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Chevrolet Malibu Transmission


Can you tell if my transmission falls under the "howl" TSB based on my VIN? 167044

I have taken it to the dealer three times for this problem. 1st time they said it was "bearing noise" and not the howl TSB, 2nd time they could not hear it and the last time they tightened an exhaust heat shield. It sounds like a ball bearing lightly rattling in a can and varies with speed (loudest on manual deceleration 4-to-3 or 3-to-2).

I have rented one Maxx and three G6's and none make this noise.

Thanks in advance.


  • We haven't had the "howl" issue with our transmission, but now at 18K it is making a wheeze/scratch sound on the 3-4 shift under load, such as uphill or with weight, but not on light acceleration. Reminds me of the sound I have heard in lots of buses with automatics--sort of like it is under-lubricated. Anyone else experienced this/gotten it fixed?

    Also--any more news on the steering rattle? We were at a camp this summer on a dirt road and it sounded like the whole front suspension was coming apart--something is really loose in there. You feel it in the wheel as well as hearing it. I've had no luck with this at two dealers--both are in areas with extremely smooth streets so no way to demonstrate it!

    2004 LS
    May '04 build
    vin 237245
  • joe3891joe3891 Posts: 759
    I assume you mean the 4-3 down shift under load, have not heard about it before.
    The steering preload needs adjusting, I think you need a new dealer. :)
  • I mean the upshift. If it winds out to 3500 rpm or so before shifting to 4th I get the noise. There is a high pitched component to it. It's sort of a cricket sound.

    I see that "steering preload" adjustment seems to have solved the steering rattle for someone else. I'll ask about that.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    I believe your vehicle likely falls into the range although it is really based on date code of the transmission. However your description of the noise and when it occurs doesn't sound like the same complaint that is addressed by TSB #04-07-30-021A which is for a growl or howl. Sorry :confuse:
  • minn_maxxminn_maxx Posts: 51
    Thanks for the fast reply. Unfortunately, I can't verify the trans date code. Half the transmission case was replaced due to porosity in the casting (causing a leak). Noise problem came up afterwards :(
  • kurtamaxxxguykurtamaxxxguy Posts: 1,714
    My dealer during my car's 35.5K check (did the 36K early) determined the rattles I have been hearing are now due to both the front struts. Both parts went on order today.

    They also told me my front rotor pads were nearly worn out (1-2 mm of pad left), at 35K miles. The advisor that talked to me has been reputable in the past.

    Amazing how fast those pads wore as I am by no means an aggressive driver. Ditto how fast the front struts have died.
  • redmaxxredmaxx Posts: 627
    I think I'm going to be getting out of mine as soon as I can. :sick: Just last Friday, I was driving to work and my transmission slipped 5 times. I drove to the dealer after work and I got a big hassle about reading the codes or at least putting on the VDR. Finally they agreed to put the VDR on only to find out it doesn't work with the CAN system in my car. The CAN network has been out for how long now and they still haven't ordered a CAN VDR? On the way home, the transmission was sluggish and harsh, but it didn't slip. If I had a tech with me, he would probably say those were normal, but I know my car and this was unusually harsh. I made a short trip on Saturday and it was perfectly smooth. I don't know what to do with this car now. I am tired of things breaking, getting fixed, only to have something else break again. I have three parts on order and two items rescheduled and now this and a rough idle.

    I'm going to have to drive it around today to see if it will experience the same problem it had on Friday. I'm almost afraid to though. I've read horror stories where people's car's transmissions don't work under a circumstance but after sitting awhile, they work again. I'm not liking what I'm seeing, where one day its slipping and the next its perfectly normal. The service manager flat out told me that if I can't get the thing to go and have it towed in and they can't duplicate when they try it, I have to pay the tow bill.

    Wish me luck. :sick:
  • redmaxxredmaxx Posts: 627
    Taking it to the dealer didn't do a single bit of good. They aren't interested in solving the problem. Even though it slipped multiple times during driving with a tech they said that it was normal because it wasn't excessively bad. Couldn't find any codes either. I've had it with this car and with GM. :mad:
  • paopao Posts: 1,867
    a slipping trans is not need a new dealership.....GM needs to tighten its rein on its dealerships IMHO.....its the customer service or lack there of in the dealerships that are really hurting them..not Corporate GM themselves....
  • kurtamaxxxguykurtamaxxxguy Posts: 1,714
    Visit the Lutz blog and all you will hear about are new models, not about any customer support improvements.

    Agreed that dealer service is an inconsistant mess. The outfit at one dealer I visit couldn't tighten a loose screw, then was sacked, manager and all, a few months ago. The new management seems to be trying harder, but they are inheriting a lot of skeptical customers.
  • redmaxxredmaxx Posts: 627

    Agreed that dealer service is an inconsistant mess. The outfit at one dealer I visit couldn't tighten a loose screw, then was sacked, manager and all, a few months ago. The new management seems to be trying harder, but they are inheriting a lot of skeptical customers.

    The sad thing was this dealer had a great service manager prior to the 1st of this year. Come the 1st, the dealer's general manager let him go and installed this new stingy guy. With all the problems this car has, and the fact that, not soon after I get one thing fixed something else breaks, I'm just going to see if I can dump it. If not, then I guess I'll have to see if there is another dealership in the area that can shuttle me to work.

    I even told them about the TSB that GM has for slipping transmissions, which includes even if it doesn't set a code and they just ignored it. I really hope I get a survey from GM about them. :P
  • I have exactly the same problem with my 04 Maxx LT transmission since I bought it 8000 miles ago. The sound is only on upshifting under load. The dealer replaced the accessory drive belt with a new belt(new design), but the problem remains. Any idea yet what is causing the sound?
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    yep, I heard that same noise the other day while I was driving in the city. I figured I was in for a tough ride home, but the problem has not appeared again since. Does your tranny noise happen all the time on the upshift, or is it another noise which comes and goes.
  • The sound comes and goes, but I hear it every day. The more load on the engine, like 3 passengers in the car, the better the chances of hearing the noise. Only on upshifting.
  • malibuinscmalibuinsc Posts: 10
    Hi, Some of your problems aren't too hard to explain. I've had those too. I have over 203,000 miles on my 98 Malibu LS. Those squeaks you hear are the rear control arm bushings that are located near the center of the suspension setup. Bushings should be about $20.00. A dealer here in SC charged me $66.00 to install. Check different dealerships, they charge different prices. The A/C problem is your control panel in the car. Mine was notorious for that. You can expect to pay about $100 - $160 for that part. Price again varies by dealer. You can fix it yourself. Just pop that plastic trim and ignition key cover off and unscrew the control panel. You may need a Allen screwhead driver. The wires and vacuum lines are easy to disconnect and connect. They may take a little effort. The notorious manifold gasket leak on the right side above transmission is a design flaw. There is a new graphite gasket GM is using for all the 60 degree V6 engines that leak. I had mine replaced at 77,000. It started this year again, but mine was replaced before the new type gasket came out. I use bars stop leak. Works well and no leaks. No effect on cooling system and I travel in South Carolina summers and commute to work that averages 500 miles a week not including regular town travel. The lunge thing I can't figure. Maybe a transmission issue. Aluminum valvebody will wear from check ball movement and fluid doesn't properly pressurize to move gears. Had mine replaced and fixed at 173,000 miles. Keep eye on trans. That valvebody is a $700.00 job. That was quoted from a GM dealer and a independent shop I trust. The independent did the work. Not a chain shop either. That water pump is about $20.00 at the part store and will last just the same as stock. Had mine replaced at around 90,000 miles. Easy fix for a side mechanic. Hopes this helps. Peace and longevity to your Malibu. I'm enjoying mine.
  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America: I70 & I75Posts: 18,055
    The water pump leaking as a failure is normal for cars. Some may go 200K and some 60K miles before it happens. It's a wear item. A factor is whether the coolant was changed every two years or 36K miles, in my opinion. And that includes any with Dexcool. Coolant lubricates the waterpump.

    The rear bushings are typical of rubber parts that sometimes don't selflubricate the way it was planned. Sometimes a special type of spray may lube them at the squeak point; sometimes they just need to be replaced.

    I have seen the AC control problems mentioned. The idea of an air filter in the AC unit is a question I'm not sure why it was asked. A filter clogs up and needs to be replaced. It can serve as a haven for mold if not replaced. But I don't think your car had one to begin with.

