the frame and screwed the plywood down into it using good quality countersunk self-drilling metal screws.

I was glad I’d taken the time to draw a map of the underfloor frame before I reinstalled the floor, as it made knowing where to put the screws much easier

my Toyota coaster floor frame
glueing in the panels
screwing in panels
finished floor

I am just so glad to have this part of the build completed. It is so nice to be able to walk around inside the bus again without having to bunny hop around the framework. And despite the complications that arose from my decision to use thicker ply, I’m really glad I did because the floor feels very solid and strong – actually much better than the original floor did.

Treating rust and painting the subfloor frame

Treating rust and painting the subfloor frame

Yesterday I treated all the rust patches in the floor frame. There was actually quite a lot and the more of the white paint I ground off, the more rust I discovered underneath it! At least it was all still pretty minor and I didn’t stress too much about getting it all off. Just did the worst of it.

Some of the rust before:

seats removed
grinding back rust in subfloor

After grinding back most of the rust:

After that, I painted the whole frame with Penetrol, which soaks down into every little crevice and seals up the rusty metal. Once that was dry, I then painted the floor frame with two coats of Rust Guard primer mixed with more Penetrol, and then finished with a top coat of Rust Guard enamel. 

toyota coaster floor heaters and hoses

It was a lot of work to do this, but I am so pleased with the finished result. It looks AMAZING!

I can now be confident that I won’t have to worry about rust in my subfloor for a very long time!

 

finished subfloor

Cleaning the floor frame

Cleaning the floor frame

This week I gave the floor a thorough clean and washed off all the dirt that was caked onto the floor frame.

Before cleaning
after cleaning

I also pulled the driver seat out temporarily so I could remove the old, very worn vinyl that was covering the floor in the cab area, and clean underneath.

Not only did I find a mountain of dirt and dust underneath the seat, but I also uncovered some pencils, a plastic square, $7.80 worth of change and a Michael Jackson CD!

treasures under the driver seat

Driver’s area floor with original vinyl still in place:

driver area before vinyl removed

After vinyl was removed:

driver area after vinyl removed

After cleaning:

driver area after cleaning

It was all so filthy and took many hours but I’m pleased with the result. Now with all the dirt gone, I can clearly see the rust that needs to be treated in the frame. There is actually quite a bit of it, but thankfully, it is all just minor surface rust.

The next job will be to treat the rust and paint the frame. Then I can lay the new floor!

Removing the floor heaters and the old floor

Removing the floor heaters and the old floor

This week I tackled one of the biggest jobs so far on my Toyota Coaster bus conversion – removing the floor heaters and pulling up the old plywood floor.

seats removed

The two black things in the photo above are the floor heaters. They are connected by hoses to the main coolant system. Coolant flows from the engine, up through these heaters and then back to the engine. In order to remove the heaters, I first needed to disconnect the hoses underneath the bus. Although not technically difficult, it was an awkward job because there isn’t a lot of space to move under the bus, and it was a tricky business trying to catch the coolant in a bucket as the hoses were cut. But I took my time, and managed to clamp off the hoses close to where they met the engine at the front of the bus, and then set about removing the hoses that were running the length of the bus between the heaters. Once the hoses were removed and the wires unplugged, it was a fairly simple matter to unbolt the heaters and lift them off the floor.

toyota coaster floor heaters and hoses

The next task was to pull up the old plywood floor.

Although most of the floor seemed pretty solid, there were some areas that had obvious water damage, and when I examined the floor from underneath the bus, I could tell there were some areas where the layers of ply were beginning to separate. So I wanted to get rid of it all in order to replace it with a new, solid floor. Removing the floor also gave me the opportunity to find any rust and treat it. Thankfully, there wasn’t too much rust – just a few patches of mild surface rust which will be easy to fix.

In contrast to my first bus, the vinyl covering the floor in the coaster was quite easy to take up – it all came off in one piece! I will be able to use this piece as a template when I come to lay new vinyl on the floor later.

