Who Is John Whelan

This is my story and I'm sticking to it.
I was born in 1958 so that makes me 54 years old (It's just a number!). My family was your average middle class suburban type...2 sisters and 2 brothers and a hard working stay at home Mom and 9 to 5 working Dad. We were your typical Canadian family that sat together to watch the Ed Sullivan Show every Sunday night. My parents paid $11,000.00 for a brand new house back then!
I always loved swimming and playing in water, the regular baths I got was just the beginning :) Growing up in the sixties was full of many changes with music, the space race and politics ( I remember watching the J F Kennedy funeral on our Marconi square box TV.. It was a very interesting era, cheap gas and food. As I recall I could go down to the local corner store and buy a soda and a bag of popcorn twists for 25 cents.

It was purely by chance finding out I could run fast. One day in the 4th grade I raced a bunch of older kids and beat them all. It meant automatic membership to the track team. "Run Forest Run!" (Photo 1971). It was a real gift to have the opportunity to participate in sports and learn all about competition.

In Kamloops where I live there are endless hiking trails which  my wife and I love to do along with mountain biking and kayaking. You know the saying "getting back to nature?" It's a great way to clear your head and appreciate life. 
I'm here with my dog Rudi, we adopted him from the pound and had lots of great years with him pushing us every day to take him for a run. Working out is also a routine that I like to stick to and it keeps up the strength which you need especially working in a trade. 

I Love playing guitar.. (Photo taken in 1981 at a local studio). It's very  relaxing to sit down and play! My favorite music is the Jeff Beck, Eagles, Blue Oyster Cult, Tommy Emanuelle (Google him he's great!), Neil Young and anything with guitar from the fifties on. 

Getting Into The Trade

Heavy Duty Mechanics wasn't my first choice. After high school it was clear, working with my hands in a trade was the answer.

Thinking About What Trade to Pursue
Metalwork was always my favorite class in high school and getting into that trade was definitely my first choice. However once talking to the apprenticeship board counselor in 1977 it was clear that Heavy Duty Mechanics was the trade of the future.

He was absolutely right and I have no regrets. Once you get your Mechanic Certification and Inter-Provincial the world is your oyster. You can find work if you're willing to move, the demand for Mechanic Tradesmen is huge right now. As a matter of fact I know that Mechanics in Fort McMurray Alberta (Tar Sands)are making close to $50/hr.

Heavy Duty Mechanics Pre-App
So luckily I got into the local college and took the 6 month pre-apprenticeship course. That really developed my core as a Mechanic with theory and practical experience that set me on the right track to go out and apply for jobs with confidence.

The First Job
In July of 1977 I got hired as a 2nd year apprentice at Afton Mines just 15 minutes out of town (how lucky was that?........ along with 1 year credit for the pre-app training).

Moving On For More Experience
Mining is a great place to work but I was lacking practical experience so in my 3rd year I got hired in Fort St. John at a Cummins dealer and gear repair shop. Talk about being thrown to the wolves....that was the best experience ever. I was doing engine in-frames, 13 speeds and differentials left and right. Including the dreaded electrical problems (after lots of hands on I couldn't wait for the next short circuit or no start / charging problem). Basic theory is something I use every time along with common sense.

Journeyman Mechanic Certification

Moved Back Home
A couple of years passed by and I moved back to my home town (homesick), worked back at Afton Mines then on to an International dealer getting a great background on IC products.  After being laid off  I got a job with the local GM dealer as a medium duty mechanic. It was Topkick and Isuzu heaven :).

Present Job
Almost 7 years passed by there when I had an opportunity to get on with the local school district bus garage and up to now I've been there for 18 years. It's a fleet of 75 school buses along with all the support equipment. I've advanced to Shop Foreman and it's a different view from an office delegating work and managing inventory.

There is always interesting problems that come in to the shop and I enjoy the diagnostic process. Common sense is the first step to any problem and looking back at the vehicle history sometimes helps with the troubleshooting process.

Writing Articles For STN Magazine 
Approximately 1 year ago I started writing articles for "School Transportation News Magazine" and thoroughly enjoy it. Topics have varied with articles on "ULSD" "Diesel Heaters" and a case study on building a fleet maintenance garage from scratch. Here is a link to one of my articles on building a transportation facility.

Keeping In Touch With You
 I appreciate your visit and I hope you enjoy my blog. It's here for sharing and to help you get through a problem or allow you to contribute to a post. I answer as many questions as I can. Commenting on any post will get to my inbox so I can reply quickly.

I won't know the answers to all of them but I always give it my best. I hope you can come back often. Sign up to my newsletter and get regular messages plus updates so we keep in touch!


John Whelan

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sun said...

Hey John question, I have a 2001 FRTL BU [cummimgs] my check engine check comes on and off, when it's on it reduces my exceleration. what does that sound like the problem could be.

