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2000-2011 Chevrolet Malibu



  • yurakmyurakm Posts: 1,345
    I have an early 98 Malibu, build in July 97.

    100k miles is always serious, but Malibu have a very good engine and transmission. If the car you want to buy was in good hands (regular oil change, not too much driving at redline, etc.), I would not expect serious problems in this department.

    Concerning the brake problem, mentioned in the previous posting.

    Early Malibu used to have weak rotors, prone to warping. This is not a safety item (car stops even better), but the rotors are eating pads. I would consider the normal life of brakes to be something like 60k miles; possibly 40k - depending on driving conditions and style. But my rotors were warped at 15k, and I had to replace them at 22 or 23k. A lot of people reported here even worse mileage.

    A lot of owners of new 97-98 Malibu were very unhappy, because the brake service was not covered by warranty. At dealership and with genuine GM parts, the replacement costs something like $400.

    Later GM made improvement to the parts, and currently the rotors are not particularly bad: according to complaints on this board, the warping still happens, but not more often then with other cars equipped with disk brakes.

    With 100k on odometers, this probably does not matter, even more than at an independent mechanic and with aftermarket parts the service would not cost so much. Besides, with so high mileage, the original brakes most probably were already replaced with a better design, either GM or aftermarket.

    What would bother me more with the your selection, is the general quality of the GM manufacturing and assembly. At least my Malibu used to have a lot of small problems, like sticky door sensors (the car's electronics thought the door is open), squeaky strut or dead radio speaker. Half time the problems were cured by a simple lubrication, and, most of time, took about 1/2 hour to one day to fix. But, out of warranty, this adds on an the maintenance could became expensive.

    Again, with a higher mileage, you probably would not expect a totally trouble-free car.
  • My dealer replaced my transmission because it wouldn't shift out of low range. I had to scream down the road at 4000 rpm to do 40 mph. Came on suddenly. He checked out the electronics and found nothing amiss.
  • The fan in my car has been making some strange noises. Anyway else has had this problem?
  • yurakmyurakm Posts: 1,345
    Yes, I had the problem. The fan in my 98 Malibu became rather noisy at about 25k miles.

    Mentioned this when changed oil. The dealer's technician found and removed debris. For free: it was a very small job. After this the fan was quiet.

    Well, at least less noisy, than when I bought the car, used but almost new, with 15k miles, 14 months after it was build. The fan is quiet at speeds 1 and 2, somewhat noisy at 3, and substantially noisy at 4 and 5. I think, it's the vents grids rattle.
  • malibu99malibu99 Posts: 305
    Agree with you 100% on that ( post 92). :-)
  • yurakm: Thanks a lot for the info. I will have it checked this week.
  • You said,
    GM made improvement to the parts, and currently the rotors are not particularly bad:
    according to complaints on this board, the warping
    still happens, but not more often then with other
    cars equipped with disk brakes.

    For the record,

    My last car (before the Malibu) was a 1990 Camry, bought it new and at 145 K, never had a problem with warped rotors.
  • yurakmyurakm Posts: 1,345
    For the records:

    I subscribe to Consumer Record and have their Buying Guides.

    According to the CR survey, as in the 2000 Buying Guide (i.e. the 1999 data), problems with brakes reported 2 to 5% of owners of the 98 Malibu, and 9.3% to 14.8% of owners of 97 Malibu. CR does not publish the exact numbers, only the above ranges.

    In other words, even for 97-98, when the Malibu rotors were considered very bad, only a small minority of owners had the warping problem.

    Probably a lot of Malibu owners will drive for years without the problem. Some will drive the original rotors past 100k, other will replace them at 60-90k, and this also is not bad.

    I believe, that the real percentage of the rotor problem is even lower than reported by CR: who would like to fill a long survey, if he have no complaints, right?

    BTW, CR do not like the reliability of Malibu and do not recommend it any more.

