1989 Yugo GVL: Monterey Car Week - Battery Replacement
by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on August 30, 2015
You may recall that Editor Monticello was itching to take our 1989 Yugo GVL home in early August. Unfortunately, ignition was unavailable when he twisted the key. The battery had died.
I'd been told in advance of the annual Edmunds beach picnic in late July that the Yugo's battery was on the fritz, presumably due to understandable lack of use. The car was scheduled to attend the picnic as a guest of honor, and to no one's great surprise, the driving duties fell to me.
I went down to the garage for a status check the day before; sure enough, the engine cranked but wouldn't turn over. So I hooked up our handy power pack thingy and got it started, then drove around for 20 minutes to charge the battery up. When the Yugo roared to life on picnic morning, I figured that was that.
I joined a caravan of less interesting Edmunds cars and we headed for the beach. Almost nothing bad happened. I even discovered that the tape player works, whereupon I put in my tape adapter and hooked up my phone. The speakers actually don't sound half bad! Well, okay, they're terrible.
I did say "almost." The driver window crank nearly broke off in my hand, not long after I had assured @handbrake that the cranks were robust. This one would last a few more days before giving up the ghost. By the time we hit the road for Monterey, we were down to a useless stub and forced to use two hands -- one rotating the crank hub, the other either yanking up the window glass or pushing it down.
Anyway, things went downhill rapidly at the beach, where I had the bright idea of playing some tunes on the stereo (specifically Balkan Beat Box, at Magrath's request) for passersby. I neglected to turn off the accessory power when the music ended, so the tape player kept spinning while I wandered around for a couple hours.
That was too much for the beleaguered battery, which is why this happened. The power pack was at the office and, let's face it, push-starts are fun.
After I popped the clutch, it took about 25 minutes in heavy traffic to get back to the garage, which was a somewhat harrowing experience. I knew that if I let the engine drop to idle speed, it would stall, and for the first few minutes at least, I wouldn't have enough charge to restart it.
Fortunately, I had long since perfected my heel-toe braking technique with the transmission in neutral, so throttle maintenance at intersections wasn't too difficult. And with another 25 minutes of charging time under its belt, I held out hope that the battery would be back to normal for the next driver.
But when Monticello tried to start the Yugo the following week, he got bupkis.
The Monterey trip loomed. It was time to take action.
A few days later, I got another push-start from Vehicle Testing Assistant Reese Counts and headed for O'Reilly Auto Parts on Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica.
The Yugo uses the same little battery as a number of economy cars. There were plenty in stock. The friendly fellow at the counter yanked out the old one and put in the new one for free.
See the "Sterling" on the label? Turns out it's a battery shop in Boise. This car is seriously authentic. It is what we thought it was.
In goes the replacement. Total cost: $129.15 including tax.
I took the Yugo to lunch on Wilshire Blvd. afterward, noting happily that it was firing up with a newfound sense of urgency.
Back in the garage, I knew we had one less thing to worry about. But batteries are easy.
Stalling and stumbling from an old Fiat engine? Maybe not so much.
Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor