Eberspächer Diesel Heater Install

Eberspächer Diesel Heater Install

This week I ticked off one of the last big jobs in my bus conversion – I installed my diesel heater!

I chose to go with a more expensive name brand heater, rather than purchase a cheap Chinese one, because I wanted something that I was confident would be safe, would work straight out of the box and was covered by a good warranty.

The Eberspächer Airtronic AS3 D2L ticked all the boxes for me and I’m really glad I went with this option.

It was a little daunting at first, unboxing the diesel heater and seeing the huge number of different parts, but the Eberspächer instructions were pretty detailed and every part was labelled so install was straightforward.

Eberspacher diesel heater parts
diesel heater inside cabinet
diesel heater vent

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Laundry area changes

Laundry area changes

It’s been over three weeks since I last had the chance to work on the bus, but I was finally able to do a little bit more this week, and I finished off the laundry area cabinet.
You can see where the laundry area is in the photo below. It is right at the back of the bus inside the rear door on the passenger side.
I installed the washing machine a few months ago and I was originally just going to have drying racks in the space above the washing machine to use when making my books and also for hanging clothes. But I have decided instead to use the space for clothes storage so I can free up other cabinets at the front of the bus for other things.

This week I built some enclosed cabinets into the space.

It looks a little odd because most of it was an afterthought LOL.

 

The upper cabinet was already there. All my electrical cables run inside this one but there is still plenty of room for underwear and socks.
Underneath that I built an enclosed cabinet with two shelves. The power point for the washing machine is now inside this cabinet.
And below that, a fake drawer which is really just a pull out shelf with a big plastic tub on it. I did it this way so the whole thing can easily be pulled out when I want to use the washing machine. Beside the washing machine is a narrow space for hanging clothes.
It looks a little rough but I’m happy with it and it is a much better use for the space.
I still need to finish off the trim on the left where it meets the back wall of the bus. Oh and I need to add a handle to the fake drawer. I ran out of those so need to get to Bunnings before I can finish that.
A piano in a bus?

A piano in a bus?

It’s no secret that I am trying to fit a lot into this bus!
And this week, I managed to fit in a piano!
It may seem like a crazy indulgence to have a piano in a motorhome, but this bus will be my full time home and there were some things I really didn’t want to sacrifce.
Obviously I could not fit my full size upright acoustic piano in such a tiny space, so instead, I bought a digital one!
At first I wasn’t sure about playing a digital piano, but this one is pressure sensitive, so the keys behave like real acoustic piano keys and it just sounds beautiful. 
Best of all, it only weighs 15kg so it’s not going to add too much extra weight on top of what I’m already building in to the bus.

This piano is the whole reason why I originally built such a long table in my bus. I designed the space so that the piano would fit underneath the table, which can easily be removed.

I originally wanted the table top to hinge upwards, but there wasn;t enough depth to work with in front of the window. I could have hinged the table, but I would have nowhere to rest my sheet music.

So I just kept the table top free. It sits on the support brackets and has latch bolts to secure it in place when I’m driving. 

 

 

I also built another small cabinet under the piano shelf. Trying to use every available space for extra storage.
There is still enough room for me to sit comfortably at the piano and use the foot pedal too. 
Underneath this cabinet is the access hatch for my starter batteries so I needed to make sure I still had access to this.
Currently the cabinet has a pullout drawer base as I was going to store my book press here. But it weighs 35kg and takes up a lot of space so I don’t think I can justify keeping it and will find an alternative option for pressing my work. At some point soon I will remove the drawer and just keep a storage tub there. This will makje accessing the batteries much easier.
I also built a little drawer that sits on the top of the cabinet to fill in the little bit of space I had left in front of the piano. Making use of every available space!
Truma Underbunk Airconditioner Installation

Truma Underbunk Airconditioner Installation

After experiencing the dreadful Summer we have just had here in Queensland, I decided that I can’t live full time in the bus without an airconditioner in the living space, so that’s what I’ve been working on this week.

The one I chose is an underbunk one. It sits on the floor. I didn’t have any space on the roof or walls for other kinds.

I had to temporarily take out the bed so I had room to cut the holes in the floor and put the aircon unit in.