    On the other hand, the warping can happen with everybody. And sometimes it is unavoidable. Just brake very hard before hitting a puddle... This is what I mean by the inherent problems with the disk brakes.
  • malibu99malibu99 Posts: 305
    Actually the complaints for rotors are almost non existent for 2000 models and the 2001 they should be all gone, so you can safely say the rotor problem is gone.
  • I just bought a 2000 Chevrolet Malibu LS and it too has a very stiff suspension (i.e., There is practically no 'give' in the suspension. Therefore, you [literally] feel the road and the car will rock from side to side.) I informed the service manager at Chevrolet that the car is unsafe to drive. The dealership told me that I'm 1 of 5 customers who have complained about this condition. The dealership contacted Chevrolet who did not have any record of any complaints. Chevrolet indicated that the LS trim incorporates a much tighter suspension ("Chevrolet wanted to provide a European-style handling to this trim"). Consequently, Chevrolet had no recommendation to remediate this problem and the dealership recommended that I drive it until there are 1,000 miles on the odomoter in order to 'loosen' the suspension. (Currently, I am at 450 m.)

    I did bring in the Malibu to the Chevrolet dealership. The manager and a technician did drive it & confirmed that the ride is definitely not as smooth as it should be. However, they can only replace the suspension with manufacturer's specs (i.e., I wouldn't feel any difference).

    Luckily, I live in a state (NJ) where after 2 more unsuccessful attempts to fix my problem, I can take legal action against Chevrolet via the NJ Lemon Law.

    Regardless, if Chevrolet or the dealership could 'soften' the suspension, then the car is a PLEASURE to drive. Otherwise, I could drive over a dime and identify if it's heads or tails !!!

    Has anybody had a similar problem with their Malibu?
  • malibu99malibu99 Posts: 305
    Mine was smooth when I bought it but honestly after 2000 miles it got a lot better and now it's as smooth and quiet as I can ask for. So I would give it at least until 1000 miles so the suspension "breaks in", it could be teh whole problem.
  • teoteo Posts: 2,508
    Sorry to break the news out to you...but if you try to persue Lemon Law be prepared to take on an uphill battle. Why? if the suspension of your Malibu is too hard for your driving taste, well that means that you should have taken more time to test driven the car before signing the dotted line. Chevy has stated that the car's suspension meets manufacturer's specifications. If this is the case, your car is working by design and there is no hard evidence of a "defect" that can compromise the safety of the car. The only way you can win a lemon law case is by demonstrating by real hard evidence that the car has indeed a manufacturing defect that the manufacturer refuses to acknowledge and the dealer can't repair to satisfaction. Again, if you can't come up with that evidence, you are better off:

    * Keeping the car (Put more miles to see if the suspension mellows a bit more due to normal use)
    * Selling or trading the car
    * Learn your lesson (Check the goods before accepting them)

    Most people believe that the "Lemon Law" is there to provide relief to "Buyer's Remorse" cases where the consumer simply did not take the time to make sure that the product they bought meet or exceeded their immediate expectations. When you buy a House or a piece of real estate you take all the precautions not to get taken. Same goes for cars, but people often fall for a new car too quickly without making sure that is exactly what they want in the long run.
    The main goal of Lemon law is to provide replacement or refund on a vehicle that has proven safety defects and that it is deemed unrepairable by law.

    Sorry for the "Harshness" of my post, but before you hire an attorney and get milked out of big $$$ for nothing I would suggest for you to get the facts straight regarding the ride quality of your Malibu. Compare the ride to the same new models in the they feel the same?...better?...worse??

    Good luck and let us know what you decide.
  • Thanks for your input and suggestions.


    For your information, I had test driven another Malibu 2000 LS (at another dealership) and the ride was excellent (mileage was also low in the 300-500 range). Otherwise, I would never have considered the purchase.

    In hindsight, what I should have done is to test drive the ACTUAL car that I was about to purchase before I signed on the dotted line. Then, obviously, I never would have accepted the car. (About I drove it out of the showroom, I could have sworn I had a flat or soft tire because of the way it was handling).

    I agree with you Teo that "Caveat Emptor" or "Let the buyer beware" may be the result of my actions. However, I was 1 of 5 customers who have also complained about the suspension (i.e., a possible pattern or defect might be emerging) and my recourse is simply to have Chevrolet [somehow] soften the suspension (I am not looking for a refund). As I had mentioned, if they 'fix' the suspension, the Malibu is actually a pretty decent car to drive.
  • teoteo Posts: 2,508
    Thanks for the clarification to your previous post. If that is the case then you have some "material" to start building up a Lemon Law case. However, since your car is still brand new (Very low miles, under 1000) why don't you demand a replacement?? Get the dealer's general manager involved in your situation. I think it will be much easier (and less costly and time consuming) to persue GM and the selling dealer to exchange the car for another one in their lot. See if you can explore that venue.

