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.


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 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