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Author Topic: mechanics pit  (Read 5938 times)
happycamperbrat
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« on: May 22, 2010, 09:48:57 AM »

Over the period of the next few months I am hoping to put in a full length mechanics pit and garage floor with an enclosed area for storage on the north side. Eventually I want to add on to the enclosed strage area and put up a carport at least 16 feet tall, then wall in the other south side and leave enough overhang to park a car or use it as a breezeway. Then in the next step of construction I want to close up the east and west ends but put on doors so it would be a drivethru garage. I am figuring on the garage floor being 50-60ish feet long (E-W) and 35ish feet wide (N-S). This will all be done in phases as money and time allows. I am even looking into doing a bunch of this with stabalized earth (which is 15% cement and 85% dirt). My question is this: for the mechanics pit I want it the full 40 ft length of the bus (maybe a little longer to get in and out?) but I dont know how deep to make it. I am thinking it would get to be a hazard to pull in and out of the garage daily with a huge hole in the middle lol.  So maybe if I only made it a couple feet deep to run a creeper up and down it? This is all new to me and I am learning as I go, so to tell the truth I have never worked under a vehicle before and really want to hear what you all have to say about it. Thanks!
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The Little GTO is a 102" wide and 40' long 1983 GMC RTS II and my name is Teresa in case I forgot to sign my post
Kenny
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« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2010, 09:56:54 AM »

I say if your going to do it from scratch, go with a 45' long by 5' deep pit with a drain. But please remember you should also provide proper forced fresh air ventillation into the pit. Prior to entering a pit like this the fresh air ventillation should be running.
Kenny
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happycamperbrat
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« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2010, 10:21:27 AM »

Thank you Kenny! How wide do you think it should be? And would some sort of bumpers or something else be advised to avoid driving off into the pit lol?
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« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2010, 10:25:10 AM »

Depending on where you live and noticing you are going to use cement for stabilization it must be sandy soil it could be a mistake making a pit the same length as the bus I seen those long pits collapse before and most are 5 ft wide and 5 ft deep with the walls extending 4 to 6 inches above the floor for curbing.  
I would do one 20 ft long and cover with grating when not in use just my way you add 15.00 a sf for walls and floors the cost will be over 10 grand on a 40 ft pit to be safe. FWIW there is nothing to check on the bottom of a bus in the middle it is all on the front and rear,  sorry I have no idea why I told you 5 wide looking at some old Wal/Mart plans they are 4 ft wide from the outside walls


good luck
« Last Edit: May 22, 2010, 12:39:51 PM by luvrbus » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2010, 10:43:13 AM »

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« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2010, 10:52:12 AM »

Im totally interested in it being safe. 20 ft sounds reasonable if that is mostly all I will be doing is checking the front and back. I have future plans of installing a hitch but having the steel extend up to the front of the bus instead of just on the back engine cradle and there are a few other things I want to do which would require getting under the bus for the full length. But I guess if the pit were only 20' long that I would still be able to do those things by improvising?

And yes, I intend on having some sort of drainage and even electrical outlets down there for power tools.
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« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2010, 11:10:44 AM »

As Kenny said, make sure you have the ventilation that is a good ideas (by the NEC Shocked).

Also you will want lights down there.

I wouldn't cut corners on the support. If it was me, I would do at least 8" walls, with rebar on one foot centers. Also, you could also have the fibers put in the mix too. You don't want to compromise your safety.

FWIW

God bless,

John
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« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2010, 11:15:31 AM »

Actually I was thinking about the stabilized earth for walls for the garage/storage area and maybe the floor of the garage....... not necessarily for the walls for the pit. However, for the pit I was thinking about those concrete blocks at Home Depot and "maybe" filling them with stabilized dirt?HuhHuh For ventilation, would having protable fans down there do it? Or do I need something more sophisticated? lights is also a good idea!
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The Little GTO is a 102" wide and 40' long 1983 GMC RTS II and my name is Teresa in case I forgot to sign my post
Kenny
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« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2010, 11:51:54 AM »

Personally I would use a minimum 4 bag concrete mix with rea bar for the walls with a minimum 8 inches thick. I have seen concrete basement walls cave in from very heavy vehicles driving adjacent to the wall.