Once I had installed the aircon,  I rebuilt the bed. In order to gain more storage space, I raised the height of the bed almost 200mm.
The dark wood on the left is a slideout shelf for my big guillotine. I used heavy duty locking drawer slides (rated to support 227kg) as the guillotine itself weighs 50kg and then I will be pushing extra force down onto it when I use it to cut paper. The slides are really only as good as the screws holding them in so I’m not sure how it will go over time, but it’s the best I can do for now.
I put some extra shelves in and made a cover for the end of the aircon unit so that I can store things next to and above it but still keep the required clearance around it for airflow.

Ironically, after months of stinking hot, hunid days, when I finally had my aircon installed and was ready to do a proper test, the weather finally cooled. 

I think  I will now probably have to wait until next Summer to see just how long I can power the aircon for when off grid, but early tests seem very positive. I think I will have no problems running it during the day if the sky is clear, or even for several hours on a cloudy day.

I’ll have to do another post with a full review when the weather warms up again (which I am not in any hurry for!)

Is the bus too heavy?

Is the bus too heavy?

I took the bus to get weighed just before Christmas so I could get a sense of how much I had left to play with, now that the build is almost finished.

I was expecting it to be around 4000kg, and hoping it would be less.

I was disappointed to find that it actually weighed 4200kg. Quite a bit more than I hoped.

My GVM (maximum the bus can weigh fully loaded) is 4990kg so I still have 700kg for stuff. Sounds like a lot, but when you add Pepper and me (110kg) full water tanks (170kg), and at least 300kg of food, clothes and other house stuff, it doesn’t leave much leftover.

If I wasn’t needing to carry gear for my business, it would be totally fine. But I DO need to carry gear for my business, and quite a lot of it. The best estimates I can get after weighing all my tools and materials is that I need about 400kg for studio stuff.

I could just get a trailer, and part of me likes the idea of having a fully set up studio I can just walk into with space for everything, and also having the trailer would be good emergency backup accommodation if the bus ever had to be at a mechanic’s overnight and I couldn’t stay in it. There are in fact, a lot of pros to having a trailer. BUT there is one big con that for me, kind of overrides all the pros, and that is, that having a trailer just makes it so much more complicated when driving and parking the bus, and will restrict the places I can go.

A huge part of why I am doing all this in the first place is FREEDOM. Freedom to spend my life doing what I love, and freedom to move around and not be restricted to one place. I am already restricted a bit in terms of where I can go in the bus, because of the size and weight of it, and the fact that I will be travelling with a dog also limits where I can stay. I do not want to restrict myself even further by having to tow a trailer everywhere I go.

I have been looking into the options for increasing the GVM to allow me to carry more weight in the bus. Lots of research into the legalities and lots of discussions with engineers and transport department inspectors.

I have found an engineer in Brisbane who will certify an increase up to 5410kg (the current max load rating of the bus axles) if I upgrade the suspension in the bus. The only thing he requires me to do is add airbag assist to the rear springs.
My mechanic has told me he can supply and fit the airbags for $1500. The engineer has quoted me $330 for the certification.

To get the size trailer I would need, and to fit it out with shelving, insulation, ventilation etc, as well as add a heavy duty towbar to the bus to be able to tow it, would likely cost close to $10,000. Money I don’t currently have spare.

So I have decided to go with the GVM upgrade. It will give me an extra 400kg which I think will be just enough if I am careful about what I take. I’ll still be cutting it fine but it would be so much better than having to go with a trailer, so I will do my best to make it work.

In order to fit all my studio gear in the bus, I will need to give up the idea of having my piano in the bus, and instead build in another cabinet under the table. And most likely also store some things on the roof. I also have the option to raise the height of the bed, but this adds a few more complications ( I would need some steps for Pepper to get up and down, and would also need to pull out the overhead cabinets that I built above the bed) I’m not really keen to do this, and so far, it looks like I won’t have to.

The bus is booked in to have the airbags installed on Feb 20th, and I will hopefully be able to get the GVM increase certified soon after that. Not counting my chickens until I have the paperwork signed, and bus work is on hold until I get it done.

