Every small bus for sale is subjected to “rust” which is the oxidation of metal when it comes in contact with moisture, air and salt. It’s an electrochemical process that every vehicle is susceptible to over time. It’s important to stop rust in its initial stages in order to prevent it from spreading all over the vehicle as it severely weakens the metal and can cause accidents leading to potential injuries of passengers as well as others on the road. When buying a bus, the buyer should thoroughly inspect it before making a final decision. The bus buying process is tedious, time consuming and every buyer including experienced operators have to go through this grinding process to get the best deal on the vehicle. There is no point in buying a low mileage bus if the previous owner did not perform regular undercarriage washing and roof seal checking and resealing on a regular schedule and let water penetrate the vehicle. It should be remembered that body rust only grows and does not stop unless treated. So a tiny small rust patch today can turn into a big hole penetrating through the metal body rapidly. There are no strict rules to follow. A bus that has been in use for 5, 7, or even 10 years and has acquired thousands of miles is bound to have some form of superficial rust on undercarriage but that is normal wear and tear until the body structure, frame, or sidewalls are compromised. Always expect a used vehicle to have some rust on the undercarriage, just like any other preowned vehicle.
A small bus for sale in snowy and mountainous region tends to have more rust than those from other regions because of the high amount of salt present on the roads during the winter season and in the atmosphere. When salt comes in contact with the metal on the short bus, it accelerates oxidation that causes rust. If untreated, it will spread, bubble the paint coating and ultimately weaken the strength of the metal causing an unsightly appearance. The electronic and hydraulic systems are also vulnerable to rust since they are made up of metallic components susceptible to oxidation. For example, the brake discs and brake lines, a part of the braking system can get rusted too, resulting in poor braking and potential brake failure.
On the other hand, it should not be assumed that a small bus for sale from dry or warm region will have little rust. This is untrue, most rust comes from under the bus and is caused by dampness rising from unpaved parking lots and damaged seals on the roof. Always ask the owner for previous maintenance records and that if any rust repair work was ever done on the vehicle. If the minibus has a history of rust problems, then it’s a sign of caution and demands close inspection.
If the bus is heavily rusted and obvious to the eye, then it’s better to ignore it at first sight and move on to the next bus. Many times this is not the case because the sellers are smart enough to repaint the damaged areas of the bus and even change the soft spots on the wood floor just to make it appear normal. They may even label the vehicle as mint or like new to make a quick sale. Since some sellers are sometimes disingenuous, buyers have to be aware, smart enough to get a qualified independent inspection. They have to understand that rust can be hiding inside or underneath the bus, not outside, the biggest rust issues are often not visible to the untrained eye. Buses are manufactured from the ground up, first the chassis then the body. So the inspection too has to be performed from the ground up. Since it’s the chassis that holds the critical parts of the vehicle like engine, transmission, floor, dashboard, wheels, radiator, brakes, etc., it’s important to thoroughly inspect the chassis as any damage here can endanger the lives of people riding it and others too. Moreover, fixing rust or changing parts in this area of the small bus for sale after purchase can be expensive and wreak havoc with your budget. Incidentally, the engine and transmission are bolted together and kept in position with the help of engine mounts, one for the transmission and 2 or 3 for the engine. So if there is too much rust or wear on the engine mounts then it’s time to replace them. Check with the owner if he is ready to replace the mounts or get an estimate as to how much it will cost you to get it replaced. The selling price of the bus should be discounted accordingly.
Most first time buyers are neither qualified nor experienced enough to inspect a bus “in-depth”. Therefore, a thorough inspection by professional inspectors is desirable to inspect the tiny bus from the outside, inside, and underneath and even into the exhaust system components. The inspector should focus on all major parts of the bus like engine, transmission, radiator, engine mounts, air conditioner, braking system, electronic system, hydraulic system, and floor system, etc. and give you a detailed report. Listen to his advice carefully and don’t let your immediate need for a bus or a good deal cloud your buying decision.
Buyers should have a qualified repair shop in sight beforehand should they decide to fix the small bus for sale by themselves. Bus repair shops are just not available everywhere. Repairing a rusty vehicle can be a time consuming process and can potentially cost $3,000 or even up to $4,000 to fix them depending upon the affected area. What’s expensive is the labor cost because it takes hours and hours to complete the restoration process. If this process includes replacing parts then the total cost will be even higher. It’s better to stay away from such a mess unless you have an in-house bus repair mechanic that can do the work. However, if the buyer is ready to spend extra and take on the responsibility of fixing the bus by themselves then they should create a detailed plan and make a step by step timeline to fix it. The plan should include:
1. How much has rust spread on the bus body, its exterior, and in undercarriage areas?
2. Can the problem(s) be fixed?
3. How much will it cost to repair the rust on the bus?
4. Will damaged parts have to be replaced or repaired?.
5. Are the parts available locally or will they have to be shipped from other states?
6. If the parts are available in local markets then what is their cost and where exactly to get them from? eBay, bus repair shops, manufacturers, dealerships, etc.