Also, ventilation should be drawn directly from a fresh air source and routed to the bottom of the pit. Would use HVAC duct. Please keep in mind that even though a vehicle is not running, just the act of pulling into the pit area, exhaust fumes will find the bottom of the pit and stay there long after you've shut off the vehicle. This goes for most cleaning fluids you may be using else where in the garage area. They will also find the bottom of the pit and without proper ventilation can be very deadly to breath and explosive. Have seen this happen too many times.
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happycamperbrat
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« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2010, 11:57:04 AM »

Okay! Thanks! You may be saving a life  Grin For the strength of the pit walls, how about using concrete 8" blocks and additionally making the floor 8" deep concrete with rebar around the pit for about a one foot distance?
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« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2010, 12:22:07 PM »

I had a pit built at my previous shop.  It was 3-1/2' wide and 5' deep.  You don't want to go too wide so that you have a good solid surface for jacks along the sides.  Mine had a 3" x 1-1/2" lip all around so that it could be covered by 4" wide stock.  I used doubled up 3/4" plywood for a cover.

Mine was 24 feet long and worked OK.  Kind of a pain if you wanted to work on both ends of the bus.

I used 6 inches of reinforced concrete in the floor with a slight slope to one end.  The walls were cement block with rebar and concrete filled.  Remember that the floor and walls of the pit are what is holding up the floor of the shop with the weight of your bus on it.

I had a sump at one end plumbed out and both electric and compressed air piped in.  I had a blower to keep the air moving mostly because it can get hot and sticky down there in Florida.

I did not have curbs as I wanted a flat floor when the pit was not being used.  I used black and yellow safety tape on the floor just outside of the wheels and a large parabolic mirror on the back wall to help me drive in straight.

It always scared me driving in, afraid I would drop a wheel in the pit.  I used to watch mechanics in a bus shop come rolling into the garage and over the pit in one smooth motion, always impressed by their driving skills.
  
Theoretically, you should use explosion proof wiring but I did not do that.  If I was working on gasoline powered vehicles I might have paid more attention to that.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2010, 12:24:27 PM by Len Silva » Logged


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« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2010, 12:38:36 PM »

Is 5' deep safe to get under a bus without jacks? This is another issue I am struggling with......... is a pit safe? I mean all the time I am being warned about not getting under the bus because the air bags could go and I would be a pancake. So, since I am taller then 5' what happens when/if the bags deflate?
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« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2010, 12:39:23 PM »

Duck
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« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2010, 12:51:17 PM »

Do your knees bend seriously never pull the bus over the stairways always leave yourself a escape route or a entrance for someone to help if needed.
 How far does a RTS drop without air most buses drop 6 to 8 inches.We all have a preference but I am not a huge fan of pits myself too much lost floor space very seldom in the past 20 years have I seen a new shop built with a pit.
Really about all they are good for is lube and oil change and minor repairs like on the air system



 Good luck
« Last Edit: May 22, 2010, 12:59:26 PM by luvrbus » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2010, 01:00:15 PM »

well, this is another reason I was considering a crawl space rather then a deep pit to stand in. If it were only a couple feet deep and the bus deflated the sides of the pit and floor of the garage would support the weight and I could crawl out........
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« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2010, 01:02:29 PM »

Before I built mine I asked around several truck and RV shops.  None of the newer ones used pits because of the potential for accidents and liability.  Falling into a five foot pit could be painful, dropping a wheel into one could get expensive.  The newer shops almost exclusively use lifts instead.

There is very little that you can do in a pit that you cannot do lying on your back under a bus but it is a whole lot more convenient.  Just oil ,changes, lube and brake adjustments are sooo much easier in a pit.

Five foot was just about right for me, I kept a two foot step ladder down there all the time.