2023 Progress Recap

2023 Progress Recap

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed!  

I have now had the bus for almost 3 years. 

Sometimes it seems like this bus conversion is progressing so slowly, but I did tick off quite a few big jobs this year.

Here’s a little recap of the past 12 months of bus building.

Installing a Natureshead compost toilet

Installing a Natureshead compost toilet

The last big plumbing job to be done was to install the toilet.

Not that there is any actual plumbing to be done with this one!

I am using a Natureshead compost toilet in my bus, primarily because it uses no water or nasty chemicals, and I don’t have to deal with dump points and handling raw sewerage.

I installed my toilet at the very back of the bus and I built a slide out platform for it, so it can live under the vanity and be puled out when needed.

I haven’t fully set it up yet, but I already know it works because I actually used it in my house for a few months when I had an issue with my septic tank, and it worked very well. In the house, I just had it sitting on the floor in my bathroom. There was no power connected to it, but even without the fan running, there was no unpleasant smell. So I’m confident it will be just fine in the bus.

 

The video below shows how I built the slideout for the toilet and how I connected up the air vent.

After I published the video, I discovered that the reason the fan was so noisy was because I had overtightened the housing. Simply easing back on the screws immediately stopped the noise and now the fan runs very quietly, so I am happy.

Installing my caravan washing machine

Installing my caravan washing machine

More work on the plumbing this week. The latest job to be ticked off is the installation of the washing machine.

I debated whether to install a washing machine for a long time. I mean, they take up a fair amount of valuable space. But the bus will be my full time home so I need somewhere to wash my clothes and my bedding and towels etc.

I could use laundromats, but the cost of doing a load of washing every week soon adds up, not to mention the hassle of having to find a laundromat, and then waiting around for the washing to be done. I am travelling with a dog, so simply popping into the shops while I wait is not really an option. 

I could use caravan parks, but again, these can get expensive. 

I also will need to wash some things of Pepper’s from time to time and a lot of public laundromats will not allow you to wash dog items.

 Plus I have seen some pretty grotty laundries in my travels.

It will just be easier, and cheaper for me in the long run, to have my own washing machine. 

I chose to go with a top loading machine. On the face of it, these machines use a lot more water compared to a front loader, but the benefit of using a top loader is that it is possible to recycle the water you use. You can fill it up from any water source using a bucket, so don’t necessarily have to waste the good quality water in your tanks. You can wash one load without draining the water, and then wash a second load before emptying to rinse with clean water. You can even just set it for a spin cycle, without needing to go through a rinse first, something I can’t do on my front loader in the house. So if water is limited, I can wash small things by hand, and then just put them in the machine to spin dry.

This particular machine is a Sphere 3.3kg. I did a lot of research before I bought it and this brand had a tonne of great reviews among caravan and motorhome owners. It’s a fairly decent size. People have told me that they can wash a double bed doona cover and sheets in this, so I hope that is the case!

Installing the hot water system

Installing the hot water system

Not only do I now have running water in the bus, but I also have HOT running water!

This week I installed an electric hot water system.

The one I chose is the Aqueous RV heater. It is identical to the Duoetto, which a lot of people are familiar with, but the difference is the Duoetto runs on both 12v and 240v, whereas the Aqueous uses only 240v power.

I decided that I would probably never use the 12v input, since I have plenty of battery and solar capacicty, and an inverter that can easily handle 240v appliances, and heating the water using 240v is quicker than 12v. The aqueous was a little cheaper to purchase than the Duoetto and easier to install because it doesn’t require any 12v wiring, so it made sense for me to just go with that one.

Installing my heater was a little tricky, simply because of where I located it and the limited space I had under the sink, but otherwise, doing the actual plumbing connections was fairly straightforward.

First test run went very well. I let it run for 15 minutes before turning on the tap, and the water that came out was super hot!

 

We have running water!

We have running water!

Since returning home from my big road trip to Airlie Beach, I’ve been working my day job almost every day. Now that the busy school holidays are over, I can finally get back to working on the bus.

This week, I ticked off a MASSIVE job, and connected up the freshwater side of the plumbing in the bus.

I managed to install the water pump, and connected it to one of my freshwater tanks, and the two mixer taps I have inside the bus.

I was so pleased that not only did I manage to do the plumbing side of things, but the water pump was also the very first thing I have wired up, so it gave me the chance to test my electrical skills as well. I was relieved and very happy to find that it all works perfectly.

Having running water in the bus is such a huge milestone achievement for me and a wonderful feeling.

 

Installing Roof Racks on the Bus

Installing Roof Racks on the Bus

The last big job I needed to finish before I could see the electrician, was to install roof racks on the bus. I needed them to mount my solar panels.

There are pros and cons for using roof racks instead of mounting solar panels directly to the roof, but for me, the biggest factor in deciding to go this way was that I just didn’t want to risk having more leaks and rust in the bus from drilling a bunch of holes in the roof.

Unlike standard car roof racks, there aren’t a llot of options available off the shelf that will fit the high roof of a Toyota Coaster Bus.

I ended up buying gutter-mount brackets from Roof Rack World (www.roofrack.com.au) and made the rails myself from lengths of aluminium.

Building the roof racks was a huge job and unfortunately, I ended up having to do it twice!

 

Installing Sinks and Connecting the Grey Water System

Installing Sinks and Connecting the Grey Water System

The next job on the list for the bus was to start connecting the grey water system.

I’m taking the bus on her first BIG road trip in a couple of weeks, all the way to Airlie Beach (1300km!) to see my electrical guru and get my solar and 240v system installed.  I wanted to have at least one of my sinks connected to the grey water tank for the trip. Even though I don’t have taps or running water installed yet, having the sink connected to the grey tank at least would allow me to run water from my camping container so I could bursh my teeth and do dishes etc on the road.

I decided to install both sinks now since the wastes from those needed to join together before draining into the grey tank.

Getting the corrugated sullage hose onto the fittings proved to be a real challenge, but in the end, it all worked out and so far, there are no leaks!

Pre Wiring the Bus: 240v

Pre Wiring the Bus: 240v

Next stage in my electrical install was to start running all of the cables.

I’m doing my conversion a little differently from most people. Instead of running the electrical cables early in the build, before doing insulation and wall linings, I have left mine until the end.

The reason for this is that I didn’t want any of myu cables hidden behind walls that I would not be able to access. I wanted to be able to see and check on things periodically. So almost all of my cables will be run inside cabinets instead. Where they do need to run inside walls, I have made sure I can easily remove the cladding in those areas if I want to access the wiring.

In this video, I run all of the CMS 240v cables between the power points.

You can read more about the CMS system here:

https://www.caravansplus.com.au/guides/electrical-installation-using-cms-components-a-26.html

Keep in mind that even though it is a very simple DIY system, it is 240v and you still need a licensed electrician to check it all and sign off on the installation.

Mounting the CMS 240v Power Points

Mounting the CMS 240v Power Points

Continuing with preparations for the electrical installation in my bus, I’ve been finishing off some of the wall cladding and cutting holes to mount the various power points.

I will get the electrician to do the final connection on these and check it all, but I wanted to make sure they were going to fit where I wanted them.

I have 6 power points altogether in my bus. One for the fridge, one for the washing machine, one for the hot water heater, one on either side of the kitchen for plugging in various things and one at the table for my computer/printer/sewing machine etc.

Installing the 240v shore power inlet

Installing the 240v shore power inlet

This was one of those jobs I’d been putting off for a while because it involved cutting a hole in gthe side of the bus which always makes me very nervous, but I finally got around to doing it this week.

This plug will allow me to plug the bus into mains power when at a campground that has power available. It’s a 15A inlet and comes already pre wired to work with the CMS system of cables and power points that I’ll be using throughout my bus.

You can read more about the CMS system here:

https://www.caravansplus.com.au/guides/electrical-installation-using-cms-components-a-26.html

Keep in mind that even though it is a very simple DIY system, it is 240v and you still need a licensed electrician to check it all and sign off on the installation.

using a template to mark the hole
cutting the hole with a jigsaw
painting the edges with Penetrol to prevent rust
making a backing support
drilling pilot holes for the screws
screwing in the inlet<br />
inlet installed
installed inlet<br />
Building Upper Cabinets in my bus

Building Upper Cabinets in my bus

I feel like I’m making good progress in the bus lately and there are only a few big things left that I need to build inside.

