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Chevrolet Malibu: Problems & Solutions



  • ddeliseddelise Posts: 355
    I recently aquired a 2005 Maxx LT. How can I tell if the headrests are the 'uncomfortable' ones? I don't seem to mind them, but if there is a different/better one available, I wouldn't mind at least checking it out.

    Thanks - Damon
  • jerrywimerjerrywimer Posts: 588
    I think all the Malibus come with the same headrests. The replacement headrests don't lean as far forward as the original ones that come in the cars. Some of us have a problem with the originals because they push against the back of the head / neck uncomfortably with our seatbacks set the way we like them. The replacement parts reduce or eliminate the problem (worked for me).

    If you don't mind the original headrests that came on your car it probably means that with your seat adjusted so that the back is at a comfortable angle for you the headrest doesn't push against your head. Theoretically the headrest should just touch (or almost touch) the head behind the ears. This prevents excess movement of your head to the rear in the event of a collision. So as long as you're comfortable with the ones in your car I wouldn't recommend changing them.
  • ddeliseddelise Posts: 355
    Thanks for the explanation - makes sense to me.

    I am coming from a Volvo S60, and that car had just about the most comfortable seats and headrest of any car I have sat in. I was worried I would not find as comfortable a position in the Maxx as in the S60. The Maxx seat is a little more sporty than the S60, but still comfortable overall.

    So far, so good.

    Thanks Again - Damon
  • cjasencjasen Posts: 8
    I just picked up a Malibu Maxx on Thursday. When test driving them, I noticed the difference between some that had the flat head rests, and some that had the sloped head rests. So when we picked out the color, the salesman said he'd swap the flat ones for sloped ones when I picked out the car.

    Well, we wandered the lot and it turns out the ones with flat head rests either had grey cloth interior or leather, and I have beige cloth, so we couldn't swap them. I had them put rust proofing and different tires on this vehicle, so I didn't feel right saying I won't take the car.

    I called service today about it, and they said the TSB doesn't apply to my car, since it is only through build break point 5F112989, and my build is 13983. They will look into it some more on Monday and get back to me. They tried to tell me this is designed this way for safety, but I have a hard time believing that gray cloth seats are engineered one way, while beige cloth seats are engineered a different way.

    Plus, it looks to me like these would actually be less safe. Yes, the back of your head strikes the leading edge of the head rest, but then there is nothing at all behind your neck, so your neck would be violently jack-knifed if you were moving back at any significant velocity.
  • lotusjaylotusjay Posts: 17
    Not to quibble with you but in a typical rear-ender the neck only does what the head forces it to. The head has the mass and momentum and the neck suffers when the head isn't restrained. Trust GM (or any other major carmaker for that matter) to design headreasts to function properly when properly adjusted. It may be that the different headrest shapes are more or less desirable depending on the preferred seatback angle.

    Once (in a Ford) I was hit so hard from behind that I actually suffered a concussion from striking the headrest. Paramedics asked me how my neck felt and I was being honest when I said it was fine. The head was another story.

    GM should still get you the headrests you want. No question.
  • townhometownhome Posts: 104
    Didn't the Malibu's do pretty well on the latest neck injury test someone did (the IIHS maybe)? It seems like I remember reading they did better than average. I assume they had the original, forward slanted headrests.
  • cjasencjasen Posts: 8
    Malibu's did do fairly well on head rest tests. (The IIHS calls them "Rear Crash Protection"). They were rated Good on "Seat/Head Restraint Geometry" and Acceptable on "Dynamic Rating". (The scale runs: Good, Acceptable, Marginal, Poor).

    I would expect that this was on the older head rests, since the results are listed for 2004 - 2005 Malibu. So I guess that does make me feel better about the safety thing, although I still find them very uncomfortable.

    BTW, the 2005 Cobalt was Rated Good on both the Geometry and the Dynamic Rating, so GM does know how to build cars that do well. The 2001-2005 Impala with cloth seats were rated Marginal and Poor, respectively, so sometimes GM isn't so good at it.

