Thursday, July 28, 2011

Buying A Bus: Part 2 of 3 - The Physical Inspection/Test Drive

By: Jim Michaud

Once you have narrowed your search down and are able to focus on a few select buses, it is strongly recommended that you physically inspect and drive these buses. In this article, we will cover some basic pointers on what to expect and look for when the physical inspection and test drive takes place.

If you are looking at a vehicle that requires a CDL license, and you do NOT hold the proper class of license, you have two options:
a) Bring a qualified, properly licensed driver with you
b) Make sure who ever is selling the bus will be able to take you for a long drive

I would also recommend that if you do not have a good mechanical background or knowledge of the type of vehicle you are looking to purchase, that you bring a mechanic with you to inspect the drivetrain and chassis of that bus. These vehicles are pretty complex and it is important to know what you are looking at. If the bus is far away, and you can only afford to have one person inspect that bus, I would send an experienced mechanic. They can sometimes spot things that you could easily overlook, potentially costing you thousands of dollars if not addressed before the final sale, or negotiated into the final sale price ahead of time.

Before the test drive, a complete inspection should be done. Here are some tips on what to look at:
  • Engine compartment - check oil leaks, cracked or damaged hoses & belts, exesive dirt, rust, etc.
  • Body & frame – Inspect for accident damage, rust and corrosion
  • Brakes – brake pedal is working properly and they release correctly
  • Parking brakes – Must hold in place when foot is off the brake and bus is in gear at idle
  • Gauges – all in working order, temps & pressures are within proper limits
  • Check the HVAC system for operation.
  • Seats - Check for broken or ripped seats
  • Luggage areas - check overhead doors, inspect rear area or under-floor areas
  • Condition of the various controls – make sure they work properly and move freely
  • Mirrors – broken or not adjustable
  • Windshields & windows – for cracks/brakes. Don’t forget to check the emergency exits too
  • Emergency equipment – not a must at purchase, but should be in place before any trip
  • Signal lights – all working and lens covers not cracked
  • Running lights - all working and lens covers not cracked
  • Air/Hydraulic system – no leaks and hold pressure when vehicle is turned off
  • Tires & spare tire – proper inflation and tread wear, also check for tread depths
Now that your pre-trip inspection is done, it’s time for the test drive. Here are a few things to do when out on your test drive:
Try to have the engine cold before starting, then check for smoke, vibrations & strange noises.
  • Test the brakes in the yard before going on the open road. Brake noise in reverse is normal with most S-cam brakes, but should not have any noise in forward.
  • If the bus pulls to either side when brakes are applied, have the brakes adjusted and try driving it again. There should be no pull either way.
  • Check the transmission in both forward & reverse. If there is significant lag when put in reverse, this could be trouble. See how it shifts over the road. It should have good solid shifts with no slippage between gears.
  • On a straight road check for free play in the wheel & see if the bus pulls either way if you were to take your hands off of the wheel. It should go straight.
  • See if there is a bumpy road to drive on to check for suspension and other noises.
NOTE: Please keep in mind this is meant only as a guide. For a complete list refer to your State DOT’s requirements for more detailed information about exactly what you'll need in your particular state to pass inspection.

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