One of these is my upper cabinets, which will run the length of the wall on both sides of the bus.

This week, I built the cabinets on the passenger side.

The basic framework is made from curved pieces that I cut from 19mm plywood that roughly match the curve in the bus roof. These are attached to two pieces of 42x19mm pine that run underneath them.

The notches in the top of the curved bits are so I can run power cables through the cabinets.

The back of the cabinets are lined with corflute, which I attached to the cabinet frame before screwing it into the bus. I chose the corflute rather than timber because it weighs almost nothing and is easier to fit to the curve.

Underneath the insulation, I have two pieces of timber running the length of the bus. One is attached to the wall just above the windows and the other is attached to the ceiling just where the curve starts. These are screwed into the metal frame of the bus so are pretty secure. The cabinet frame is secured to the bus by pocket hole screws in the curved sections that screw into those pieces of timber. I also screwed the ends into the walls at each end.

I then attached some other pieces of 42x19mm pine inside the cabinets at the front. This was so I could attach the plywood face to hide all the screw holes and the gaps between the cabinet sections.

Using a wrench to install the breather hose outlet on the water tank
breather hose outlet fitted

It was extremely difficult to get the sections of cabinets lined up perfectly due to the uneven nature of the bus walls and ceiling, but the plywood face pieces did a good job of covering up the gaps!

Overall, I am pretty pleased with how they turned out.

I still need to put the doors on, but will wait until after the elctrical is is done.

At this stage, I am just trying to prioritise the things that need to be finished before the electrical is installed. The bus is booked in for this in August, so we are getting closer!

using jack to lift water tank into position
Building the Bus Laundry

Building the Bus Laundry

More work in the back of the bus this week. This time, I am starting on the laundry area.
Like the bathroom vanity section, this corner of the bus has a lot of weird angles and curves and it took me a couple of days just to get the wall cladding on.
My washing machine will go here.
I already had a big Camec 4kg RV washing machine that I bought when I had the big bus, and I struggled for ages to try to fit it in the coaster but in the end, I had to admit defeat. I decided instead to buy a smaller caravan washing machine which will easily fit in the space and be a lot easier to move when I need to.
Using a wrench to install the breather hose outlet on the water tank
My plan for this space is to have some space for hanging clothes beside the washing machine, leaving the area in front of the taillights open so I can access them if I need to.
breather hose outlet fitted

Above the washing machine I will have some drying racks. I need these when I am drying my book covers and other things I make for my handmade business (dyani.com.au) but they can also double as clothes drying racks as well.
And at the very top will be an overhead cabinet.

This section will have quite a few power cables running through it, from the electrical bay around to the opposite side of the bus so I needed to allow space for these too.

using jack to lift water tank into position
I’m pretty happy with what I have done so far. I need to wait now until all the electrical is installed before finishing off this area.
Installing Water Tanks in a Toyota Coaster bus

Installing Water Tanks in a Toyota Coaster bus

This week I got to cross another job off the list – I installed my water tanks!

I am using tanks from RV Tanks Australia

They are specifically made to fit under my model of Toyota Coaster and are designed to bolt straight up through the floor, so they don’t require any special brackets to be fitted to the chassis.

I have four tanks altogether – three for fresh water and one for grey waste water. I don’t need a black waste tank as my toilet is a composting waterless toilet.

Tanks are located on both sides of the bus underneath the floor. At the back, on either side of the spare tyre, behind the rear wheels, I have two 60L tanks – one is fresh water the other is the grey tank.

I have another 60L fresh water tank in front of the rear wheels, on the driver side between the AC unit and the exhaust outlet. And the third fresh water tank is a 50L one, in front of the rear wheels on the passenger side.

I’ll have 170L total for fresh water storage.

Before you install these kind of tanks, it’s important to remember to fit your breather hose outlets BEFORE installing the tank, if like mine, your breather outlet is at the very top of the tank. Otherwise, once the tank is hard up against the underneath of the floor, there is no way to thread the fitting on.