    Here is the web site for the IIHS info, in case anybody is interested in checking out all the stats on Malibu or most other vehicles.
  • GM engineers I talked to at a clinic said the original Malibu headrests were deliberatly designed to jut forward to help minimize head injuries in a rear end crash. No idea now the newer versions do.

    Good to know the Malibu provides decent side impact protection. The ION I used to drive was rated poor (doors a major weak spot).
  • cjasencjasen Posts: 8
    Just remember that Malibu is Acceptable WITH the side air bags, but Poor without them (for Side Impact Crashes, according to IIHS).

    According to NHTSA, Malibu is "4 star With Safety Concern" for Side Impact without the Side Air Bags, and 5 star with the Side Air Bags. It turns out, for NHTSA, that the Side Impact rating is based only on the amount of force sustained in the Torso region, not Head region. The "Safety Concern" is basically that your head will be completely bashed in without the air bags, but do just fine with the air bags. So GET THE SIDE AIR BAGS.

    BTW, Edmunds isn't always up-to-date on the ratings (e.g. Cobalt is listed as Not Tested, when results are in for some tests), and occasionally has them wrong, so I definitely recommend going over to NHTSA and IIHS and reviewing them at the source.

    IIHS Web Site:
    NHTSA Web Site (
  • very true on mailbus with airbags. But Even with, torso protection is only marginal (in march '04, door trim was apparently changed to improve this - I learned about it at the GM clinic, and was told, sadly, no retrofit is avaiiable for older '04 malibus).

    Still, that new IIHS test would have crushed my last 3 cars like a tin can. While not perfect, the '04 Malibu is a lot safer than many.
  • karunchkarunch Posts: 8
    I know that this has been brought up before, but what is the TSB for the Rough Idle fix?

    I had my car in the shop a few weeks ago, and I had them look into the rough idle. They of course told me that nothing was wrong, and that my car was operating normally because the computer wasn't showing a code.. But obviously there is something wrong with the car, because it idles EXTREMELY rough at times. There have been seen occasions where I thought the car was going to stall...
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    There is not a TSB, but a software update for PCM would show up for your vehicle in their system - I forget what it is called: TIS2000 or SPS. Your vehicle has a late January 2004 build date based on my recollection so it was well before the latest software implemented in May 2004. :)
  • ratifiedratified Posts: 4
    too have a 04 Maxx that has the rough idle problem exactly as you describe. Even after the reprogram of the ECU, the rough idle is still there. I took my Maxx to another dealership that found a TSB for the Malibu Classic that might fix it. Something to do with a wiring harness for the fans causing feedback effecting the ignition?!?!?! The dealership ordered the new part which should be in today!!. I'll post back and let you know the outcome. :)
  • what is the TSB for the fan harness? Does it go into any details?

    I suspect my fans are malfunctioning as for the first time the engine temperature climbed substantially while driving in heavy traffic (has not done that before under identical circumstances).
  • skyhawkskyhawk Posts: 126
    I was more than a little concerned when I dropped my car at the dealer for the steering recall. I have almost 13k and have had none of the pulling to the left or other problems noted. I also had a front bulb out and wanted the proper badge on the car.

    They did change the steering column, replaced the bulb at n/c. They assured me the test drive was fine with no drift. The car is perfect - no pull, freshly washed and ready at the time quoted. I am very pleased. Time will tell if the replacement column is without issues.
  • cjasencjasen Posts: 8
    Well, I stopped in at the dealer yesterday. It turns out I do have the newer head rests, so ordering the new parts from the TSB won't make any difference. We hunted the lot and found a pair that don't bother me as much (although they still bug me a little bit), so I'll try those for a while.

    GM also told the dealer that it is OK to swap the front head rests with the back head rests. I tried that and the back head rests are also an improvement. So I may play around with swapping head rests for a while to see which one is the best for me.

    I've also tried manipulating the seating position, up down, back, forward, same with the steering wheel, and it makes no difference.

    BTW, my wife thinks any of the head rests are fine, and it does not bother her. And yes, I do have a big head (physically).

