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Chevrolet Malibu: Problems & Solutions



  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    e2helper: is there a simple formula for determining the proper height of my headlights? Can I place a large box in front of the car, a certain distance from the bumper and measure the glow up from the ground (that sort of thing)?
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    I am not much of an expert in this area so can only provide you information you would see in the service manual. However maybe you can glean some information out if it which would be of use.

    No big heavy things in storage area of your Maxx are there?
  • bwolterbwolter Posts: 51
    I was removing a few specks of tar at the rear wheel well and noticed the flimsy bumper too. And the black well it is attached to. Is it supposed to be this way? Should one try to "tighten" it up?
  • bwolterbwolter Posts: 51
    I recently purchased a 04 Maxx LS. I was reading the manual and it talks about an "active alarm system" and "passive". I know the passive is referring to the ignition keys. But, do I actually have an active alarm system on the car? I went to the DIC and set the RKE to ON. I followed the procedure to arm the alarm (assuming I had one). I did get the sounds the manual claimed I would and a light on the instrument cluster started blinking. My question is: How does the alarm work? What sets off the alarm? I tried the door handles and rocking the car but nothing happened. Maybe I'm just stupid or misunderstood the manual (never said anything about it being an option). Although I do have a 1SB package plus a few options.
  • mr_botsmr_bots Posts: 236
    Your car does have an alarm, the easiest way to test it is to sit in the car, arm it with the remote, then wait for the light to stop blinking, when it stops blinking, manually unlock the door by raising the little pull tab thing (do not use the button, this will disarm the system) and open your door.
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    e2helper: I did put a hitch on the back, but I don't think that pulled down my back at all.
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    bingo e2helper!! That sketch was exaclty what I was looking for. I'll go measure tomorrow after I have filled the gas tank.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    Right, on what mr. bots said.

    To elaborate:

    Your vehicle has 2 different theft deterrent systems on it:

    1. A "vehicle" theft deterrent system called Pass-Key III Plus which has to do with your ignition key. It is latest version of GM's system which is supposed to prevent engine starting and fuel injectors from working unless correct ignition key is used. This is a passive system to prevent vehicle from being stolen.

    2. A "content" theft deterrent system which by factory settings only is armed when you lock doors of vehicle using your door lock switch on door, remote keyless fob or lock doors with the ignition key in your driver key cylinder. If any door or the trunk is opened without using the key fob or ignition key in the driver door or trunk lock cylinder then you will get the horn honking and turn signals flashing. This is to try to discourage someone from stealing something (content) from your vehicle.

    This second system can be set up in a passive arming mode via DIC but then any time you turn your vehicle off and leave it without locking the doors the system will still arm itself (passively) and then the horn honk/light flashing will occur if you simply go over to your vehicle and open a door (since it was never locked). This is why passive mode is NOT the default from factory.
  • ssmaxxssmaxx Posts: 13
    my venture armed and locked and also my astro arms and locks passively im not use to having to lock doors
  • ssmaxxssmaxx Posts: 13
    ikow iknow when changing the default to passive it should then also lock please.
  • So what you're saying is that you'd like the car to automatically lock the doors and arm the alarm after you turn it off? (obviously there would need to be some sort of selectable delay time between shutting off the engine and the alarm arming, or you'd have to open the doors before killing the engine with this scenario)
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    well e2helper, now that it is dark enough, I just did the 25' test of my headlights and they seemed just fine. While that should not be suprising since they were set by the factory, I have had a lot of people "flash" me as if the beams were too high.
  • Maxx4me, If you have occasion to drive in "hilly" terrain and you are cresting even a modest hill, your headlights, as well as anyone elses in a similar situation, will seem "bright" to oncoming traffic that is approaching from a lower elevation than the crest of the hill you are on. I have the same occasional experience from oncoming drivers in similar circumstances.

    Of course, as ehelper humorously alluded to, "No big heavy things in storage area of your Maxx are there?"
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    oh yeah, I forgot that I left that deer in the back, that I hit last month
  • You mentioned that the headlights were set by the factory. Were they reset by the collision shop after the deer incident?
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    yes, the one side was reset by the body shop since it was damaged. the other side was not affected. I'll just keep them where they are, or even better, I may even allow my wife to drive the car at night while I drive her car to see what the lights look like..............nah!!!
  • crhcrh Posts: 29
    I worked the night shift last night, came out and the car started just fine. Drove home. An hour later, husband tried to start the car with the key in the ignition and it did sound, no attempt to turn over...nothing. Our daughter came out and used the remote to start it and it started fine. Then a few minutes later, that wouldn't work either. We let it sit for about an hour, I tried with the key and it started fine. Without turning it off, I drove it to the dealer. He can't get it to do it again. He said he doesn't really have any diagnostics to run and that he really needs to get it to "act up" or he won't be able to determine any problems. He's going to keep it until Monday and then try again. He did say it was low on fuel and that if it were on an incline, maybe it wouldn't have enough fuel to get it started. But 1) the low fuel light had just come on one mile earlier 2) the incline it was sitting on was very slight 3) why did it keep starting after the initial attempt if it were a low fuel problem? I'm just really bummed. I hope this is nothing serious or the start of issues. I have really loved driving this car for the one week I've had it. Anyone have anything similar happen? Thanks.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    Let me say first you did an excellent job of describing the problem you had, crh. I am very sorry it occurred to you and your husband.

    Because you did not have a crank event at all with the ignition key it would not be a fuel issue. That would keep vehicle from starting but not cranking.

    I would like to rule out some things so hope you are game to answer a few (LOL) questions:

    1. When you mentioned that the remote start worked but then a few minutes later it wouldn't work either could you elaborate on what was done? After you did a remote start did you try to put the ignition key in and get vehicle to transition to "normal running" condition? Or did you do let the vehicle shut off by itself after 10 minutes? How many times did you try to do a remote start and how many times did it work successfully.

    2. If you or your husband remembers what happened the first time you tried to start vehicle and it did not work....did you notice if there was anything unusual about operation of the vehicle? Did other stuff (radio, interior lights, heater blower fan, etc.) not work as well?

    3. Was it dark when you were trying to start the vehicle. If it was dark out I would be interested in what happened to headlamps when you were trying to crank vehicle (did they go out or stay on).

    4. Anything unusual about the instrument cluster gages or indicators? I am especially interested if you saw the Theft (car with a lock) telltale illuminated at any time or if the odometer ever read "ERROR".

    That is probably enough questions for now.
  • 37453745 Posts: 152
    Hah ! Somebody else with the mysterious no-start situation! I tell you, there's a bug in the computer somewhere. I've written here several times about it.

    I'll tell how I have cleared the no-start situation which has happened about 6 or so times to me.

    Remove key from ignition. Open drivers door and close again. Using the key fob lock all doors. Unlock doors with key fob and open and close drivers door. You can do all this from the drivers seat. Insert key and crank again. The car should start.
  • tra2883tra2883 Posts: 56
    I have an 04 LT sedan, and I was driving around a lot today running a bunch of short errands. After my last errand, on my drive home, I happened to glance down at a stop light and I noticed the temperature gauge was completely in the cold zone. I tried turning on the heat, and I had to crank it all the way up to 90 to get any warm air to come out. It also sounded like the radiator fan was running the whole time I was driving.

    I'm going to get this looked at on Monday, but my question is this... I was planning on taking a little trip tomorrow, about 1 hour each way... Would this be a problem at all? I figured that the car running too hot would be a safety issue, but too cold?

    Any input would be much appreciated!
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    Yes I remember your earlier posts...interesting.

    Not that you want to cause it to occur again but have you noticed any common links on the times when this problem has happened to you?
  • beedublubeedublu Posts: 236
    I had my temp gauge go dead right after having my 04 LS Maxx serviced for a "check engine" light that remained lit (steady). And I had the same engine cooling fan symptom you described. Both problems mysteriously corrected themselves within about 24 hours and several start/shutdown cycles and all has been completely normal ever since. This happened about two weeks ago. Since then, I've driven about 1200 miles total, including one long 800 mile trip.

    I'm not sure, but I tend to think that you're probably OK for a one hour trip each direction. My only concern would be that if the temp gauge were disabled you would have to depend totally on the temp warning light for any overheat condition, but as long as that light works properly during your startup you should be OK.
  • 37453745 Posts: 152
    It has never happened when the engine was cold. In other words, it does not happen on the first start of the day. Usually it happens when I have done a short trip, switched the car off, locked it with the key fob and, then, come back a few minutes later and tried to re start the car. That is when the no-start condition will happen. Next time it happens I will carefully note if any telltales are on and make a note of any messages.

