Skoolie Part II: Removing the Seats

Written by Nick

September 29, 2021

One of the first steps in a bus-to-home conversion is removing the seats. Since our bus is a full 40", we have quite a few to remove and we found this demolition process to be quite the tough cookie.

The Problem
The seats are secured to the bus with bolts which have two bolt-heads. One is easily accessible inside of the bus, but the other is under the chassis, a.k.a. the carriage, of the bus. To remove the seat, you need to hold the bolt that's under the bus otherwise when you try to loosen the bolt from inside it will just spin and spin and spin.

Little diagram to help visualize what we're working with

It started out pretty easy. One person could scoot under the bus and hold the bolt while the other person drilled it out. But the real problem is that about half the bolts are inaccessible from under the bus. This is sometimes due to being blocked by some mechanical piece of the bus—however, the large majority of the bolts are blocked by our wonderful undercarriage storage.

Love/hate relationship with our undercarriage storage

To make things more difficult, the bolts are Grade 8, which basically means they're extremely hardened. The resistance that a Grade 8 bolts has before it is subject to breaking under tension is 150,000 lbs per square inch. And, I mean, of course they're strong—they're carrying some of the world's most precious cargo—but it certainly makes removing them by force difficult.

Things we tried
  • Using leverage to pull up on the bolt and force it to turn
  • Cutting with the Sawzall
  • Angle grinding the bolt heads off
  • Drilling through the bolt-heads then hammering them out
  • Angle grinding into the bolt head then hammering it out

We got a few seats out by drilling the bolt-heads with heavy-duty, cobalt drill bits (which are very expensive and are still prone to break). We thought for a while that drilling was going to be the best (although still very difficult) solution, but what turned out to work the best was angle grinding.

The reason we didn't like angle grinding is because it felt pretty dangerous, but my dad (Billy) bore the risk here and was able to grind the rest of the seats out.

It took basically 2 months of inconsistent work on getting the seats out to finish all of them.

SIDE NOTE: Abby and I have only been able to work on our bus ~1 or 2 times a week. That rate is hopefully going to pick up drastically in November 2021 when I move to be closer to the bus. Until then, it's going to be moving pretty slow.

Bitter Sweet Victory
Fast-forward a week or so after we finished getting the seats out, we hired a locksmith to open the undercarriage storage compartments.

As a little background, when we bought the bus, the seller told us he didn't have the key to the undercarriage storage. He actually seemed a little surprised to find that they were locked.

But once we had the key that the locksmith had made us, we discovered the storage had actually not been locked. We found that if we turned the key the other way (in the locking direction) it would actually stop the handles from turning at all, thus locking the doors.

As it turns out, the rubber seal around the storage compartment doors had become sticky with age, or lack of use, or heat, such that it had stuck to the bus. It was so sticky that we hadn't been able pull them open with all of our body weight. But, when we took a crowbar to the doors and used just a little bit of leverage, they popped right open.

And what do we find inside? Of course, almost all of the dastardly bolts that we had to angle grind off—the ones that, ya know, we thought we couldn't reach.

The debris

So in the end, we wasted a lot of time grinding bolts which we actually could have held in place from the bottom and very easily removed. Oops!

Wrapping up
We're very happy to be finished removing our seats. And now we have access to our undercarriage storage, so we can't be too upset with how things turned out. Even if it took a little longer than expected.

This is our second post in our skoolie conversion series! If you missed part I, you can find it here. Or continue with part III!

We'll be writing about all of our bus life experiences here on the Scavenger's Breakfast blog, so if you're interested, bookmark us and sign up for our newsletter!

(You can also send us a message if you have any questions or just wanna talk!)

- Nick and Abby