    Good luck again!
  • yurakmyurakm Posts: 1,345
    A have a base 98 Malibu with a rather soft suspension (soft for my taste). But, once, it changed to rather rigid.

    With a good weather it was fine for several days: my wife and I like the rigid suspension. We were happy.

    But then I drove, with my family, to a concert at one of suburbs of Hartford, CT. It was about hour drive by highway, door to door.

    November evening, absolutely dark. A strong rain, mixed with snow. The rush traffic, with tired and hungry men returning home from work, many of them demonstrating the capabilities of their SUVs in this road conditions.

    My tires did not hold well the very wet, slushy road. Not too bad - the car did not slip - but driving, or rather holding the car in the lane, was a hard work, not a pleasure. It need constant attention, and I felt to have little tolerance to errors. Even while this time I drove substantially slowly than a lot of people around.

    So, I agree with you: this is a safety problem.

    Next morning I checked the car. It turned to be, the technician overinflated the tires, when changing oil. Do not remember the exact numbers, but he inflated the tires to the maximum, as stated on the tires sidewalls. Something like 40 psi, instead of 29/26 front/rear specified by GM.

    Funny thing, I changed oil at the Chevrolet dealership, so the technician had to know better all peculiarities of Malibu.
  • aniazianiazi Posts: 39
    Did you test drive 2001? Try that. It has new re-design suspension. You probably would like those!
  • I have a Y2K Malibu built in 9/99. Experienced the shuddering brakes early on. It was not due to improper break-in, but defective rotors. Had them replaced at 6,000K. There is a technical service bulletin out on the rotors and they are replaced free of charge.

    My advice is don't wait, don't think it's your fault, and don't think that the warping is from normal wear and tear. Go to the dealer and get the rotors replaced.

    My car rides great now. I have no other problems. It's quiet, has great acceleration and good gas mileage.
  • Hello,
    I rented the 2000 Malibu in March for 2 weeks. What a great car. I want to buy one for my personal use, about 15k a year. Everyone tells me the 3.1 motor is no good, the heads warp at 50k and the brakes have problems. I know 2 weeks isn't a long time. I liked the way the car drove, parked and how I could enter and exit with ease. I am spoiled with my current car, an 87 Dodge Omni. 174k with no extraordinary services. Any info to clear up this decision would be appreciated. Thanks
  • malibu99malibu99 Posts: 305
    I'm not sure who told you the 3.1 is a bad engine. Actually it's a very reliable and effcient engine. They might have been talking about the 4 cyl engine that was used until 1999 but the V6 3.1 is a nice engine. The 2001 model has a redesigned suspension and brake rotors. The rotor issue was addressed in the 2000 models as well. It's nice car to have, very powerful, comfortable, quiet, and good looking. I have a 99 LS and it's been a great car. You wont go wrong withthe 2000 or the 2001. Good Luck!
  • yurakmyurakm Posts: 1,345
    The 3.1l V-6 GM engine (and the Malibu transmission) is generally considered to be very reliable.

    The 3.1l is a well-proved design, in use for years, currently not only with Malibu, but with Buick Century and Pontiac Grand Prix SE.

    The engine itself is a modification of the 2.8l V-6 used with many GM cars of 80-th. The problems with engine, if any, were "debugged" a lot of years ago. Never heard about any problems with warping engine head.

    The only problem I am aware with the engine, it is a bit noisy, especially when cold.

    Probably, you sources mean the 3.4l overhead engine used with some Lumina LTZ in early 90-th? The engine really was not considered reliable enough. No relation, though, to the pushrod 3.1l engine (nor to another GM 3.4l, a pushrod one, used currently in the Pontiac Grand Am, Olds Alero and base Chevy Impala).

    The early Malibu, 97-98, had problems with warping brake rotors. According to the Consumer Research survey, about 10-15% of the owners of the 97 Malibu, and about 2-5% of the 98 ones, complained about this. Later, GM made improvements.

    On the flip side, with my 98 Malibu, there was a lot of nuisance problems, like a dead right rear speaker, a noisy right door speaker, a broken fuel cap cord, the fan/air condition not working on speed 1&2, etc. Everything was fixed fast and easy, though.
  • temp44temp44 Posts: 1
    Has anyone else experienced this problem with a 99 Malibu. After hitting 45 mph I get a beeping sound coming from the dashboard. This is an intermitent occurance and will happen both of highway as well as street driving. Have taken it to the dealer and they can't find anything wrong. I thought it might have to do with the cruise control buy dealer says no. Any info would be helpful
  • This is my first posting on Edmunds! I have enjoyed reading many of the Malibu comments. It seems that this is were the experts are.