John Whelan said...

It could be anything from the fuel lift pump to poor boost. These are guesses and the sure way to check out a code is to hook up the laptop with "Insite Lite" software to doi a proper diagnosis. See a dealer with a good reputation, this will cost you less than $100.

George Paap said...

Hi John, Great site. A bad fan clutch caused me to blow a head gasket on my 1988 IH 7.3 School Bus about 5 years ago. I'd now like to replace the engine but I'd like to be able to drive it cross country. What are my replacement options? Would a 6.5 turbo work in it, or what would give me decent fuel economy (relatively speaking).
Thanks, gpaap3 www.tikifest.com

John Whelan said...

I would stick to the 7.3 replacement. Changing engine models in a chassis is a huge challenge. Refitting electrical connections, hydraulic lines and fuel lines etc. would become an endless task. A good used 7.3 would be my choice from a reputable seller.

George Paap said...

Thanks John, I appreciate your response, and will follow your advice. George

Adam Jones said...

Hey John having a tranny problem with a 1993 central states fire enigine with a md 3060 allison tranny. when we power up the truck the push button display beeps and shows a 1 over a 1 and wont go in gear any thought please

John Whelan said...

Adam Jones,

I would check the output speed sensor or engine speed sensor ...they are both external and can be tested with an ohm meter, should read around 300 ohms.

Check the wiring as well for resistance and opens. It could be a failed condition or disconnected.

To check for codes...Push both arrows (ignition on) and read the 4 digit code. It will be something like 2112 or 3500 etc.

John Whelan said...

Adam, see this post.

John Whelan said...

Copy and paste the link above to your browser.

Anonymous said...

Hi John :) I have a 1966 Chevrolet Bluebird Bus. 26 ft. I,m not sure if those are king pins or not. Also any idea what it costs to re arc leaf springs ? Thanx.

John Whelan said...

Kingpins...send me a photo of your front axle via email jewhelan58@gmail.com
Re arcing cost depends if you take the springs out yourself and the shop doing the job. Can't give you a honest figure.

Anonymous said...

hi john we have a 98 international school bus and the problem is when the check engine comes on after 25 mins of driving the engines starts to get hot and the bus cuts off, any advice u can give can really help us out we tried changing the computer twice already... thanx

Anonymous said...

hello john I have a lot of questions about my thomas Safe-t-liner.. Biggest one on my list right now is about the danfoss hydraulic pump used for the power steering system and radiator fan. I cant find a part number for this pump. there are no numbers stamped on the pump housing and Thomas Built Buses can not provide me with any technical data on my bus. it is a 1991 safe t liner with a cummins cta240 engine

John Whelan said...

Have you found the cause of the over heating problem? How much have you done to date? I commented on another post asking if you have an electronic shutdown system? Just curious. More details would help :)

John Whelan said...

We have had the same problem as you running Cummins C diesels. I will have to get back to you on a different number besides the Danfoss OEM #

John Whelan said...


Here is the page with VIM information. Copy and paste into your browser


Anonymous said...

Hi John,
I will be anormously thankful, if you let me know, what is the intake manifold pressure for Cummins 5.9L ISB engine..
Thanks Nicolai

John Whelan said...

you should get around 18 to 20 psi

Katie said...

Please let me introduce myself, my name is Katie and I work as a link-development manager for Buses For Sale. Seeing as how our sites are relevant to each other, I wanted to see if you would be interested in us guest blogging for your site or getting a company mention in your next relevant article. We can provide high quality unique content for our guest blog post on a variety of topics. Please let me know if you are interested. I appreciate your time and consideration.


John Whelan said...

Hi Katie,
sure, let me know what kind of article you want to contribute. I'm looking for "how to" in the diesel engine category.
email me jewhelan58@gmail.com

Todd Koeppel said...

Hi John,
I'm planning on buying a school bus as a family vehicle to convert to an RV but have never dealt with a vehicle like this. Is there anything that you would recommend I be cautious of? Its a 1993 International 3800, 77 passenger school bus with a DT 360 and an automatic transmission.

John Whelan said...

Tod you've chosen the best bus available as far as drive train and model goes. The DT is the top diesel for reliability and if there are no mechanical problems I would take it to a reputable mechanic and get it checked out. A great choice in my book.

JDR Purcell said...

Hello John,
I am trying to find a part for an oder bus and I am hitting a roadblock. I do not know the name of the part, but I have 2 photos:



Do you know the name of this part and where I may find it? I tried Sonny Merrymann, but did not make any progress.

Thomas Bus / 1990
Engine Model #: 3208T185
Engine Serial #: 02Z62662
Rear engine

Thank you!

Jason said...

John, on your video School Bus Wabco ABS Light Staying On what did you finally find to be the problem? we have a 2008 C-2 bus having the same issue, no codes just the tractor ABS light on.

Jason Schwartz