    A strange occurence was when my car would not respond to any command from either key fob and then mysteriously started to respond about an hour later. Also, on one occasion my signal lights would not flash and then started to work again on the next startup cycle.

    I really think there is a problem with the BCM or some other computer in the car.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    Thanks for the additional details.
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    tra2883: the best I can offer is that many of us have gone through this once. My temp guage stopped working for a whole day. The next day when I went to take it to the dealer, it worked fine, and has ever since. While it is not much comfort, I would not worry about it. Seems like a one time deal built into everybody's Bu. I have not yet read a post indicating it has happened more than once to anyone.
  • crhcrh Posts: 29
    Okay. Let's see if I can answer all these questions.

    1) We pressed the lock button and then held down the start button for a few seconds to get the car to start. Then put the key in the ignition and turned off the car to see if it would start with the key. It wouldn't, so we tried again with the remote, and it wouldn't work that time. We were only able to start the car with the remote once. After that one time, we tried it several (5-6) times, both key and remote start. Once we waited about an hour and tried again, it started each time, both ways (again 5-6 times) and again, started each time at the dealer.

    2) My husband said that when he tried to start it, there was no sound of a "clicking", like a dead battery, or an attempt to turn over, but more of just a sort of very faint "humming" sound. He said all the instrument panel lights came on and my daughter specifically remembers seeing the seat belt light blinking. They didn't try the radio, which would have been turned off when I drove the car home anyway.

    3) It wasn't dark.

    4) They did ask me if we got the "Identity" option when we bought the vehicle, but we did not. My husband doesn't remember seeing any kind of "ERROR" messages anywhere.

    Thanks for all the help. My husband was frustrated with the fact that the guy at the dealer seemed unwilling to accept any kind of computer/electrical problem and kept insisting it must be a fuel based problem. Like you, my husband was saying there was no attempt by the engine to turn over, so the fuel thing didn't make sense.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    Thanks for the replies. One follow-up question on #1

    When the vehicle first remote started did you turn the ignition key to RUN and let the car run in "normal running" condition for a while or did you pretty much just cycle the ignition ON and OFF pretty quickly because you wanted to see if you could start the vehicle with the ignition key?

    I am passing all of your comments to others for evaluation.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    How many times were you able to clear this no-start situation with this routine? More than once?
  • crhcrh Posts: 29
    Pretty much just cycled it to see if we could start it with the key.
  • tra2883tra2883 Posts: 56
    Thanks for your help everybody... About to take her out on the road in a little bit, so we'll see if it happens again.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002

    Let me clarify question on radio. I didn't mean any sound - just the display of the radio itself. Watch next time that you start the vehicle and you will see the display will usually blank out briefly when ignition key is turned to Crank and the vehicle is starting.
  • 37453745 Posts: 152
    I was able to clear it every time I tried my routine. I came upon the routine because the first time it would not start I got out the car and locked it before going on my way to get help. But I decided to try one more time and unlocked the car and it started first time. When it happened again - no start about 6 times in 10 months - I did my routine and it worked every time.

    As for the car not responding to commands from the key fobs and then about an hour later responding again, I have no idea as to what was going on there. The car was parked all the time and not running. At one moment no response to both key fobs and then out of the blue it starts to respond. This and the signal lights not flashing has only happend once so far. Beats the hell outa me.

    Taking it to the dealer while everthing it working again is a waste of time.
  • crhcrh Posts: 29
    Okay. After reading through lots of old posts, and the manual, we drove over to the dealer lot and found the car. My set of keys (which always worked yesterday) were turned in with the car when I left it. My husband's keys were the ones we were using when the car wouldn't start yesterday morning. We found the car on the lot and tried his key. The key worked to open the locked door, but wouldn't start the car in the ignition. The remote started, but when he got into the car and put the key in the ignition, the car turned off. Could this whole thing be as simple as his key not being programmed? When we bought the car last week, it only had one key with it, and I had to go back a few days later and pick up the second set of keys, which is the one my husband has and that didn't work. Obviously, I will mention all of this to the dealer tomorrow and I will take my husband's keys with me so the dealer can see that they don't work.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    You are correct, there is a learn procedure that is required for these keys. But if this is what happened the dealer would have gotten somewhat of an indication from fault codes in vehicle but maybe they didn't spend enough time with it yet.

