Step 3: Disconnecting extra engine loads: fan, pump, alternator, a/c
-I replaced the stock engine driven hydraulic clutch cooling fan with an electric one.
The fan adds to the battery load, but it is much lighter, so it does not require as much force to turn. Also, it is only needed when driving very slow or idling, as otherwise the movement of the vehicle provides air flow. The stock fan turned at all times, no matter what temperature the engine was at.
This also helps the engine run warmer, which makes it more efficient in cold weather.
-I replaced the belt driven mechanical vacuum pump with an electric one.
This step is only relevant to diesel engines, as gas engines generate vacuum directly (no need for a pump) - unless you coast with the engine off. With an electric vacuum pump the brakes work the same whether the engine is on or off.
-I removed the power steering pump and replaced the steering gear with one meant for manual steering. Even in a truck this size, the only time it is at all difficult is when turning the wheels at a complete standstill. Other than parking in tight quarters, power steering is totally pointless.
All electric power in a car is generated by the alternator, which is powered by the engine, so any reduction in electric draw ultimately reduces drain on the engine.
NOTE: If anyone is inspired to do a similar project (with any vehicle), do not just disconnect the alternator from the battery w/o disconnecting the smaller wires. It will continue to produce current, but since that charge has nowhere to go, the alternator will self-destruct.
Also, diesel trucks tend to have very large batteries. Mine has two. This gives me a lot of reserve power to tap into without draining them too much. With an ordinary car battery you will damage it by cycling it too deeply. Once it finally dies, replace it with a deep-cycle (RV or marine) type battery and you'll be fine.
-The orange (on an '83 F-250) wire running from the external voltage regulator to the alternator controls whether the alternator is charging or idle. If you open the circuit the alternator stops charging. Even though it is still being turned, there is no resistance, it just freewheels. At first I just disconnected the wire, and later I installed a switch so that if the battery ever does run too low, I could charge it with the engine just by flipping the switch.
I used it so little that I eventually just removed the alternator altogether, thereby eliminating the belt and a little bit extra weight.
Since the battery is no longer being charged by the engine, I needed to reduce the electric load as much as possible so the battery will last.
I installed a 15watt solar panel to charge the battery. It sits on the passenger side of the dash board while driving, but when I stop I place it on the roof to get more direct sunlight. If I drive for several hours (with my 400W stereo system on), the solar panel can fully recharge the batteries in about 2-3 days of full sun. If I need to drive again sooner than that, I also have an onboard 120v AC charger which plugs into a standard wall outlet, much like a plug-in hybrid.
-I ordered extra bright LED bulbs (from superbrightleds.com) for the taillights and tun signals. They are brighter than stock but draw less power. The original parking/brake/signal lights together use more power than the headlights, at 63 watts (parking) to 177 watts (brake) stock. The LEDs total 5.5 to 20 watts.
-The dash lights alone used 15 watts. When I took apart the dash and instrument gauge, I discovered that the original system deliberately blocked and wasted the majority of light the bulbs put out by covering them with a slightly translucent cover, and then shielding the gauges on 3 sides. Which explained why the dash was always so dim. I broke off the filters, cut away the plastic shielding, and instead built reflectors (out of metal tape) to direct the tiny amount of light of my new bulbs on to the gauges. The result is far brighter than it was, and is all red which is easier on night vision, and uses less than 1 watt for all 8 bulbs together (plus it looks really cool).
-I added a voltmeter so I can monitor the batteries.
-I had been thinking about making a buzzer to remind me if I left the lights on, but then it occurred to me that there is really no situation where I need the lights on and don't have the keys, so while I had the dash apart I also rewired the headlights (and aux driving lights which I also just installed) so that they go off when the key is turned off - now I can't possibly accidentally leave them on and drain the battery.
-If I had air conditioning, I would have removed it. But I didn't to begin with. You can stay cooler with beaded seat covers over thin white fabric and heat-blocking lightly-tinted window film, available from any auto parts or hardware store for around $15. Last summer I painted my roof silver to reflect the sun light and keep it out of the cab. I also have a small 12volt fan on the dashboard.
If you absolutely can't stand the heat, even with the roof painted silver, heat blocking window tint, beaded seat covers, and a smll fan blowing, you can always roll down the windows just a crack to provide additional ventilation. Opening them just slightly still hurts your aerodynamics less than rolling them down all the way.
It also helps to wear no more clothing than is legally necessary.