If you are always fixing things that are broken, you are not doing enough to prevent them from breaking. It is true that components will eventually break, but the reason behind preventive  maintenance (PM) is to do all we can to extend a school bus’s life cycle and try to calculate a reasonable replacement time before they fail.

It’s important to realize that your present corrective mode of operation has taken years to get to, and that to turn it around is going to take a while as well. However, once achieved, you could end up spending the majority of time performing PM and just a little time fixing broken buses.

When servicing buses that are 3 years old or newer, repair every defect and potential problem you find. This will keep these buses in premium condition. Now, keep doing so for the life of these buses. They will require the least amount of work on an ongoing basis and continue to be the most reliable buses in your fleet.

Buses 4 years old and older will require more work to bring back to optimal condition. When performing service on these, make a list of every defect and potential problem found during the service, as well as all issues previously known to exist on the bus. Review the list before making any repairs to these items. Sort these items into three categories: 1. Repairs that can be completed in less than 10 minutes. 2. Safety-related repairs. 3. Non-safety related repairs.

The oldest buses will require the most work. These will receive only enough repairs and maintenance to keep them operating safely. If major repairs are required, you might want to refrain from making these repairs and take them out of service if possible and replace them with newer buses. The money needed to replace major components would be better spent towards a replacement bus. It is really hard to justify putting a lot of money into a bus that is scheduled to be replaced soon.

Keep a positive attitude about improving. It takes work and time. Nothing good ever comes easy.


The season’s dropping temperatures, snow, and ice are already impacting large parts of North America, so it’s time to make sure fleets are prepared.

This installment of the Bendix Tech Tips Series provides 12 pieces of air system, electronics, and wheel-end advice to help keep your vehicle in good operating condition as things get frosty.

Air Systems

1. Keep it dry — moisture in the air system can condense and freeze, increasing the odds of brake and valve malfunctions.

2. Check the dryer’s purge valve for corrosion or grit accumulation and replace it if necessary.

3. Manually drain the air tanks to start the season — Draining every three months is generally sufficient for typical line haul trucks, but more often—monthly or even weekly—is recommended for vehicles with high air demand.

4. Unless it’s an emergency, avoid using de-icing solutions on an air system — they can corrode O-rings and valve seals.

Electronics and Controls

5. Remember that driver assistance technologies – like stability and collision mitigation – rely on maintenance of lower level systems like tires, and the brakes to ensure performance in the field — maintaining these systems is especially critical in winter. Check tires for adequate tread depth and proper wear, and wheel-ends for tight bolts and cracks.

6. Run a diagnostic check to make sure tire pressure monitoring systems are operating properly — temperature swings, along with slick road conditions, make running on the right tire pressure exceedingly important in the winter.

7. Keep external cameras and radar sensors clear of snow and ice — check them immediately prior to getting on the road.

8. Check all connections to ensure they are secure and water tight.


9. Check air brake chamber housings for corrosion — or damage that could allow corrosive materials to take hold, and ensure that dust plugs are properly installed.

10. On drum-braked wheel-ends — lubricate the automatic slack adjusters, clevis pin connections, cam tubes, shafts and bushings.

11. On wheel-ends with air disc brakes — check the guide pins and inspect the boots for tears or punctures that could permit corrosion of the caliper within.

12. Ensure free movement of air disc brake pads in the carrier — remove them and clean the carrier surface with a wire brush, if necessary—and make sure that the brake moves freely on its guidance system.

Winter hazards can ruin a driver’s day—and they don’t always take the form of things like blizzards or icy roads. But maintenance and upkeep efforts in the shop and on the road can keep vehicles running smoothly and safely.  Carolina Bus Sales, Inc., can help get your bus ready for winter conditions by checking off each of these tips!


Winter may seem like a long time away right now but Fall is here.This is the time to begin preparing your vehicles for colder temperatures to ensure that they’re ready for what winter has in store. Below is a checklist of items for which bus fleet operators need to be proactive to prepare for extreme conditions, whether you are running diesel or natural gas engines. These procedures, ranging from cooling system maintenance to fuel choice, to selecting the right engine oil, will help fleets keep their buses running safely and reliably in cooler ambient temperatures.

