Better A/C finally installed!

When I first opened Cool Bus Houston and I was in the process of setting the bus up with A/C, I went to a number of companies to get quotes and find out the best way to cool down the bus.  Quotes ranged as little as $2000 and as much as $12,000 and the options were either a roof top unit powered externally or A/C that would be installed inside the bus and run power through the bus engine.  I wound up installing a roof top unit similar to what you would see on a RV.  I went to Camping World to get it installed and with their recommendation, I thought I was set. 

As the months went on, I quickly realized that the A/C unit that I had just wasn’t doing the job.  Sure it would cool down the bus to an extent.  It would only run for a few hours before the external generators that were mounted on the rear of the bus to power the unit ran out of gas.  It was a whole process trying to remove the generators from the compartment and to fill them up and then put them back in place. 

Needless to say, I was frustrated with everything that went in to running the A/C.  Luckily the weather was on my side for the first half of the year so A/C wasn’t necessary, but I knew a change had to be made. 

After doing some more research, I finally came across Bus Air Manufacturing out of the DFW area.  They had been around since 1992 installing A/C in school buses, fire and emergency vehicles, utility and parcel trucks and off road heavy trucks.  They say “If it has wheels, we can create a climate control system for it.”

I finally got a quote and a timeline for installation.  The only issue was that I was going to have to find a way to get the bus from Houston to Rhome, TX (just north of Fort Worth) where their shop was located.   Sure I could drive it, but that would’ve taken around 6-7 hours due to the fact that the bus doesn’t go over 60 mph.   I was able to hire a trucking company to transport the bus to the facility and save me a lot of time.

After about a week, the bus finally made it back to Houston with the new A/C installed!  As soon as I could, I got inside the bus and cranked it up and it was awesome!  It cooled the bus down in under a minute! 

The next few parties on the Cool Bus were during July & August, some of the hottest months in Houston, TX.  I could not have been happier that I was able to install the new A/C because all of my customers loved it!

One thing I’ve learned while running this business is that nothing is going to come easy – especially when it comes to matters of bus mechanics. 

With adding such a large electrical load to the engine, it was just a matter of time before issues popped up.  The installer at Bus Air said that I might want to take a look at my alternator as he thought it might not be big enough to power the A/C plus all the other items I had on the bus. 

Well it turns out he was right.  The more rides I did, I could tell there were issues with the power as there were times where the subwoofers would cut out or the LED lights inside weren’t working.  I knew I had to get this fixed to make sure the bus was fully operational to give my customers the full Cool Bus Houston experience.

I took the bus in to Finch Alternator & Starter Rebuilder to search for a solution.  With their recommendation, I wound up installing a 200 amp alternator that was bigger than the 140 amp alternator that was originally installed. 

On my next ride, with A/C at full blast and music and lights fully operational, the larger alternator held up and did the trick!   

A few more upgrades to the bus

I keep coming to the realization that this whole party bus thing is a constant work in progress.  Maybe one day I will be finished with all the work on it, but for now, I feel like every time I step foot in the bus, I notice something else that I need to add or make an adjustment to.  

This particular time that I worked on the bus, I added the following items:

  1. Exhaust fan in the roof of the bus
  2. New top to the cooler and trash can
  3. Additional interior handrail across roof

The exhaust fan is placed towards the front that actually sucks out the hot air in the bus and allows for more air flow.  Over the past few months, even with the A/C on, it still tends to get a little warm in the bus throughout the evening.  The addition of this fan will not only suck out the hot air, but can also be set up to blow in cooler air to the bus, which will continue to help keep the bus cooler.  

The new top to the cooler and trash can was added because I had heard from a few people that the top might not the be the safest thing on board.  The lids were a little heavy and when people would open and close them, they would slam shut and could've possibly hurt my passengers fingers if they were caught in there.  Also, the sides weren't the smoothest.  

So we wound up taking off the metal top and replacing it with a wooden one and wooden doors.  We were even able to wrap the top in the same black and neon green fabric that is used on the seats so it matches the color scheme inside the bus. 

Cool Bus Houston New Cooler & Trash Can top

The additional hand rail is actually something that was supposed to happen back when I first got the handrails installed back in the summer.  But for some reason, we couldnt find the right style of handrails.  

