Our Cortez is Dead Again! Jump-Starting, Charging, and Replacing Our Battery



Andy and I first met our 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome in July 2019, and in some ways it has been the focal point of our life. In other ways though, it has been pushed aside.

I say this contradiction because it seems nearly every weekend Andy and I have gone to my aunt and uncle’s farm to continue our RV overhaul. In fact, since our Cortez arrived, we have gotten a heck-of-a-lotta work done — so much so that we are extremely close to finishing the mechanical work in our restoration. However, there is one part of our Cortez work that has dramatically fallen behind and that is the writing — The stories of this adventure seem to have come to a halt. My confession is this: While I enjoy creating YouTube videos so that we can look back at our young selves fulfilling this crazy dream, my passion is in crafting stories through written (or typed) words and so I am fueled once more to focus on this.

Therefore, in an effort to pick up documenting our vintage RV restoration, I’m going back in time to our next job . . .

Andy and I were in a constant battle to simply get our daggon Cortez to start and stay running. This battle began when we first met our steel beast. There were several different factors that walked hand-in-hand to create this singular problem: First, Andy and I flattened the battery during our dead-starter-motor days. Then, we discovered our faulty alternator killed our battery during our exterior light investigation. Therefore, between each of these jobs and between purchasing a new starter motor and alternator, we were forced to jump-start our RV many . . . many times . . . which, in some strange sense, was fine by me because I had never jump-started a vehicle. If I’m honest, I never had a reason to jump a car so I never learned, but this day, I was ready to learn a lesson well overdue.

Grabbing our set of jumper cables and pulling Andy’s car closer to our Cortez, he popped his car’s hood and I began. Under Andy’s instruction, I attached the red/positive cable to the positive terminal on his car’s battery and then I attached the other end of the red/positive cable to the positive terminal on the Cortez battery. After that came the black/negative cable: I attached it to the negative terminal on the Cortez battery and then followed the black/negative cable back to Andy’s car to attach it to his car’s negative terminal.

“Are you sure I’m not going to blow anything up?” I asked him. My heart was racing. I’ve heard if people get the terminal order mixed up a massive explosion with multiple deaths ensues . . . okay, maybe not that severe but I have heard the order is important.

“Just be sure the cables did not touch metal and you are fine,” he said and so I continued.

With all terminals attached, we went to Andy’s car and fired up it up. Once that was running, we took to our Cortez and did the same.

Now, if you’re reading these steps in an effort to jump your own vehicle, yours should run at this point, which means you can set out into the sunset for a drive that will further recharge you battery. For us though, our Cortez is a stubborn lass so, of course, she refused to hold the charge, which meant I needed to remove the cables: the black/negative cable from the matching RV terminal then the black/negative from Andy’s car followed by the red/positive cable from Andy’s car’s matching terminal then the same from our RV.

Next solution? Check our battery’s voltage with a voltage reader. Repeating a similar process to the jump, I attached the red/positive cable to the positive terminal then the black/negative cable to the negative terminal. Now again, if you are testing the voltage on your vehicle, it is also suggested to test the battery “under load,” which simulates the vehicle firing up so you can see that you (hopefully) do not have a drop in voltage when that happens. Okay, back to our story though: Our voltage reading basically said, “Idiots. You killed the battery . . . like really killed the battery . . . as in flattened the goodness-gracious-life outta that battery . . . multiple times.” With further proof we had a true problem, I again removed the black/negative cable then the red/positive cable.

All of this cable-terminal-attaching-and-removing was one year ago today, and up to this point, I had began to question our experience (If we were replacing parts and “working” on the problem with no positive results then surely we were in over our heads for this whole restoration gig) and I began to question our future safety in this ancient RV (If we couldn’t get our Cortez’s engine to continuously roll over while it sat well-behaved at my aunt and uncle’s farm, how in the hell did we expect to travel to green forests, dry deserts, and frozen tundras?). Suddenly, the idea of owning, overhauling, and traveling in a Cortez build in 1965 seemed ludicrous. This, I told Andy many times as my anxiety over the situation came full tilt, and so we got more serious.

The first option became charging our battery overnight. For that, we purchased a handy-dandy charger, which is also wise to have when traveling because it provides confidence knowing you can give your battery life if there is no other vehicle around. A charger also illuminates if bigger plans need to happen: If the battery does not charge, a new battery is needed . . . and again, according to Murphy’s law, our battery did not charge.

Our second option then approached and that meant the price of a new battery was deducted from our checking account.

It should be noted though that we suspected our battery was not new from the beginning, as our Cortez seller suggested . . . just as we suspected more than the starter motor and brakes needed to be replaced, as our Cortez ad stated. Still, I began to realize the expectations of a vintage RV are that, well, there are no expectations with a vintage RV.

“I mean, there’s nothing else now to prevent the Cortez from starting,” Andy said as I huffed and grunted and picked up the a-few-ounces-short-of-sixty-pounds battery. “And I feel a right jerk for not carrying it — but you said you wanted to learn.”

He was right. From the start, I have had to remind Andy to step back — to not make all of the repairs or have me simply be the spanner-passer. From the start, I have genuinely wanted to learn how to restore our steel beast. This was my job.

“Listen, if we travel in this RV . . . and if you are deathly sick . . . and if we encounter a problem on the road — I need to be just as knowledgeable as you at diagnosing the issue and resolving it.”

That was a large amount of “What if”s between an even larger amount of pants for breath. The weight of the battery made it clear that this supposedly easy job was much harder job than I originally realized.

“Do you need — “

“NO!” I bellowed on an exhale until finally, the battery was lifted and dropped into the battery compartment. Next task: Place the red/positive cable on the matching battery terminal then the black/negative cable on the correct terminal and tightened.

“Let’s try — to see how it goes,” I told Andy and held my breath as he turned the key.

Without even a second of hesitation, the roar of our steel beast! And, figuring this was a perfect time to test if our battery charge indicator worked, we pushed the button. At least another thing didn’t need fixin’.

Filled with hope and happiness, we looked down at our battery . . . only to be reminded of a larger dilemma. Our battery compartment remained unsealed so it was wide open to the wild world and, therefore, the elements.

Not only this, but winter had arrived, which meant very cold Virginia temperatures that that take pleasure in killing batteries.

Sealing the sucker though would require welding — major amounts of welding . . . and needless to say, we were far from mastering how heat, pressure, and argon form a fabrication process so until then, we determined our plan would be to pick up our battery to haul it in and out of the Cortez compartment to the heave it into our get-away car every single time we visited our RV. Listen friends, the saying is true: Ya win some and ya lose some.

* * * * *

Interested in the parts we used?
Visit our Electrical category to find our EverStart Maxx 12 volt/900 CCA battery.

Author: L

Hi there! I am the impulsive do-er, the jumper, the one tugging to move past comfort zones to embrace a life of sheer surprise. I am a writer -- a pursuer of stories -- because I believe in the destination over the journey. I am a chaser of sunrises and sunsets and cherisher of the moments between. I have an overwhelming curiosity, an insatiable desire travel, and an obsessive yearn to turn dreams into realities. For all of these reasons, the word that best summarizes who I am is "seeker" -- I am forever a seeker.

2 thoughts

  1. Hi.. Ok, so I’m seriously thinking you’re just throwing good money after bad now.! Another Battery.? It should be lasting longer than this.! Disgruntled Midad. XXXX

    1. Hi midad, In the post I wrote about how I am catching up on writing about the story of our Cortez overhaul so I said this is a year in the past!
      L (and Andy)

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