    The transmission like symptom I can only recommend a good shop who is used to GM cars to check it. It might be transmission but the first thing is usually engine. The motor having problems can confuse the controls for a transmission. Have the plugs and wires been replaced on the motor? The plugs were probably rated at 100K then and I replace mine at about 60-70K miles. The plug wires break down and don't work causing misfires. Those are regular maintenance items that some people skip thinking there's no problem. But having them working poorly sometimes causes other ignition parts to fail that create the spark. So regular upkeep is necessary on all cars.

    The soft brake pedal is a safety item. Do not drive it that way. You are endangering others and yourself. That could be from a vacuum hose off on the motor and that would make the motor run poorly and cause the check engine light to come on.

    Has the car had the oil changed and the ball joints greased. That's another item people skip that ends up costing in the end. That might be the source of noise in the rear end if ball joints are dry or worn.
  • All routine maintenance SINCE we have owned it has been accomplished. I wouldn't complain otherwises. And the air filter ? was posed because when the A/C pulls air from the outside (there are two options re-circulating and the vent which pulls air from outside) the system does not want to stay on re-circulating air it will switch back ten times in two minutes....I have to keep pressing the re-circulating button over and over and over everywhere I go. We want it set this way BECAUSE the air coming in the car when it is set on outside vent smells like exhaust as if our windows are rolled down. That is why I asked about the filter. We live in FL as I mentioned before and our A/C is a high priority to go anywhere and on top of that we live in a very, very large city and there is always traffic. I don't want to smell exhaust all the hours I am driving!! We have been very ambitious in doing what is required to keep our vehicle running at it's best. I HAVE NOT driven it AT ALL since the brakes went soft. The moment that happened I turned right back into my apartment complex and it is being towed to get fixed. I AM MORE worried about the safety of MY TWO children than anyone else and for you to assume I would put ANYONE's life in danger is offensive. Not only do I not want to be a danger to others on the road but the car my family will be traveling in whether it is mine or someone else's will be one that is dependable and safe. I did not join this forum to berate or belittle anyone. I was looking for others who have had similar issues and could give a little insight into our problems with our Malibu. I also wanted to mention we bought this car second hand and we have no control over what happened to it before we bought it. THANK YOU!
  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America: I70 & I75Posts: 18,055
    Thank you for being safe about the brakes. It is possible to drive a car slowly using the emergency brake gently for stopping to get to a service locationl.

    The recirculate uses some inside air and draws in some outside air with it. So recirculate doesn't completely eliminate the outside air with other car's fumes.

    There might be a seal around the hood between it and the air intake for the heater/AC below the windshield an the seal is out of place or torn. That could let air from your own engine compartment into the air inlet. That could have an oily or motor smell in it. You might be smelling some of your own motor.
  • 37453745 Posts: 152
    "All routine maintenance SINCE we have owned it has been accomplished".

    The problem here is that good maintenance now does not undo bad maintenance by the previous owner. Unless a reliable maintenance log was supplied to you by the previous owner you'll never know what the car has been put through.
  • dtownfbdtownfb Posts: 2,915
    The AC switching on and off is known problem in the previous model Malibu (1997-2003). Do a search on this forum and you will find many posts of people complaining about this issue. It is not the filter that is the problem. Question for you: does the AC work if you use the outside air?

    the bbrakes are another weak spot of this model Malibu. I'm glad you had it towed and didn't drive it. It could be a noumber of things that could have caused the problem. then again it could be a one time occurrence.

    Like I mentinoed in my previous post, you are at the point mileage wise where things tend to go. Also the other owners said it was reliable because they ignored some obvious things. I'm sure the coolant was leaking which is a classic sign of the intake manifold gasket problem. Very well documented problem with GM small block V6 engines. You paid $1500 to repair, should have only been $700 or so. You paid $800 for rear brakes. That is excessive if it was just replace rotors and brake pads esp. for this vehicle.

    YOu mention you bought it second hand and had no control over what happened to it before you bought it. did you have a mechanic check out the vehicle before you purchased it? Did you do any research on 1998 malibu before you purchased it? These two steps are critical esp. if you are purchasing a vehicle privately and without a warranty.

    I'm not trying to berate or belittle you but in the amount of time it took you to write your original post, you could have done some basic research here on Edmunds and read for yourself that the issues you are dealing with are common for this vehicle. I owned a 2001 malibu for a little over 2 years which is why I know your problems are typical. Not a good expereince and needed a bigger car for a growing family. I got out while the gettin' was good.
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