    However, based on your experience today I would say it is a good possibility. Did you happen to notice when you put your husband's key in ignition that the security telltale (car with lock on it) was staying on?

    Learn procedure (might be more complicated for Canadian vehicles) is simple. Insert a key that works into the ignition switch (your key) and turn to RUN. After the "bulb test", the telltale I keep mentioning should go out. Then turn off ignition remove key and within 10 seconds insert the new key in ignition and turn to run. The telltale should bulb test again and go out.

    If it doesn't (and the lamp stays on) there might be something wrong with the new key. It should have a "+" symbol on its shank. If it says "PK3" instead that is the wrong type of key.

    Once a key is "learned" to a vehicle it is a tied to it forever. The vehicle can learn a bunch of keys (10 or 11).

    Please post back with your results when you get a chance
  • crhcrh Posts: 29
    Thanks! I will get the car back tomorrow and let you know as soon as I can get some response from either the dealer or my own attempts to work it out. You have been most helpful.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    Thanks - that is why I use this name (LOL)

    Be careful when giving all this information to the dealer - they might try to hire you :D

    Hope everything works out. But this doesn't explain the problems that <3745> is experiencing.
  • tra2883tra2883 Posts: 56
    Sure enough, my temp gauge reading cold was just a temporary issue. All day today, the car was running as normal. Strange that a lot of people have experienced this though. Is there a TSB out about it or something?
  • 37453745 Posts: 152
    It seems as if there are a few temporary issues on the new Malibu such as my no start issue and other random events.

    In the end it will turn out to be a computer glitch. Something latches up or something of like that. Maybe if one were to remove and replace the appropriate fuse and cause the computer to reset everything will restore to normal. Why not put a reset button on the dash.....a nice big round red one labeled, "Push here to clear any funny event". But hey, I love my stupid Malibu!

    They must be using a Windows operating system and the effects we are getting are the same as the blue screen of death.
  • crhcrh Posts: 29
    I'm hoping this problem is now solved. I took the new key over to the dealer this afternoon, along with my theory. I showed him the page in the manual that says how to program the new key and in about 30 seconds all was well. This guy was actually very appreciative that I showed this to him...he had no idea. I told him he should check out the Edmunds forums, and gently explained that the problem was solved here without anyone even looking at the car firsthand! Thanks to everyone for all the help!
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    Glad to hear that was successful. The dealer shouldn't feel too bad, my job function provides me the opportunity to know quite a bit about the design of the electrical system on the Malibu. I share what I can ;)
  • bluedevilsbluedevils Posts: 2,554
    It sounds like many people are receiving loaner cars during warranty repairs on your Malibus. Do you simply have friendly dealers or what? I thought Chevy's warranty policy did NOT provide a loaner car during warranty service?

    Do folks have additional warranties/service agreements that are providing this benefit, or what?

    As someone who may be purchasing a Malibu Maxx soon, I'm just curious.
  • bluedevilsbluedevils Posts: 2,554
    What is the approximate range of dates during which the '04 Maxx was built? I'm looking at a couple Maxxes in the 18xxxx (the model I looked at says March 2004 build date), 19xxxx, and 22xxxx range.

    Just trying to get an idea of how early/late in the model year some of my candidate Maxx vehicles were produced.
  • bluedevilsbluedevils Posts: 2,554
    The steering problem concerns me. This is a major safety issue.

    Someone else asked this recently, but I don't recall hearing an answer... regarding the replacement steering columns that are being installed in Malibus with troublesome steering-- are these steering columns actually an improved design that is not likely / less likely to fail than the OEM ones installed in early 2004 Maxxes?

    This may be a repeat, but what approximate build date was the switchover from 'bad' to 'not as bad' steering columns/components?
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    No problem repeating the information.

    If you want details go to NHTSA site and download this document /INRL-PE04031-18086P.pdf

    Service parts installed with improved design are being used. Approximate build date is in this document but to save you trouble it was early Feb 2004.
  • Hi there. I have spent the last two hours reading all of the posts here, and other forums, about the loss of power steering in the Maxx. Here is my story, and a few questions. I bought my '04 Maxx back in March of this year. Not sure of the build date, and can't get it because the car is in the shop now.
    I have had some problems with the car;
    A) Not starting
     - but I feel as though it is because I a) left the interior lights on or b) didn't close the trunk tight enough (both I have done in numerous cars)
     - It was fixed by jumping the car all three times.

