A Typical School Bus Mechanic Service Call

Mechanics Hub - January 13, 2014
The Friday Night Service Call

Service calls are not too common for our shop during the weekends but on a Friday night one of our sports run drivers called me around 9:30 from Princeton (2 hours away) to inform me he hit a steel post with his oil pan. All of the engine oil was lost so he had to leave the bus in the parking lot which happened to be at the Subway restaurant.

The First Steps To Take

The first thing to do was phone our dispatcher and let them know what was happening and that we had to get another bus out to the driver. A spare driver had to be called up as well to meet me at the shop by 6:30 am to pick up our spare sports run bus equipped with lower compartment storage. The driver in Princeton needed the bus by 10:00 am.

The bus we were going to use had just been worked on in the shop getting one fuel injector replaced. There was an engine miss and after doing an injector cut out test #5 injector had to be changed. The job was completed and the bus road tested so this was a good test to see how it would perform.

Dispatch A Tow Truck

The next step was to dispatch a tow truck out there to pick up the bus and bring it home. This is the best step to take since parts would not be available from the dealer for 3 days. The main objective on any service call is to make sure the passengers, driver and the bus get home safe. The cost is part of running a fleet where anything can happen.

The tow truck company said they could send out a truck that night so I went up to the shop at around 10:00 pm to open the gate for the tow truck driver who would be getting into to town with the bus at approximately 3:00 am. While I was there at the shop it was a good opportunity to pre trip the spare bus and load up some floor dry and tools to clean up the oil spill.

Always Cover Your Tracks

It's a common courtesy to soak up the oil mess on private or public land to keep the public relations relationship positive between the school district and the tax payers. I've done this before in the suburbs where a bus lost it's transmission fluid. The oil ran everywhere and floor dry is very hard to sweep on rough pavement. But it had to be done to avoid phone calls from disgruntled home owners...understandibly so!

Following The Plan and the Schedule is not Bulletproof

We got out of town in good time and the tow truck driver showed up as we were leaving which made me wonder what went wrong. He had arrived late because of the seized driveshaft bolts that he could not remove. Typically he would pick up the bus from the front after the driveshaft was removed. Since he had to pick up from the back end it would take more time to secure the steering axle from moving around.

The oil pan is made out of aluminum so it suffered a big crack in the front part of the casting. The bus being a pusher meant that the driver was backing up when he hit the post. Later looking at the post it was on top of a 4 inch curb which probably allowed the post to hit the oil pan when the bus back end dropped down over the curb.

All is Well That Ends Well

This story ends with a happy ending...we delivered the bus to the sports run driver who made his scheduled run in Princeton. The damaged bus made it back to town and I ordered the new oil pan which will arrive the following Tuesday. Just another day in the life of a school bus mechanic :)