The plywood underneath was screwed and glued down, but again, unlike the big bus, this lot was much easier to lift up. It helped that the wood was laid in several sections, rather than one very long piece. Even so, it was still quite hard physical work and I struggled a bit with my elbow tendonitis, which I’m frustrated to say is taking a very long time to heal.

pulling up the old floor
after floor removed

Once I’d removed the floor, I was able to finish sealing off the coolant system by replacing the two remaining clamped hoses with a single loop of hose connecting both pipes. I managed to do the whole job of removing the floor heaters with only 2L of coolant loss (and the vast majority of this was the coolant sitting in the heater hoses in the rear. Once I reconnected the system, the coolant level was still reading as almost full).

Stripping the ceiling and removing the old insulation

Stripping the ceiling and removing the old insulation

The next task in stripping the interior of the bus was to remove the ceiling panels and airconditioning ducts.

This certainly opened up the space a bit more and once again, I was pleased to find that the underlying frame was in excellent condition.

Removing the old insulation was a time-consuming job but I managed to get most of it off. I’ll be replacing it with good quality insulation that is more flame-resistant and won’t hold moisture if there is ever a leak in the roof.

Starting my Toyota Coaster bus conversion – removing the seats

Starting my Toyota Coaster bus conversion – removing the seats

I’m excited to be starting the conversion of my new bus this week. The first job is to remove all of the passenger seats.

Thankfully, this was a relatively easy task since they were all just bolted in and the bolts were easy to remove.

removing the seats

I was hoping the space might look a little bigger after the seats were removed but it still looks tiny LOL! It sure is going to be a design challenge to fit everything I need in this bus.

seats removed

After removing the seats, I started work on stripping the rest of the inside.

removing interior wall linings

The panels lining the walls were also pretty easy to remove and I was pleased to discover that there was virtually no rust under any of the windows. This was a huge relief because after my previous experience, I was a bit nervous as to what I might find.

But all I found in the end was 15 years worth of dirt and dust, as well as quite a few lolly wrappers shoved into the walls. Onya kids!

Installing my Maxxair fans

Installing the Maxxair fans

It was a bit nerve-racking cutting the holes in the roof because you only have one shot to get it right, but it turned out ok.
I still have to connect the wiring to the fans but will do that at a later date when I do all my electrical work. I have run the wires in conduit inside the ceiling and where they come out will be overhead cabinets so I will have full access to them when I need.
There is also a trim piece that goes around the fans on the inside but that gets installed once the ceiling lining is done.

Introducing Mia – my Toyota Coaster Bus

Introducing Mia – my Toyota Coaster Bus

oh what a feeling Toyota

I’m so excited to introduce you to my new bus and (hopefully) future home!

I started calling her Mia (pronounced mee-yah) because up until the day I purchased her, she was the Mt Mee school bus. And it kinda stuck. Mia is also the Spanish word for “mine” so I like it.

Mia is a 2005 Toyota Coaster.

Almost 7m long, 1.9m wide and 2.6m high. GVM is 4990kg.

She has a 4cyl turbo diesel engine (15bFTE model for folks who are interested in such things) and has only done 386,000kms which is nothing for a diesel coaster, especially one which has been regularly serviced. She was the Mt Mee school bus for her entire life, and because here in Queensland, school buses must pass inspection every 6 months, I know she has been well maintained and mechanically, she is in excellent condition.

my 2005 toyota coaster
my 2005 toyota coaster school bus
inside driver cabin toyota coaster
seats in toyota coaster

There is a bit of rust around the windscreen but I looked very hard to find evidence of significant rust elsewhere and couldn’t see a thing, so fingers crossed, this bus will be in much better condition than my first one.

It is such a joy to drive this bus. Gear changes are super easy and it just feels like driving an extra big car really. I know I am going to feel a lot more comfortable travelling in this bus than I did with the big one. In fact, I am so inspired by the fact that the coaster can go almost anywhere, that I am really starting to have second thoughts about towing a trailer for my studio. It would be much cheaper, and much less hassle if I didn’t have to tow anything, and after this past year I am ready for life to just be easy and enjoyable! I don’t want to give up my business but I am definitely going to try to change the way I do things and do my very best to see if I can’t find some way to continue making a living from my art with what I am able to fit in this little bus.

It’s certainly going to be a challenge, but I am so excited and eager to get started. This little bus makes me smile every time I see her and I know this was the right decision for me going forward.

Mia and me