Using a wrench to install the breather hose outlet on the water tank
breather hose outlet fitted

The hardest part of this install was lifting and holding the tanks up to the correct position under the bus. I managed to do this by myself but it is definitely easier if you have a second person to help. I used a jack to help lift the tank into place.

using jack to lift water tank into position

Because there was no room to get the drill up the side of the tank to drill the holes for the bolts while the tank was in position, I drew a line around the edge of the tank to mark where it was, and also marked the position of the four holes. Then I had to drop the tank to get it out of the way while I drilled the holes before lifting it into position again.

Getting the bolts secured is a two person job. You need one person under the bus to hold the bolt while the other person is inside the bus tightening it.

I used M10 high tensile steel bolts, with lock nuts and contact washers to secure the tanks so they should not go anywhere.

I also used some 3mm thick aluminium plates above the floor to act as extra large washers and help to spread the load that will be placed on the bolts when the tanks are full of water.

Overall I’m very happy with how the tanks are fitted. The front tanks cannot be seen at all from outside the bus. The rear tanks hang a little below the body at the very back. I don’t think this will be enough to cause any issues, but I’ll obviously have to be careful if entering a steep driveway or loading onto a ferry.

The design of these tanks makes them very easy to install and with Dad’s help, we got all four tanks installed in just a few hours.

Now I just need to connect all the plumbing!

Building the Bus Bathroom – Vanity Cabinet

Building the Bus Bathroom – Vanity Cabinet

After spending weeks focussing on painting the bus roof, I am back to building the inside, and it feels good to be working with timber again.

Now I am turning my attention to the bathroom/laundry area which will be at the very back of the bus.

Most of my time has been spent just pottering in the bus, measuring, looking at the different options and working out how I will build it all. It’s not an easy area to frame with all the different curves in the walls and the roof. And of course I’m trying to fit a lot in – vanity, compost toilet, washing machine, and storage.

Plus I also need to allow space for plumbing pipes and the toilet vent to pass through floor here. And make sure I can still access the taillights if I need to.

I have changed my mind about the layout here so many times, and most of my challenges were due to the fact that I was trying to fit in the washing machine I already bought for the big bus. It’s a Camec 4kg front loader and would have been awesome, but I eventually had to admit that it is just too big for the coaster. It weighs 54kg and is almost the size of a household machine, so takes up a lot of space. I could have fit it under the vanity but would have had to move it out if I ever needed to access the taillights and I could barely move it in my living room, let alone in the confined space of the bus. Trying to figure out how to safely secure it for driving, in an area with limited heavy duty attachment options, while also making it semi-removable, was doing my head in. In the end I decided to ditch it and to buy another smaller caravan washing machine instead which will not only save weight, but also be way easier to build in and gives me the added benefit of freeing up a lot more space for storage.
So now that I have finally settled on a layout that I’m happy with, I can start building it.

First of all, I clad the back wall on the driver side. This is where my sink and compost toilet will go, and a lot of this wall will be visible. I used the tongue and groove pine boards from Bunnings and stained them with various mixes of walnut, jarrah and teak stains to match the other walls in the bus.

I love how it has turned out.

Next job was to build the vanity cabinet. Such a basic little cabinet, you would think it would be easy to build, but it proved quite a challenge due to all the different curves and angles in this corner of the bus.

I’m happy with the way it turned out though. I still need to paint / stain it and I want to put a mirror on the front eventually too.

The toilet underneath will be on some sort of slide so it can pull out to use. Not entirely sure how best to do this yet as standard drawer runners won’t work.( I need the toilet base to extend 700mm beyond the cabinet and I only have 610mm depth inside so even fully extendable slides won’t be enough).

I’ve made a few enquiries and you can get drawer slides with greater than 100% extension, but these need to be custom made and are quite expensive, so I think I will end up choosing a cheaper option.

Thinking maybe small castors or making a frame that sits directly on the floor with felt or something underneath.

I’ll also have a few bolts in the floor under there for the water tank that will have to be navigated around.

