TideLog Archive for the “Bus Info” Category

Can you believe it, that for the first time in what must be 15 years at least, that First Manchester have actually REDUCED ticket prices?!? Recently they sold a lot of their single decker Volvo B7RLE’s to Stagecoach, and I’ve seen a couple of Stagecoach’s Alexander Dennis Enviro400 double deckers in First’s fleet, sporting First’s new livery.

FirstWeek tickets have gone down to £13 from £18, and FirstDay tickets are now just £4.00 from £4.50. It’s just a shame they had to sell off a load of buses, and routes (All their routes that went down Deane are now all Stagecoach) to get the prices down. First Manchester are a shadow of their former self, the number of routes run by them in Bolton alone has gone from over 70 to less than 15. Andy Scholey, the new CEO who took over from Ian Davies around 2006-7 (I can’t remember exactly) seems to be doing a worse job than Ian ever did.

I noticed that shares hardly budged around the time of the announcement, though, which isn’t surprising. Nobody wants a stake in a ghost of a company. At least those buses from First will get looked after better by Stagecoach!

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I was on the 471 on Saturday on the way to Greg’s from Jenny’s, one of First’s Wright Urban Gemini bodied Volvo B9TL double deckers and as soon as I sat at the back, and the driver set off I knew straight away something was wrong. It juddered badly upon acceleration, and the engine was making a machine gun type noise whilst being sluggish. This told me straight away the engine had a problem, possibly a misfire.

The cylinders in Volvo engines can be shut off electronically by the Engine ECU if there’s a fault, so it could have been a result of this shut off caused by a misfire. The bus wasn’t in limp-home mode, it was still quite responsive. As soon as the driver let off the accelerator the shuddering stopped, so I knew it wasn’t a powertrain problem, so this excluded the gearbox, propshaft and differential.

It also couldn’t have been crankshaft or conrod big end bearing shells either. Anyway, being a respecting mechanic, as I got off I had this conversation with the driver:

Me: “I think you should call Comms and get this bus straight into the garage, your engine sounds like it has a misfire or internal problem.”

Driver: “A misfire, are you sure?”

Me: “Can you not feel how it judders when you accelerate, and stops juddering when you don’t? The engine sounds like a machine gun back there!”

I glanced down at his dashboard infodisplay, and sure enough the CHECK indicator was lit. There was no message displayed as he had it set to INFO rather than MESSAGES.

Me: “Even your CHECK light is lit. I’d call it in to be safe. If it gets any worse the bus computer will put the engine in limp home mode, you’ll notice it go really weak. The STOP exclamation indicator will come on your dash too.”

Driver: “Thanks for letting me know! How do you know all that?”

Me: “I work with buses like this nearly every day, for a friend in the Midlands”.

Driver: “Ah, it’s good to have guys like you to notify us of issues, us drivers can’t always tell there’s a problem when we’re in the cab at the front here. I’ll let someone know!”

Anyhow, I went on the 471 again yesterday to get to Manchester through Bury to get the tram to Manchester to catch a train to go back up to Birmingham, on the SAME BUS, with the SAME problem! It either hadn’t been called in, or it hadn’t been fixed! If that’d been Rikky’s bus, it would have been out of service within ten minutes of the problem being noticed, and wouldn’t be out again until fixed!

Just goes to show First don’t give a shit about a machine in their fleet that costs DOUBLE the cost of your average semi-detached HOUSE!! The single decker Volvo B7RLE’s are £130,000, and the doubles can be up to £200,000! It shows just how disposable they treat their equipment!

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If you’re driving along and suddenly the “Check Diagnostics for Engine ECU at next stop” message appears in the dash infopanel, along with the CHECK indicator and the temperature gauge reading cold or just above cold, the engine temperature sensor has failed or is dirty and will need to be replaced.

Units Involved

The Engine ECU (EECU) and the Vehicle ECU (VECU) are involved in this process. The Engine ECU periodically checks the temperature sensor. The resistance readings are sent as a changing signal to the dash temperature tacho needle as the temperature decreases or increases, the signal power varies the needle position. After 5 or 10 minutes from cold start the engine ECU knows that the engine should be warm, so if it starts to get a completely cold reading after this time, sends a signal via the CAN (Controller Area Network) to the VECU which displays a message in the dash infopanel.

Cause Elimination

This fault should not be deemed to be the temperature sensor if only the temp needle is too low. The CHECK light and message MUST also be displayed. Otherwise, the tacho needle must be checked, and/or the signal from the VECU.

To check if the needle is faulty, turn off the bus engine and ignition completely, turning the starter to 0. Turn it to I to switch on the ignition and the needles should all do a full sweep of their dials to the right then return back to the left. Turning the starter to II will start the engine, all fuel and air dials should go to their operating positions, showing the correct fuel and air pressures. To check the turbocharger boost needle you will need to drive the bus on hard acceleration on a straight road. It will not move if the footbrake or airbrake is applied as the turbo only operates when the bus is moving in gear.