I sure do miss it now.
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« Reply #16 on: May 22, 2010, 01:09:18 PM »

Len, when I get mine built you can come use it  Grin
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« Reply #17 on: May 22, 2010, 01:22:54 PM »

At some point you are going to have to lift your bus to change a tire or something, and jacks are so inconvenient....  You should build your pit so you'll be able to put one of these in:

http://www.w-kindustries.com/pdf/w-k_airjack_masstransit_heavyduty.pdf

Then everybody will want to come over and use it!!  
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« Reply #18 on: May 22, 2010, 01:46:45 PM »

Sounds very nice!! But somehow I have a feeling that the sticker price would give me a heart attack  Roll Eyes
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« Reply #19 on: May 22, 2010, 01:51:01 PM »

Being at a bus shop with a pit I guess I am spoiled.  But while you can do anything jacking & blocking that you can do in a pit, it is sure a lot more convenient to just drive over it and walk under it.  As was pointed out, you still need to be able to lift it if you need to take a wheel off, but for most other things to me it is the safe method (as long as it is well built).  I would echo other suggestions to have some kind of sturdy cover to put over it when not in use.
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« Reply #20 on: May 22, 2010, 03:07:47 PM »

Sounds very nice!! But somehow I have a feeling that the sticker price would give me a heart attack  Roll Eyes

I think Dallas has a cheaper way of lifting a bus using a couple of sheets of plywood and an inner tube....could be  your solution Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy
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« Reply #21 on: May 22, 2010, 03:21:35 PM »

haha Yaeh, if I have a heart attack then the pit doesnt get built anyway lol
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« Reply #22 on: May 22, 2010, 04:39:12 PM »

I have a small pit in my shop. I have a cover over it made with 6" channel iron as I run forklifts and such over it. It's probably only 4 ' deep, 30" wide and 15' long. The last time I was in it was some 25 years ago when a tornado was headed for us. I've never had the urge to take all the channels off to service anything on the bus.
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« Reply #23 on: May 22, 2010, 04:41:22 PM »

I've had a couple of chances to work in a pit and its pretty nice.  One was full length - the other was about 20 feet long.  As Clifford has pointed out there's not much to work on in the middle but the full lengths are nice if you are lazy and don't want to turn the bus around.  My only advice is to make it deep enough so you don't have to duck.  When you need to get up higher (and you will for things on the top of the transmission or air relays that are up against the floor) then you can stand on a step stool.  The whole point of a pit is to be able to stand up while you are working - if its too shallow then you don't get that benefit.  

If I was going to go to the expense of building one I would do it right with reinforced concrete walls.  I'm not a big fan of blocks and there could be a lot of side pressure on the walls, depending on the soil you are building in.  They're not cheap and as others have pointed out you can do the work on ramps but if you have the $$ a well done pit is a pretty nice feature.
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« Reply #24 on: May 22, 2010, 04:48:00 PM »

Another option is to buy a four post lift for your bus. The ones I've looked at were 30' long, would lift approx. 60" and had capacities of 30, 35 and 40,000 lbs. Retail for the 30K capacity was approx. $12,500 plus another $1500 for shipping.
Kenny
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« Reply #25 on: May 22, 2010, 04:53:46 PM »

Well guys my HWH leveling jacks do the job for me on my Eagle but I cheat lol


good luck
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« Reply #26 on: May 22, 2010, 05:19:06 PM »

good point about the four post lift.  At 12.5 K it may end up =$  to a  pit, also nicer to work on the flat.  Of course I have no idea about construction cost where you are.
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« Reply #27 on: May 22, 2010, 06:20:49 PM »

When I started out in the business, we had a pit.  When I had to get under any bus, it worked just fine.  The width was such that there was still plenty of room to get a hydraulic jack under the jacking point, to change tires, adjust brakes, etc.  The height (depth) was probably between 5-6 feet.  If I remember right, most of us could walk under everything without bumping heads, and those of us who are shorter, could stand on something when needed.  Remember that the low points are axles, but on transits (like your RTS), you hay have to get up to work on something at floor level. 

However, I can't remember the last transit property I've been on that had a pit.  Most are now using either fixed or portable, hydraulic or electric jacks.  While I'd love to have a pit, I'm still waiting for my lottery numbers to come in.  If I were going to do it, I think I would spend the money on a professional engineer to be sure the sides, jacking area, etc. were proper and safe (above all, safe).  Although I've worked in San Luis Obispo, I don't know anything about soil conditions, water table, etc. 

