With the ambulance package on a ‘97, removing the single 32 lb alternator is a job on its own. So I’ve not removed it to access other things. It’ll come out without removing the A/C and heater lines... but just barely. It’s not as simple as removing a normal alternator.I've been chasing leaks on my '96 7.3, just had the HPOP oil reservoir off which was leaking from it's base.
As bikersmurf said, Dog house, air cleaner, air intake hoses, turbo heat shield, intake resonance box... then it’s a major pain to reach it all blind. You really need as much room as you can get from both the radiator side and doghouse sides as you can get. remove the passenger seat, 4 bolts. I wound up disconnecting the electrical junction and bugee cording the harness aside, bungee cording the upper radiator hose aside as well to give myself more room. Removing serpentine belt and alternator requires a tool I rented from O'Rielly's (15mm socket on a long flat bar to take tension off the tensioner). Once the belt is off, the alternator is just three bolts, the positive cable, and a connector, worth it to get a little more room IMO. A 3" inspection mirror and a couple well placed lights are your friend, as is a magnet on a an extension if you drop a bolt, and a step stool. Deep breathing and decaf coffee.
As I look at it, I see why a lot of the truck guys move the fuel filter bowl out of the valley completely and down to the frame rail, which eliminates 5-6 possible leak paths, and makes a 7.3 van filter change a snap, vs removing the air intake system and heat shied.
I did my trans cooler lines 2yrs ago, I removed the grill and radiator, replaced all the rubber hoses and the OEM 20yr old radiator while I was at it, one of the tank seals was weeping. The radiator hoses too "while I was in there".
I’ve never needed a special tool to remove tension from the serpentine belt... I usually slip the box end of a second wrench over the open end of the first to double up the leverage. I think the last time I did the same trick with a 3/8” ratchet and a box end wrench. I mention this in case someone has to replace a belt late some night in the middle of nowhere... cause it’ll never fail in your driveway.