We also tightened up a few things around the bus like the car charger outlet by the radio console (it had popped out when I was unplugging something) and the connections to the rear view camera as I have noticed that it had been cutting in and out lately.  

FINALLY!!!

The Cool Bus has officially been completed!!!  WAAAAHHHOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

And it only took 8 months!  

8 months of repairs, maintenance, design, getting quotes, custom fabrication, paint jobs...and a lot of patience.  A lot of patience.  

The exterior graphics are finally complete and I have to say I'm very happy with the way it all came out.  I did feel like I would never get it back as the completion kept getting delayed and moved back, but as much as I wanted to pressure them to complete it, I knew that I should not rush them and allow them to do everything correctly.  

 

 

In addition to the exterior paint and graphics, I also was able to get the inside handrails installed across the roof.  It is actually only 1 really long handrail that is on the passenger side of the bus.  We installed it on this side because it allows for the handrail to go from the front to the back of the bus along with the seating.  The drivers side has the cooler/trash can compartment, so that might not have made as much sense.  

This Friday night we will actually be filming a promotional video for The Cool Bus.  This will be a 45 sec promotional video to be used on the website and all of my social media channels.  I am still working on confirming the route and bars we will visit, but it should be a fun night no matter where we go.  Stay tuned for the video in the coming weeks....coming soon to a YouTube channel near you! 

 

Got a new paint job!!!

he exterior is finally starting to look like what I envisioned all this time.  Last week we completed the exterior paint job and it looks awesome! 

The painters first started off by sanding the exterior of the bus down and removing some the old blue paint that was peeling/chipping away.  Then they had to remove all the light covers, front grill and tape up all the windows before they could begin applying the paint.  They finally covered the bus in a single stage black paint.   Looks pretty sharp if you ask me.

The next step is to add the vinyl for graphics.  Apparently they had to wait a while for the paint to settle before they could apply the graphics.  Therefore, I had to add another week to my timeline and wait just a little longer to get the bus back. 

But they assure me that the bus will be completed this week, either Thursday, 6/30, or Friday, 7/1…just in time for the 4th of July weekend!  I’ll probably drive it a couple of days over the weekend with friends aboard or just cruise it around H-town in high-traffic areas to get the word out. 

I plan on using the next month for a lot of test runs, marketing opportunities and perfecting the operational side of things before I officially open my doors come August. 

First thing I need to do once the bus is complete though, is get some high quality pics of the bus up on the website.   Right now, I just have pictures of what the bus looked like when I bought it simply acting as a place holder. 

I also got some Cool Bus swag recently produced – koozies and women’s tank tops.  I have not yet made a men’s tank top, but those will be coming soon.  I also have my business cards arriving soon and looking forward to having something to start passing out to potential clients to get the word out. 

It’s crazy to think that it’s all coming together and will be here before you know it.  

Interior work, A/C install and yet another issue...

After 3 1/2 weeks of waiting, I finally got a phone call saying that the interior of the bus would be ready.  Well, at least most of the interior would be complete.  The guys working on the bus said that they were going out of town for a week and said I could pick up the bus if I wanted.  This worked out perfectly because I was able to get the A/C installed during this time.  

The work that was completed on the interior to-date was:

  • Paint the interior black
  • Add lighting above the seats
  • Install new upholstery
  • Install security cameras and rear view backup camera
  • Hookup new radio with Bluetooth and USB charging outlets

They still need to install the handrails, connect the cameras to the DVR, and add lighting under the seats.  But that should only take a day or 2 at most.  

I picked the bus up on Wednesday, 4/20 and dropped the bus off to get the A/C installed Friday, 4/22 at Camping World of Houston. 

But another hiccup would be revealed on the way to get the A/C installed.  As I was heading down I-10 to Camping World, where I would get the A/C from, about 10 minutes from my destination, I started to smell something from the engine and my brake light came on.  In addition, the pressure in my air brakes had dropped significantly.  All of the sudden, my brakes locked up and forced me to pull over on the side of the road.  After shutting off the engine, I let the bus rest for about 45 min. I started it back up and the pressure rose back to sufficient level as I was able to drop the bus off to get the A/C worked on.  