That said, you might look at the surplus auctions -- the portable wheel lifts come up at transit systems from time to time.  You have a couple in your area, San Luis Obispo city transit and county transit (I think they're still separate).  It might be worth talking with their maintenance folks to see if they have any equipment replacements coming up.

Arthur 
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« Reply #28 on: May 22, 2010, 08:09:29 PM »

attached are some pictures of a few options for the proposed pit
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« Reply #29 on: May 22, 2010, 08:21:29 PM »

One picture shows the electrical coming into the pit via a plastic pipe,

Also one end has a mini sump c/w pump that pumps to the intercepter pit .
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« Reply #30 on: May 22, 2010, 08:49:36 PM »

I have moved and am not in SLO anymore. Im near Death Valley now. Actually the ground here is quite hard. I put some dirt in a small round container and got it wet and then pacted it down hard and let it dry last summer. Now that dirt has held together throughout the winter rains, etc. and it is as hard as a rock. I can stand on it or throw it or whatever and it stays held together and very strong. I havent tried driving my car on it yet, but I intend to. When the ground is dry here (98% of the time) a shovel will just jump off the ground. It can be shoveled when wet but it is very heavy, almost like adobe. I talked to some construction people here about putting up a 40 ft steel Sea Container and told them about my garage/bus barn I want to build onto it. I asked what kind of foundation they would suggest and was told I really didnt need one....... still I want the pit especially to be as safe as possible so I am more then willing to make the walls of it as thick as need be. Im considering the lift as well, but for multiple reasons I think I would rather go with a pit.

Edit: I think the biggest problem here is shake rattle and rollin earthquakes.......
« Last Edit: May 22, 2010, 09:18:21 PM by happycamperbrat » Logged

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« Reply #31 on: May 22, 2010, 09:27:26 PM »

You need to check the ground water level in Death Valley it being below sea level you will be shocked how high it is in some places.
I live in the Mojave in AZ and the water table here is from 5 to 12 feet and it gets higher with rain.


good luck
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« Reply #32 on: May 22, 2010, 09:35:51 PM »

I will do that. LOL, I think it is pretty deep but if I hit water I could have a swimming pool  Grin Grin Grin
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« Reply #33 on: May 23, 2010, 02:20:37 AM »

My pit is 45' long,  39" wide and approx. 4' deep.  Sloping floor with a sump at the low end.  I can enter or exit at either end. It has lights and plugs all along one side.

We excavated a trench and just formed the inside with plywood conc. forms. With the soil as the outer form the concrete varied between 8" to around 12" thick.  I poured the pit concrete walls first using heavy rebar horizontal and vertical.   I left the vertical rebar stand 3' above the walls and when they were cured, then bent it down and out and tied it into the shop floor rebar.  The floor concrete was then poured over the top of the walls tying it all together. The pit floor and sump were then poured as well. We used fibrous concrete.

I normally cover the pit with plywood when not in use, but when I am in the pit and under the coach I still use steel beam spacers across the pit for extra support.
Having done most of the work myself, the cost wasn't bad.  It has been worth the investment for sure.
     Iver.

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« Reply #34 on: May 23, 2010, 06:35:42 AM »

I know you had a big chuckle from the water table comment but it happens in the desert if you have arrowweed on your property or the surrounding area the water table will be high it won't be drinking water but will be water you see a lot of fuel tanks on top of the ground in the desert and if the ground perks good .you are going to have a hell of a mess with building blocks with each rain.
Fwiw holes in the desert are not much fun when some day you try and evict a 4 ft rattlesnake from his new house been there done that.
You need to check with the local agencies they may not let you build a pit without a set of engineered plans which is not all bad.



good luck
« Last Edit: May 23, 2010, 08:03:25 AM by luvrbus » Logged

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« Reply #35 on: May 23, 2010, 07:20:04 AM »

The builder charged me an additional $5000 for the pit when I had my shop built.
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« Reply #36 on: May 23, 2010, 08:26:10 AM »

That's good to know Len. How long ago was that?
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« Reply #37 on: May 23, 2010, 08:27:57 AM »

That was in 2002 in rural North Florida.  The entire 40 x 60 building was around 25K with the pit.
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