-Verify that all coolant lines and connections are leak-free.
-Use the proper coolant/antifreeze mixture (ethylene glycol concentration) for route conditions/temperatures.
-Use winterized diesel, or blend #1 and #2 fuels.
-Add a fuel warmer to the fuel system.
-Double-check Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) warming lines before temperatures drop.
-Modify the air intake in extreme cold (-25°F and below) to a position adjacent to the exhaust manifold.
-Check the cold-cranking capacity of the battery. Add a battery warmer in extreme cold conditions.
-For diesel-powered engines fleets should switch to 5W-30 engine oil for normal winter conditions.
-Use a dipstick oil heater to help maintain oil lubricity and improve the engine’s cold-starting capability.

There are many other items on the checklist from draining water/fuel separator to adjusting the “fast idle: to insulating exposed water, fuel or oil lines.

Cold-weather preparation/operation procedures for Cummins Westport natural gas engines are similar to those for diesel engines (block heater, coolant heater, battery warmer, radiator shutters or winter fronts, etc.). CNG filling stations should include a dryer to remove moisture from the natural gas.

Natural gas fuel systems include a pressure regulator that is kept from freezing with a supply of warm engine coolant. In cold weather, allow the engine to warm to operating temperature before operating under load. The correct engine coolant, lubricating oil, and fuels must be used for the cold-weather range in which the engine is being operated.

Check with your local mechanic to help with winterizing your school buses.


When taking your school bus to a reputable repair shop, they will perform inspections of each item in a preventive maintenance (PM) checklist.  This is more than just looking at components. They will pay attention to the little things, the little problems, making repairs to the smallest of defects.

In doing so, the larger potential problems will be repaired and never develop into real problems. Some technicians focus on the problem at hand, fixing items that have failed, but they fail to repair the cause of the failure. This causes repeat problems.  Each problem has a cause. Finding and repairing the cause prevents future problems from occurring.

A PM checklist should be organized in a systematic method that is meant to be followed in order from top to bottom. In doing so, an organized routine will be developed and remembered, and the technician will get better and faster at it as time goes by.

The school bus drivers will appreciate a job well done even if it takes a little longer. They will appreciate not having to drive an old spare bus repeatedly.

Doing it right the first time increases reliability and — most importantly — safety.


School bus fleet maintenance managers face challenges in trying to control costs that continue to rise.

Costs are increasing very quickly for tires, emission systems, labor, and many other parts. The maintenance manager can no longer find ways to reduce actual cost or maintain the margin of the total budget relative to transportation operating costs.

Fleet maintenance managers must justify reality with a new generation of mangers who perceive value by measuring charts, graphs, predictions, and cost benchmarking – all in a way to reduce costs or fix the perceived problem on a short-term, cost-cutting basis, without any consideration for performance benchmarking.

The following scenario happens more and more frequently – A new transportation manager is told that his/her responsibility includes the maintenance department, yet maintenance is not his/her forte – So, the new manager’s style and approach is to measure cost – make charts and graphs. His boss is happy because now they both can look at the same reports and both conclude that the costs are too high. They are not meeting the budget so they plan to drive cost out without seeing in real life where the money is being spent, such as the performance upkeep for an aging fleet of school buses with only a sprinkling of new 2018 units within it.

What truly works though, are the basic simplified methods: A prescribed fleet replacement plan supported by a good maintenance policy, with a defined process and efficient practices. Then an administration add-on of non-burdening “micro-measurement” through charts and graphs is only required to understand the effectiveness of the maintenance process – not control it.

While you must measure, you must also understand each other’s thought process and work jointly – Board, Administration and Transportation. All must work towards the common goal of being the safest and most cost-effective school bus maintenance provider.


When it comes to purchasing a used school bus, you may already know a lot more than you think about making the right choice. Executives seasoned in both buying and selling in the used bus market say the experience bears a resemblance to a used car purchase.

One of the most important things to look for is a healthy engine with a lot of life left. The chassis is a big consideration – its where you have the biggest cost factor, according to Gavin Berwald, transportation supervisor for Beachwood (Ohio) City Schools. Uncover the past of the school bus if you can.

It is not uncommon for an older bus to have had an engine or transmission replaced, which changes the effective age as indicated by the mileage report. Documentation of these replacements is very important. You need to know if the replacement was new or used and how long ago the replacement was made to help determine the life of the vehicle.

An inspection by your mechanic can help in making a decision on which bus is good for your company, school or church. Buyers should also check state and federal guidelines before purchasing a used school bus, which includes whether or not your company will need a driver with a commercial driver’s license. Financing is another consideration. Most companies will have a financing plan in place for any potential buyers, with various options available through the dealer or other financial institutions.

Of course, I recommend buying your school bus from Carolina Bus Sales in Chesnee, SC !!!