I picked the bus back up Tuesday and immediately dropped it off at DI Performance for an inspection.  A few days later, I got the call that the air compressor was faulty and there were multiple leaks in the lines.  They estimated that the repair will take about a week.  

As frustrating as it has been for issue after issue to pop up, I am glad that I am identifying these now as opposed to when I have customers.  I just have to keep delaying the start date of The Cool Bus, so now it looks like the bus won't be ready till Memorial Day weekend, depending on how long the paint job takes.  

As the repairs and fabrication work have been taking place over the past few weeks, I have also gone through DOT (Department of Transportation) training.  I have learned quite a bit of information that will allow me to properly operate under the federal and state rules/regulations as a commercial motor vehicle.  I knew that there would be a lot of information to consume, but I didn't realize how much I would be responsible for as I am running this business in the coming weeks, months and years.  

A wise man once said, "Patience is a virtue"

It has now been 3 weeks since I dropped the bus off to get the interior customized.  They say it should be complete this week, so I'm crossing my fingers.  

One thing I have learned in this whole process, is that when you are dealing with another trade and they give you an estimated timeline for the job completion, go ahead and tack on another week to their estimation.  

I don't want to rush any of these trades that are working on the bus, because I want to make sure that the work they are doing is being done correctly.  But it is a little frustrating that it took 5 weeks for the engine to get fixed and now 3 weeks for the interior.  But like I said, patience is a virtue. 

While I have been waiting, patiently, for this work to finish, I have been taking care of a few other things in the meantime.  

  1.  I have confirmed where I will be getting the exterior of the bus painted.  The same company doing the interior renovation will actually be able to get the bus painted as well.  This will save me the hassle of moving to/from another location and they can just keep it at their shop to begin the paint job.
  2. I am also working on my DOT Certification.  There has been some paperwork and other items I've had to fill out that I wasn't aware of, but are essential to getting the bus up and running as a commercial business.  There are a few online forms and a couple of training sessions that I will need to complete to make sure I am in compliance of the necessary law and regulations.  
  3. Finalizing the design and order for some promotional items - ladies tank tops, koozies and of course, the sunglasses.  
  4. Continuing to get quotes on the graphics.  Now that I have decided to paint the exterior first, the quotes that I received initially from companies in regards to wrapping the full exterior of the bus, are no longer applicable.  I will need new quotes on just adding the graphics as if it were a decal.  For future buses, depending on the condition of the paint job, I should be able to get them wrapped.  

I am hoping to have some pictures of the newly renovated interior by next week that I can post on the site.  

Finally, the fun stuff starts

After 5 weeks of being in the shop, the bus has finally been fixed!  DI Performance did the repair, and after driving it around for a couple of days, so far, so good!  I was able to pick the bus up Monday and I was able to turn the engine off/on with out any issues. 

Now the "fun" work can begin!  I dropped the bus off with Harbros Inc, who specializes in party bus customization on Wednesday.  

They will begin the process of customizing the interior of the bus.  The items we discussed to be completed over the next 2-3 weeks will be:

  1. Install new upholstery with lime green and black vinyl
  2. Install of LED lights under the seats and above the seats that will shine on the interior roof
  3. Paint the interior black.  They will cover up all the blue areas and any other area that hadn't been painted yet
  4. Re-position and installation of new radio with Bluetooth, USB and Aux outlet capabilities.  Radio will be moved closer towards the middle of the bus by the trash can/cooler. 
  5. Installation of 4 cameras and DVR for security purposes.  The cameras will be in position of a dash cam, camera facing the driver, camera facing the cab where passengers will be and a rearview camera to also help in the assistance when moving the bus in reverse
  6. Fabrication and install of handrails across the roof inside the bus
  7. Install of a 110 outlet by the driver seat for phone charging usage
  8. Find and fix the leaks coming from the roof of the bus causing water to get inside

I am very excited that this type of work is finally happening and we are a few more steps closer to seeing the finished product.  

The company will be taking pictures throughout the process and sending them over, so I will eventually be able to post those pictures on the site to see the conversion from start to finish.