    One moral of the story is that there is a slight difference between the gray cloth interior and the beige cloth interior, so make sure you check out the exact car in the exact config before you buy it.
  • Having noticed that when the gas light comes on I can never put more than 14 gallons in the tank, Monday I tried to push the fuel light a little too far and had to have my gf bring me more fuel.

    Interesting to note that from the low fuel warning, I got 93 miles at highway speeds before I ran out; and 87 miles from when the low fuel light came on. (I was 1 mile from the exit that I was ultimately going to take to refuel since according to the trip meter I had used 15.9 gallons, I forgot the fuel economy meter always rates 1-2 miles per gallon too high). My girlfriend brought a 2.5 gallon can full of gas which took the needle right back up to E. The tank is right on the money as far as the 16.1 gallon capacity goes, that's exactly what it took to fill it + my friend's gas can back up.

    From now on I think if I refuel within 50 miles or so of the low fuel light coming on I think I'll be fine! Now I can start getting the 400city 500hwy miles per tank that are on the specs page. Before yesterday I'd gas up within 5-10 miles of the LF light.
  • what do I need to know?
  • prdmprdm Posts: 145
    Just a reminder that electric fuel pumps use the gas as a coolant. When they start pumping air their life span is dramatically reduced. The old mechanical pumps couldn't have cared less but these new, in the tank (read $$$$ to replace) pumps are happiest when bathed in gas.
  • paopao Posts: 1,867
    i will attest to the cost of a electronic fuel pump.....99 mustang....$458 out the and labor.....ouch
  • paopao Posts: 1,867
    welcome to the board SC...originally from did you get an 04?....if so..the common threads here are the steering column and pulling left, fuel tank and gauge readings, a transmission howl, and a recall for seat belt washer or bolt.I forget which, and a reflash of the computer......I too have an 04 built feb 04....and have none of the above problems.....with almost 19k on the car now....if you go over to mods and accessories..have the website listed for the car as well....welcome to the board....lots of knowledge about the car here from the owners and others who help out.......what we have found isnt that that car cant be fixed....though there have been some lemon law appears rather the dealerships..and especially the service departments are ill prepared to find, correct problems IAW with the TSBs, and in some cases...what I would call simply inept repair techs......but dealership has been excellent in dealing with a few minor concerns......scroll back through the board......cheers and enjoy
  • minn_maxxminn_maxx Posts: 51
    I bought an acrylic sunroof deflector for my Maxx last fall but took it off midway through the winter due to non-use of the sunroof. Went to install it today but noticed the stainless steel brackets that holds it to the car had already worn through the paint. This is after maybe two-months of use.

    Anyone with one of these deflectors may want to add some 3M tape or something between the bracket and the roof. I already had some surface rust...
  • thank you for the being from Cola, are you a Gamecock? I found a new, never titled white 04 this past week. I was looking for a Vibe, but with GM money, they made the Maxx $13,100 out the door. I could not pass that up. So far I'm averaging 25.6 mpg but I really miss my gas hog Explorer.
  • bwolterbwolter Posts: 51
    Some time ago, someone mentioned a service bulletin number 04072004 that pertained to a rattle/clunk that sounds like it's coming from the front under the instrument panel. I have this problem. Every small bump in the road causes this sound (it's not tire thud). Some days it doesn't do it. Some days it's terrible.

    Is this a problem with the intermediate shaft? or what? I'm going to take it in to the dealer, but would like to be "armed" with some info first. I have a 2004 Maxx LS
  • paopao Posts: 1,867
    No to be honest...went to that boys school down in Charleston.....better half is the Clemson by default...........not to worry....she drives the explorer...I traded my GT mustang for my Maxx.....hope you enjoy it as much as I have mine so far
  • paopao Posts: 1,867
    dont know who the manufacturer of your shield was...mine came from benevito....they included two clear vinyl adhesive pads to place on the edge of the roof where the clips attach.....havent seen any paint rubs with those pads properly installed...
  • minn_maxxminn_maxx Posts: 51
    I think I have the same deflector that you do. The installer (me) may have thrown away the little plastic pads :-)
  • Can anyone point me to that TSB for fixing the rear sunshades? The new dealer I visited for service today has not heard of it.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    "has not head of it" :P

    But did they look ;)


    They will need to pull down your headliner to add reinforcements.
  • they didn't try very hard, E2.
    But next time I will give them the TSB number and see if they do any better.