    B) Check engine light coming on
     - Restarted the car, and hasn't happened since.

    C) I get a "Check DAB" message w/ XM Radio
     - It fixes itself after a few minutes, or a restart

    These problems never really bothered me because they fixed themselves, and haven't popped up again.

    Now, yesterday I am driving down the road and I abruptly loose power steering. I did what everone else did, and calmly pulled over and restarted the car. It was fine, and I didn't think anything of it because of the other problems fixing themselves after a restart, but it did it again. And again. And again. I looked in the manual about that "wrench icon" and "power steering" message and it said to take it to the dealership immediately. Which I have done. It is now sitting there.

    This morning at 7AM, I come here and start surfing to see if any other owners have had the same problems, and low and behold.... they have.

    Now I am **V E R Y** concerned here because....

    I live in New Jersey and am leaving to DRIVE down to Florida TOMORROW!!!!!!!

    This couldn't happen at a worse time, well it probably could but this is bad enough for me.

    Now, my questions are this:

    A) For those that had the steering column replaced (which is what the service center is more than likely going to tell me that that needs to be done) how long did it take them to do it. Can it be done in a day??!?!

    and secondly:

    B) Did that repair solve the problem, or has it happened to people since the repair?

    **IF** they can fix it in one day and have the car ready for me to leave tomorrow, I am concerned that it will happen again either on the highway at a fast speed or in the parking lot of a Disney park where I won't be able to get out.

    ****IS THE CAR SAFE TO DRIVE*****?!?!?

    I look forward to responses, or you can just email me at:

    [email protected]

    Thank you very much!
  • paopao Posts: 1,867
    havent heard of any repeat failures once the column is replaced...seems it only effects early production models...Feb 04 and you might fall in that category..apparently they went to a new column in mid Feb timeframe if I recall....just read the NHTSA letter that GM sent in......appears...%2 of the early production models..(Apr 04 and sooner) may be effected....very unscientific here on my part....Aprox 91K produced and 1500 reported claims/incidents (%2)....but approx 3700 warranty repairs (%4)...I have no idea what a industry standard might be here????? I bought my Maxx in Feb 04..have 11K on it..and no problems at all.....

    repair time..depends on the availability of parts..I think most had to order the the dealers dont stock the column as part of normal inventory....good luck....
  • 37453745 Posts: 152
    Your random fault indications on the new Malibu confirms my suspicion that there are unstable logic circuits.

    I also thought that the Malibu had battery rundown prevention and would switch off any lights that were left on after a period of time.
  • tra2883tra2883 Posts: 56
    I had my Malibu in for a warranty repair, and because they had to keep the car overnight, I was given a complimentary loaner car thru Enterprise. I don't have an extended warranty... I think it's all included in the standard factory warranty.
  • After reading the letter regarding the power steering sensors (brush wipers??? I thought those were passe' years ago given the less expensive ION is apparently using optical sensors! , I really wonder if the Malibu uses simple Tin electrical connectors ..vs.. phosphor bronze or other alloys used by most computer companies.

    By comparison, my former Saturn ION appeared to use tin connectors on the engine computer electrical connectors and elsewhere in the wiring harnesses.

    I also noted the electrical connectors for the gas tank (under the car near the right rear wheelwell ) seemed to have very little shielding from the elements.

    Does one need to seal or coat these connectors with antioxidation spray if the vehicle is subjected to a lot of salt spray?
  • bwolterbwolter Posts: 51
    I really like my 2004 Maxx. Have not experienced any of the problems that are posted (just over 5K). However, I do feel like there is excessive road noise. It's like driving with the window open. I can hear every outside sound that I never heard in my 98 GMC Sierra which was totally quiet. Sometimes it seems like the sounds are "leaking" through the air intake and from the rear passenger side. There are no water leaks. I don't hear wind noise, just outside noises. Would noise being entering through the vents in the cargo area? I can see the shock tower through the vents. Don't see any insulation in there.
    The car has the Bridgestone tires which also make noise. Is there another tire that is less noisy?
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