Always a challenge in every bus project 🙂

Painting the bus roof with Thermoshield

Painting the bus roof with Thermoshield

Well this was certainly a gargantuan job!
It took me several weeks to paint the bus roof. It was slow going because I couldn’t start painting until around 11am each day, as I had to wait for the morning dew to fully evaporate from the roof, and you need to allow 6 hours between coats of the Thermoshield. So this meant I could only paint one coat per day.

I managed to get three coats done and then had to take a break because we had several days of rainy weather.

But I finally managed to get it done – a total of 5 coats of the Thermoshield and 2 coats of clear glaze on top.

It’s not perfect – I was painting outside in the elements, so there are lots of little bugs and bits of dust stuck to the paint, but it still looks pretty good and I’m happy with it.

I am using the Thermoshield purely for its heat reflecting function, rather than aesthetics. And most of the roof will be covered in solar panels so you will hardly see the paint.

I sure am glad to be able to cross this job off my list and get back to building the inside of the bus!

This is what the roof looked like after the Penetrol. The red tinge is where I used old Penetrol left over from when I painted the sub floor frame. I think it was contaminated with some paint or something. The clear side is where I used a fresh tin.
I did test patches of the Thermoshield paint on both sections, and it stuck well so I think the old Penetrol will do the job just fine.
Finishing Pepper’s Bed

Finishing Pepper’s Bed

While waiting for the Penetrol to cure on the bus roof, I decided to finish off Pepper’s bed in the cab area. I drilled a bunch of holes in the plywood base for ventilation and I painted it with two coats of an anti-mould primer on either side, and then one coat of grey using up what was left of the paint I used to paint the side wall in the driver’s cab. I bought a single bed size foam mattress from Ikea and cut it to fit the base. A colleague of mine at the museum does upholstery and very kindly covered the mattress pieces for me. He just used scraps of upholstery fabric that he had already and he did an amazing job. I put an old doona cover over the cushions (just happens to match the grey in the cab) to keep the dirt off them. I have two of these covers the same, so will be able to use one while the other is being washed. Pepper loves her bed. At least she does for now, while the bus is stationary. My next challenge will be to get her used to being hooked up to the seatbelt here and then to get comfortable with driving without being sick.
Painting the Bus Roof Part 1 – Priming with Penetrol

Painting the Bus Roof Part 1 – Priming with Penetrol

This week I started the mammoth task of painting the bus roof.

I will be painting it with Thermoshield paint which is a heat reflecting paint. I used it on my first bus and it works really well to reflect heat from the roof and keep the inside temperature cooler.

Before I started the painting, I gave the roof a really good clean, which involved several hours of hand scrubbing.
Then I painted the entire roof with Penetrol. I was originally just going to paint the Penetrol over the few small rust spots, but because I had to scrub the roof so hard to get the grime off, it scratched it a bit so I decided to do the penetrol over the whole lot to help protect against future rust.

This is what the roof looked like after the Penetrol. The red tinge is where I used old Penetrol left over from when I painted the sub floor frame. I think it was contaminated with some paint or something. The clear side is where I used a fresh tin.
Hopefully the old Penetrol will work just the same.

Because the Penetrol is oil-based and Thermoshield is water-based, I need to wait at least two weeks for the Penetrol to fully cure before painting on top of it.

Removable Cabinet Extension

Removable Cabinet Extension

More work in the bus kitchen this week.

I wanted some extra depth to the benchtop in the area next to the sink because I have a benchtop oven/airfryer that I want to put there. I also want to be abe to fit a dishrack in front ofthe oven, as well as have space to pull the oven forward away from the back wall when I want to use it. There just isn’t enough room for all of this with the standard 600mm deep benchtop.

But simply extending the fixed bench in this section wasn’t an option, because if i ever need to get my fridge out of the bus, I need the full width of the hallway here in order to move it.

So I came up with the idea to build a section of cabinet that could be removed.

The cabinet extension tucks in under the main benchtop and latches onto the cabinet on either side so it feels pretty secure and I don’t think it will move when I’m driving.

It gives me the extra benchspace I need as well as a little bit of storage space, which I will use for studio gear.

I’m very pleased with how it turned out.

The kitchen is really starting to look good now.

Benchtop is done!

Benchtop is done!