    FYI, they did fix my "new" steering columm. It had come loose or the last service shop failed to install it properly. It had to be yanked, lubricated, and remounted. Since then it seems to be ok.
    But honestly the lack of durability of this part is worrying me.

    I swear S.CALIF is where all the new techs are. The ones that know stuff are in the OTHER states ;)

    The clinic I attended to a year ago added a couple of hardware spacers via superglue to the skylight trim . It helped a little but still way too easy for those shades to jump out of their holding groove.
  • 04cad04cad Posts: 131
    I am pretty sure since the Ford ./ Firestone tire fiasco a few years back, GM now warrantees the tires through the GM dealership. I would check there first.
  • capriracercapriracer Somewhere in the USPosts: 887
    GM has done tire warranties since 1996 - 4 years before the Ford / Firestone thing.

    It's possible that a bulge in a tire is due to hitting something (like a curb) that breaks the cords inside the tire. So don't be surprised if that is the outcome.
  • skyhawkskyhawk Posts: 126
    I spoke too soon onhow well the dealer did the replacement. There is no drift but yesterday I went to see my daughter and when I tried to use the controls on the steering wheel they did not work. The dealer needs the car for several hours to fix this.
  • billymaxxbillymaxx Posts: 12
    I used the cruise control on my '05 Maxx for my first long trip (700 miles round trip) and experienced a strange problem. While the cruise control was engaged, I would occasionally speed up above the cruise control set speed. I noticed many times that the cruise control would disengage on it's own. I am use to being able to keep the C.C. set at say 65 MPH and then increase my speed at any time and then be able to just let off the gas to return to the C.C. set speed. Has anyone else experienced this automatic disengagement? I think it only happened when I was driving faster than the C.C. set speed for a couple of minutes or so.

  • icedog97icedog97 Posts: 141
    As it turns out, my wife hit a pothole and not only did the sidewall suffer, but the rim did too. Luckily the rim was not damaged to the point of needing replaced...BUT...since it was an impact that caused the sidewall problem, the tire was not replaced for free. I paid cost for the tire and the labor was free.
  • markf57markf57 Posts: 38

    I finally crawled under my Maxx to find the tranny build date and it falls within the range of the TSB for the growl and howl problem. Quite frankly, I don't hear that much of a noise, but since I was taking the car in for a seatbelt harness and the headrest TSB and since I was going on vacation, I wanted to get the work done while I was out of town.

    I received a call from the dealer today and he refuses to do the TSB on the tranny because they could not hear the growl and howl noise. Is there anything I can do to force the dealer to do the work? Should I even bother?

    I don't have much confidence in this dealer as they also couldn't find the TSB for the headrest replacement even though I gave them the number (05-08-50-002).
  • minn_maxxminn_maxx Posts: 51

    IMHO, it's not worth getting the transmission fixed for a harmonic problem. There is too high a chance of unintended problems resulting from a tech pulling the transmission apart. I have decided not to get mine fixed.

    GM has been using the same transmission (4T40E) for years in Malibu's, Grand Am's, etc. It seems to be very reliable, even with the narrow chain and sprockets.

    My dealer did the headrest TSB without a problem. The new angle is a big improvement.
  • skyhawkskyhawk Posts: 126
    My car had the howl at low speeds when new. After discussing it with the SM, I decided not to have the tranny torn down. Over time and miles(13k) the howl has virtually disappeared. I will say the SM would have done the job if I insisted. I'm happy that I did not.
  • markf57markf57 Posts: 38
    I have decided not to get the tranny done.