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Rikky did OK Friday night, but I think it was because she knew we were testing her, either that or she’s got the patience of a saint, which I’ve known for a while. The cab doors on Volvo B9TL buses helps too, all Rikky’s have the acrylic panels, and that channels noise away from the driver.

Given all the noise, I still couldn’t help notice a problem with the auto clutch during Rikky’s loud crowd test. I could feel it was hesitating during gearchanging. It was just starting to show slipping symptoms. It’s the judder that gives it away, and the not-so-right-as-usual gearchange whine. Some B9T’s have ZF’s that whine, some have Voith boxes that don’t. The B7RLE’s are dead easy to diagnose, I know the whining from the ZF’s on those by heart. Most drivers won’t notice, as the engine is at the back, and in the cab you can’t always hear it, especially with noisy passengers, but as an engineer who loves engines and listens to them, I do quite easily, and can often notice the slightest gearbox problem.

The auto clutch will eventually deteriorate so badly you’ll end up stuck at traffic lights because the thing won’t engage, and it’ll end up stuck in Neutral usually (when the brake is pressed, listen. That whine? It’s what I call temp neutral. Let go of the brake it goes back into Drive. All auto boxes do it, you can rev it with the brake pressed), and the engine will just rev uselessly. Sometimes it’ll be the relays and solenoids of the changer rack in the gearbox. My advice is to get it sorted ASAP before it gets that bad and you need Recovery, and annoy other drivers.

I took Rikky’s 59 plate B7RLE for a quick run last night. I love the new facelift B7RLE. Since Wright gave the Eclipse Urban body an overhaul in 2008, and Volvo changed the old dash to the one used in the Gemini B7/B9 double deckers it feels so much better. The dials aren’t cramped, and there’s two stereo mountings! Rik wants me to put a CD player in for the driver, and a radio/announcement system for passengers, which is a piece of cake on these new ones, as the wiring and mountings are there, plus gangway speakers. Ours even has the D7E320 320HP engine, which was a surprise, Volvo (and Dennis) normally only fit these to their refuse and tipper/artic truck line. They’re limited to the usual 74.15MPH, but I’ve had the limit off, and tuned the intake and ignition timing slightly. They can go up to nearly 100mph, which I observed using our diag computer. On a racetrack. Never do this on public roads, especially if you’ve knocked the TCS and SCS off. I think it can go higher, as Volvo seem to have given guys like me headroom for tuning. DON’T ever do anything like this unless you understand engines, are in a safe place, and won’t injure yourself or passengers. NEVER have passengers while doing this, unless they’re engineers.

I want one of these myself, given the chance! Volvo buses and Wright bodies are perfect!

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It rung true today, that’s for sure! I was driving down to Bolton in one of Rikku’s Volvos, that I’d just fixed an electrical problem on, down the M62, at about 10pm, taking it to a lockup in Heywood. Suddenly, I lost all lights on the bus. Headlights, dash lights, rear lights, top tail lights, and destination board. The passenger cabin lights didn’t work, either.

I pulled over on the hard shoulder, and used my electric warning triangle to warn of the hazard, as I had no hazard lights. Connecting the diagnostic laptop and ECU reader up to the ECU, the engine stalled. Checking the fusebox, a relay had tripped, and a fuse for the alternators. I got the engine running again, using the under bonnet starter panel, after changing the fuse when suddenly a police car pulled up behind me. I heard a familiar voice as the officer came close. It was my half sister Tammy, who has worked as a CID officer and traffic cop for 6 years.

I told her what was wrong. I needed to get the bus back to the depot, (obviously I couldn’t carry on to Bolton in it) but Recovery weren’t available, they’d gone home, and my radio wasn’t working. She radioed through to her station, while I borrowed her phone to call Riksy, to open the depot for me.

5 minutes later her backup arrived, and they escorted me back to our depot, me driving the bus with no lights in between their cars. It must have been a funny sight! Rikky was quite surprised, and joked, “You’ve not got yourself into more trouble for speeding, have you!”, with a wink! It is very scary in the hard shoulder with no signal equipment on your vehicle. I don’t yet know what caused the issue, nor have I had time to even fix it, but the original fault was a dodgy earth, which was causing the diagnostics to issue the Check Light Control Unit error, which I’d fixed.

I got down to Bolton OK, just a bit later, by borrowing another bus, our fun little 1997 Dennis Dart, which has never had any problems since we got it, except a squeaky accessory belt. Shows how finicky new computer controlled vehicles can be, sometimes! I love machinery, and wouldn’t stop doing this for Rikku even if you paid me! I’m good with vehicles, and engines, but all this computer controlled vehicle stuff is quite new to me, and I’m still learning myself!

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