This week I managed to get the benchtop installed on the second kitchen cabinet. As usual, there were a few design challenges to overcome with the slope of the wall behind and needing to accommodate a very large sink. But I managed to get it all cut out and fitted without messing it up and I’m pleased with how it turned out. The whole kitchen is really starting to look great. 

Framing the rest of my kitchen

Framing the rest of my kitchen

It has been so hot this past month! It makes working outside on the bus extremely challenging. But I managed to get some more done this week.

I’ve been working on building the rest of my kitchen. The passenger side is pretty much done (except for a pantry door) and now I am starting on the driver side. this will be a larger cabinet that will hold my sink.

So far I have managed to get the framing for the cabinet finished.

It’s always so exciting to see something new in the bus and to see the design that I have had in my head for so long finally coming to life.

Installing the Fridge

Installing the Fridge

I bought this fridge when I had my first bus but I love it so much I was determined to get it in the coaster. I pretty much designed my layout to be able to fit this fridge in, and be able to take it out if I need to.
It’s an LG 310L fridge with a massive freezer, which is important for me because I like to cook from scratch and be able to store things in bulk to save money and I didn’t want to give that up when I move into the bus. It’s energy efficient (uses less power than some RV fridges) and a third the price of an RV one.
Because it has a reversible door, it has a bunch of spare threaded holes which I was able to use to secure it to the wall frame, without damaging the fridge.
And here’s to not throwing ANYTHING away until you’re done with the build – I made the “handle” for my door stop using a couple of angle brackets that were originally holding up the interior lining of my coaster. I knew they would come in handy for something 😄

I drove my bus to work on the weekend and was very pleased to see that the fridge did not move at all. Let’s hope it stays just as secure when I’m driving on the rough outback roads!

2022 Recap

2022 Recap

Merry Christmas to all our wonderful followers and fellow bus converters from Pepper and me!

Here is a little recap of the progress I made on my bus this year.

Can’t wait to share more of our journey in 2023!

Cab area Storage Cabinet

Cab area Storage Cabinet

My latest project in the bus was to build a storage cabinet behind the driver seat which will most likely be my wardrobe. Large plastic tubs on shelves inside because I couldn’t be arsed building drawers and these don’t weigh as much. I was going to have some built in hanging space but decided it was a waste as I only have a few things that need hanging and have decided these can just go in garment bags and I will mount a hook on the side wall of this cabinet. There is plenty of space still for this behind the driver seat.
There is more space underneath the level of the dog’s bed platform which I can use to store things that don’t need to be accessed every day.
I built the separate door (with the two latches) for the lower shelf because there will eventually be a padded foam cushion on the dog platform which would be in the way of a normal door opening.
Pepper has her own seat!

Pepper has her own seat!

This week I built a platform bed area in the driver’s cab for Pepper.
She can hang out there during the day if it isn’t too hot and also travel there – I can hook her harness into the seatbelt of the passenger seat.
The platform is two bits of 12mm ply that rest on a bunch of supports that I have made.
The timber on the side is screwed into the wall of the bus and also into the timber wall I have behind the passenger seat.
The frame in the floor up near the dash is not attached. It can be lifted in and out when I need to access the windscreen washer fluid etc there.
The engine hatch box is screwed down into the metal case of the engine hatch cover.
I have another support on the other side attached to a wardrobe there.
The two sheets of ply can be lifted off and there is quite a bit of space underneath for storage. I’m thinking extra dog bedding, dog towels etc and things I don’t need to access every day.
Eventually I will cover the pieces of timber on the side wall with ply and paint it to match the back wall. The engine hatch box will probably get painted also and lined with carpet to match the cab floor. I can use the box to hold things like water bottle, snacks, phone, rego info etc.
I will be getting some foam cut to shape to make the cushion for the bed and will make some removable washable covers for it too.
So hopefully it will look a bit nicer when finished but for now I just wanted to get it all built and test it out. Need to see how well it holds up on bumpy roads etc.
So far Pepper is happy with it 🙂

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 thing I want to build in the bus is my table, 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!

Introducing my new Toyota Coaster Bus

Introducing my new Toyota Coaster Bus

oh what a feeling Toyota

 

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

She 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