7. How much time will it take to complete the repairs including any replacements? 8. Finally, will the bus be fully functional through the end of its useful life or safety be compromised?
Rust builds up gradually in 3 main phases and some proper ways to fix it:
1. Surface Rust: This starts from cracks or scratches on the painted surface of the bus. There are several layers of coating on the body of the vehicle to prevent it from getting exposed to moisture and salt present in the air. On the body, first, there is a thick layer of Primer Coat, then Color Coat. All these layers of coating prevent the air from coming in direct contact with the metal body of the vehicle. But when there is a crack or scratch, these layers break and give an opening to the air to reach the metallic surface which causes oxidation leading to rust. This is the initial stage of rust on the body, it’s important to fix it immediately or else it will start spreading. Use a sandpaper or grinding wheel to buff out the layers of paint and corrosion until the bright metal appears, then apply a primer coat and finish coat properly. Buff it again to blend as needed. Buses with fiberglass bodies do not suffer from surface rust because they are made of nonmetallic substances like fiber and glass which are stronger and more durable than metal. While they do not rust, cracks can appear over time due to changes in temperature.
2. Scale Rust: Surface rust can quickly become scale rust if not treated in time. What was initially a scratch or a crack may spread to cover a larger area of the metal body. Because rust has a tendency to spread, it may also affect the floor and steps of the small bus for sale. The affected region will rust and corrode thus weakening the strength of the body. Use a wire brush and grinding wheel to remove the rust and then use sandpaper to smoothen the surface. You may have to weld in new metal or piece in new plywood to the steps or floor and then use paint, primer coat, and finally color coat to finish off the task.
3. Penetration Rust: When scale rust is left unattended for too long the metal body starts developing holes and becomes weak. A quick way to identify if scale rust has developed into penetration rust is to light a torch on the other side of the affected region in a dark room or a garage. If light penetrates the metal sheet and is seen on the other side then its penetration rust. The owner will have to take the bus to a repair shop, the mechanic will first remove the corroded region, then weld in a metal part of equal thickness, then apply paint, primer coat and clear coat. This is a time consuming process and can be expensive too.
The easiest way to avoid rust is to act as quickly as possible and get rid of it before it starts to spread. A shuttle bus in cold or wet areas should be washed frequently, it should be rinsed and left to dry off completely to remove any traces of salt that might have accumulated on the exterior and underneath the bus. The driver should avoid driving the vehicle through potholes. Any signs of cracks, scratches, and paint openings should be fixed immediately. Check for signs of rust under the vehicle and use rust converters and protective undercoating and primers. The purpose of stopping rust is to prevent the electrochemical oxidation on the bare metal, as long as there is a good solid coating it will not rust.
Buses are purchased with the sole intention of transporting people “right now” and most buyers don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty to buy a bus that is damaged and then spends thousands of additional dollars to fix it. It’s better to buy the second hand bus from a licensed bus dealer as they should be expected to recondition their used buses for sale from bumper to bumper before selling them to the next buyer. The reconditioning process requires the inspection of many components. Any part that fails the inspection by professionals is either repaired or replaced. This process gives a new life to the small bus for sale and they are even certified “Ready-to-hit-the-Road” in America by those technicians. Such fully reconditioned and DOT certified buses can cost more than those being sold by private individuals but it gives buyers the assurance and satisfaction that their vehicle will not break down on the way home or incur unexpected catastrophic failures and repair costs. Many private sellers indulge in deceptive practices like repainting the bus with house paint, mismatching its seats, or labeling it as a “money maker”. Most frequently they say that it rides like new but ignores the details. This is not a safe way to purchase a bus as a bus requires the inspection, repair, and replacement of many components. Private sellers neither have the budget nor the expertise to fully recondition their buses and often they indulge in misrepresentation to make a quick sale. It’s better to buy the bus from licensed bus dealers that are bonded by state automobile dealer regulations. Buses purchased from such dealerships don’t need to be repaired and can be driven home right away. They last for years and many dealers are even ready to buy back the bus at a reasonable price several years down the road when it’s no longer required by the owners. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to update the vehicle.