We share a lot of stories about RV and bus renovations. Most of them tend to talk more about the overall process and gloss over details like, how do you get the seats out of a bus without killing yourself? As a former carpenter and theatrical designer who once bought theater seats that had to be removed, I am keenly aware of the challenge.
If you have a bus full of seats that require removal, or you’re thinking about buying a school bus and turning it into an RV, here’s a story for you. I’ll try to include the most important details. This first-hand information was shared by somjuan, an instructables.com user.
Bus seats take up most of the room inside a typical “Skoolie”.
First off, you need some simple tools. Somjuan used hand ratchets and wrenches. The sizes may vary, but a heavy duty 3/8 or ½ inch drive set should have what you need.
TIP: If you don’t have the exact size socket you require, a local pawnshop probably has a bin full of them you can purchase on the cheap.
Loosen the bolt from the top side while someone underneath holds the nut.
From my own experience, I would also recommend an air compressor and air driven ratchet, or impact gun. After decades of bouncing around, and with the corrosion, goo, and rust you’re likely to encounter, some of these nuts may not want to come loose easily.
Others have recommended just using an angle grinder to cut the bolts off. This is a quick and dirty method, and you’ll need heavy leather gloves and eye and hearing protection.
Here is a typical bench seat removed, note the feet only on the aisle end.
Start by removing the bolts in the wall edge of each seat. In somjuan’s case, there were two legs on one side of seat. The legs can be removed by one person and the process goes pretty quickly.
If you set up a couple of ratchets and have one person on each side of the bus, or several moving through, this part will be over fast. Turn the nuts counterclockwise to loosen and remove them.
Removing seats creates more room as you go.
The center bolts require a bit more coordination. They are located on the feet of the seat, along the aisle of the bus. These bolts require two people, since the seats are typically bolted through the floor. One person needs to hold the bolt head underneath the bus steady, while a second person turns the nut up top.
The bus empty and ready for a new interior.
The biggest key here is to be sure you are both working on the same bolt! To avoid confusion, start at one side and end of the bus. Then open the windows to be able to hear each other better and start with either the front or rear leg on each seat. Again, each leg typically has two bolts.
Be prepared for broken bolts. These will typically not be a problem, since you can lift the seat off of the bolt with little problem. Stripped nuts can be an issue, however. Use the exact size of socket required and be sure it is seated firmly before turning. If a nut does become too stripped to function, use a pair of locking pliers to grip and turn it.
Once all the bolts are loose in a seat you may have to push or pry to get them free, but most will simply lift out. It’s easiest if you remove seats as you go to make more room!