    I have a 98 3.1L LS. I now have 75,000km on it (Canadian Eh!) and I have to say that I really enjoy the car. The Affinity tires were no good but I now have Michelin Energy Plus'. Like most of us, we were probably over inflating the Affinity's.

    Back to Brakes. I have had the rotors turned 4 times and replaced 3 times. Yes this is true and I have never gone through brakes like this on any other car I have driven. I can accept that part of the problem is the way I drive but this is too much. Last time the brakes were done was at 64K kms and they put a different type of pad on. This was to attempt to eliminate heat.

    Here is the problem. To date, I have not spent a cent beyond my valuable time. My warranty ran out at 60,000kms. The rotors are starting to warp again. There is no mistaking the feel.

    Any advice on approaching the dealership. I know there is a significant history here but I suspect that the dealership will say that this is not their problem.
  • yurakmyurakm Posts: 1,345
    I have a base 98 Malibu with 3.1l engine. Changed the front rotors and pads at 22k miles (about 35 000 km), May or June 1999, paid myself.

    Currently, at 37k miles (about 60 000 km) no problems with the brakes. Hope, the dealer installed the improved GM rotors: IMHO, they started to appear about this time.

    But I decided, that if the rotors would warp once more, I will switch to the aftermarket brakes. Allegely, most aftermarket manufacturers give a long time or even lifetime warranty for their products. And this is less expensive: the dealer's service cost me about U$450.

    Do jot know what aftermarket rotors, but, probably the Raybestos ones, drilled and/or slotted. I have no idea if they are really good, but somebody praised them at this board. And they look impressive on the picture:
  • yurakmyurakm Posts: 1,345
    The engine coolant tank in my 98 Malibu is almost opaque. Very difficult to judge, if I have to add some liquid.

    It was not transparent enough from the very beginning, when I bought the car used in September, 98 (one year old and with 15k miles). But now it is even worse.

    Unfortunately, I forgot to ask for replacement, while the car was under warranty. I have an extended warranty, but am not sure, if it cover the tank: after all, it is not broken.

    Did anybody have such experience? Have I to replace the tank? How much can it cost?
  • I have a 98LS.

    I am having a problem with the air vents not directing air where the dial is set. It seems that the vacuum assist has lost power.

    Has anyone else had this problem or does anyone know what I should be looking for before I take the car to the dealer. I am out of warranty!!
  • Has anyone had experience changing the wiper blades on the Malibu? The wipers on the Malibu on "parked" under the hood (nice design, though) and as a result I don't seem to be able to lift them.
  • yurakmyurakm Posts: 1,345
    Yes, I replaced the wipers several times, the last time was today.

    1. Turn the ignition key, only partially: starting engine is not not necessary.

    2. Turn the wipers "On", slow mode

    3. While the wipers are vertical, turn ignition key off fast.

    4. Change the wipers.

    5. Turn the wipers off,

    6. Again turn the ignition key, without starting engine. The blades will retract.
  • yurakmyurakm Posts: 1,345
    Last year I switched to the Trico wipers and like them much. Very convenient to replace, and, with my Malibu, they were better than Bosh. Wipe better and served longer.

    The Trico wipers are available at Pep Boys. The driver-side wiper for Malibu is 22-1, the passenger-side 19-1; they cost $6.99 and $5.99. 22 and 19 means they are 22 and 19 inch long; the -1 is the code for the attachment type (hooks).

    Inserts are also available, at $2.99, but I think it is easier to change the whole wipers. The first time it took about 5-7 minutes per pair, the second time about 2 minutes. Never tried to change inserts, though.
  • I just passed 25,000 with my 99LS. No problems at all. Malibu is a great car at a very affordable price.
  • I agreed yurkam about the aftermath brakes. The GM dealer may not always solve your brakes with the gm parts.

    My 1997 LS car had a new Raybestos brakes/rotors installed at my local trustworthy mechanic shop last spring and they work very well so far. The only negative is that the front wheel mags get a full of black dirts - have to clean them frequently. I use the regular brake pads with lifetime warranty, not drilled/cross-slot ones.
This discussion has been closed.