Preparing For Roof Raising School Bus Rv conversion

school bus roof raise

Hi guys. Here’s an update on the bus. Let me start off by saying that I’m sorry, but I don’t have a video for you this time. My camera ended up breaking and I’m in the process of trying to recover the videos. It’s pretty disappointing and it’s completely my fault. I have been recording video for over a month and haven’t checked to see if my camera was working. This has happened to me twice now. I really wanted to bring you every step of the process on video. I went out and purchased a new camera (a GoPro HERO3
), and while I was waiting for my new camera I borrowed my Dad’s GoPro. I started to record with that camera and it gave me nothing but problems from the beginning. The camera kept turning off randomly and it would switch modes for no apparent reason. Thinking that it was my Dad’s camera and knowing that my new GoPro was on its way, I waited for it to arrive. Once it got here, the new camera gave me nothing but headaches also. One nice thing about GoPro is that when I asked for a refund, they were more than willing to accommodate me. Their customer service was outstanding and they were willing to get on the phone with me and walked me through the steps and helped me with my issues. They even sent me another new camera before I even sent out the broken camera. To be honest, I do not have the time or the patience for that, knowing that I did not have any videos for over a month. And even though they were willing to help me, and I know that sometimes brand-new items come broken, I just did not have the time to go through steps in figuring out why the camera was giving me issues. So that’s when I ordered the same camera I had before just the newer version Zi12
and I overnighted from Amazon. The new camera seems to be working great. I’ve been checking the videos and everything seems to be recording correctly so hopefully in the next couple of weeks I should be able to bring you a new video.

Onto The School Bus

Now, onto the bus: Over the past month and a half, I’ve been in the process of preparing the bus to be able to lift the roof 21 inches. So how do you go about preparing this? Let me start off with how much time I’ve spent. I’ve been working on the bus about four nights a week for about four hours and every other Saturday for about five hours trying to get the bus prepared for this big task.

What were some of the most time-consuming portions of this step? The tools that I was using. I have always had good quality tools. Even though they might be a little expensive in the beginning they end up saving me a lot of time in grief. I know that quality tools not only do this but also usually end up making me more money. And that’s what made it a little more difficult for this project. Since it’s something personal and I am not getting paid for it and even though I know better, I was trying to get by with cheaper tools and let me tell you, what a mistake! So I was going out and purchasing the cheapest tools possible that would hopefully get the job done. Most time spent on this portion of the project has been me fighting with these cheaper tools or just trying to get by with the tools that I already have, knowing the whole time that if I got the proper tools it would speed the project along more quickly. But you know how that is; when you’re doing something for yourself it’s always a little bit more difficult to justify the expense of these tools. Almost 3 weeks into this portion of the project, I gave up on using these cheaper tools and told myself I know better. Now this doesn’t mean I went out to spend a bunch on the stuff that I needed. I just got the proper equipment for each task that I was trying to accomplish.

These are the tools I used for this portion of the project:

tools school bus roof raise

  • Grinder
  • Cutoff wheel
  • drill
  • 1 1/8 drill bits
  • 13/64 drill bits
  • Hammer
  • Center punch
  • chisel
  • pry bar

Setting The Stage For This Major Event

What did I have to do to get the school bus ready to be able to raise the roof? I had to remove rivets and Philip-head screws that attach the skin to the pillars and frame of the bus. These rivets and screws were about 1 ¾ inches apart. They were fairly easy to remove once I got the hang of it and started to use the right tools. I have just about every tool you might imagine available to me, but at the end of the day I needed an electric-powered cutoff wheel. The reason is that most of my tools are air-powered and I think my air compressor (even though it’s a big one) wasn’t keeping up with the continuous use of the air-powered cutoff wheel. Luckily, I had an electric-powered cutoff wheel RZ1500. It was not really a cutoff wheel, but it’s a multipurpose tool that with one of the attachments gives you the ability to use a cutoff wheel. Once I started to use the electric-powered tool, the removal of the rivets became a breeze.

How did I remove these rivets? I ended up cutting an X into each rivet and sometimes into the Phillip-head screws. Some of these Philip-head screws would come off fairly easily, but a lot of times there was no budging them. Cutting the X would allow me to easily chisel off the head of the rivets and screw. Once that was done I would get a center punch to remove the shaft of the rivet. Sometimes I would end up having to use a drill to drill out the shaft of the rivet. Once the rivet or the screws were completely removed, I would use a pry bar to release the skin from the frame of the bus. None of this was very difficult, just time-consuming. Like I said earlier, once I started to use the correct tools, it started to move along very quickly.

closeup of rivets removal school bus
Stay tuned for step 2 on how I created the custom attachments for the roof raise, as well as the final process that went into actually bringing it up!


  1. curtis jouett says

    Hi, I just got my bus and I would like to rase the roof as well, could you please take lots of pictures and or vidoe so I could see how your doing it, I have some ideas but would like to see yours. I will start to be working on mine in about 2 weeks…thanks!!!!

    • says

      Thank you for reading and good luck with your project. I will be posting videos and pictures for every step of the process. If the videos or the pictures that I post are not clear enough, feel free to let me know and I’ll do my best to clarify any of the steps I take.

  2. James says

    I look at this site all the time and I noticed that you are working on a Thomas rear engine bus. I have been researching buses for over three years and have talked to many people and I have come to the conclusion that I will be buying a bus just like yours soon. With that said are there any dislikes you have about your choice of bus? Keep the updates coming on your site! Thanks for taking the time to share you progress.

    • says

      First of all, thank you for the question. I have no complaints or dislikes so far. I’ve been very happy with my purchase as of yet. The only thing I would suggest if possible, try to purchase it from a school board auction If you can. The great thing about purchasing it from the school board is that you know it has been well maintained. I have a good friend that works as a mechanic for the city and he said to me that they have to change and maintain these vehicles whether they need it or not. I hope I was able to answer your question. If not, feel free to ask me. Thanks

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