    But my experience with the headrests has gotten more bizzare. The service writer called back and again stated that he couldn't find anything on the headrests. I asked if it would be easier if I brought in a copy of the TSB and show his manager. He stated that would be fine and hung up. About 10 minutes later, he calls back and said that his tech looked "somewhere else" and found the TSB. He ordered the part. Says it will take about a week for the part to come in and wanted to know if he could keep the car until it came in. I said no. He will call when the parts come in. They had the car for 9 days and only fixed the seat belt harness recall. No way am I going to leave it there for another week. Or ever take it back to that dealer.

    Based on the suggestions of this group, I reversed the headrests to make them more comfortable. When I went in to pickup the car, a note on the workorder stated, "The headrests were in backwards, installed correctly".

    I did verify the part they ordered and to their credit, the did order the right one based on my interior.
  • bwolterbwolter Posts: 51
    Every small bump on the road causes a sound similar to loose struts or calipers, but that isn't the problem. At times it's more like a rattle after even the most minute bump or defect in the road. At one time someone mentioned a TSB about it, but has anyone experienced it? I'm taking it in soon, but it's so sad that a car so new has that sound as if it had 140K miles on it. 04 LS Maxx
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    bwolter, I have the exact same noises. I can hear it coming "from both sides" of the front end, although it seems most pronounced from the driver's side. I am uncertain if it has something to do with the steering column, but you are right on: it sounds like loose struts. Please let me know what you find out when you bring it in.
    e2helper: can you rescue us on this one??
  • mr_botsmr_bots Posts: 236
    My Malibu had a rattle that sounded like a loose strut in November. It ended up being the steering column rattling, replaced it and now it's quiet.
  • sciguy85sciguy85 Posts: 45
    Being a science geek (teacher) and looking into all about this tranny thing, I decided to have it done. I had the same concern that all of you have but I talked to a trans guy and he brought up some good points. Have them do it as soon as possible because if there is any screw up it will come during 3/36. Bigger is better in gears and chains, and belts. GM is in a bad sorts financially and if they can save a penny it's a penny in their pocket. His point, even though this is a tranny that's been around, there is no promise that they didn't cheapen the inside to save a few and the larger gears are what it originally had. My science background knows that resonance is good for music and sound but not mechanical equipment (look at any video on the Tacoma Narrows bridge) That vibration leads to wear. If you trade in a car every few, not a problem but for those of us who keep our cars it is. I had it done and I didn't think mine was that loud until mine was "fixed". Boy, what a difference.
  • I had similar noises - dealer traced it to the previously replaced steering columm, yanked it, lubed it, put it back and tightened it up. Less noise than before.
  • markf57markf57 Posts: 38

    Thanks for your insight. I'm back on the fence again about having it done. My big concern is the dealer. The SR said if they can't hear the noise, they won't do it. I suspect I could force the issue with the Service Manager, but if they do perform the work, they might be prone to not doing a thorough job because I'm forcing them to do it. I might just take it to a larger less convenient dealer in Denver to see what they say.
  • joe3891joe3891 Posts: 759
    Transmissions built Between Julian Date 4016 and 4126, if your transmission falls into these dates they have to do it. :)
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    Thanks kurt and bots. Do either of you know if there is a TSB associated with either lubing or replacing the steering column for rattles such as this?? If not, I'm sure your good word alone will convince my service manager :P
    As for the tranny, I agree sciguy. My serice manager said that my chain had a lot of play in it, thus the resonance. While the repair does not completely silence the howl, it is considerably quieter, and I'm glad I got it done. Like you, I did not think the noise was all that bad or annoying; my service manager did however.
  • ericw55ericw55 Posts: 53
    Where can you get the build date on the tranny?
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    well, one place is to pull your front driver's side tire and read it off of the white sticker on the side of the transmission.
  • sciguy85sciguy85 Posts: 45
    If you have the TSB and tranny date, it has the issue. My tranny was between 1200 and 2200 RPM's and only under certain types of acceleration (Not fast but not slow) Mine was hard to reproduce. Sometime on deceleration also. They took my word for it and fixed it in 2 days. You may want to consider another dealership. Give them a story that you heard of their reputation and was dissatified with your last dealer (Which you should be) and if they do a good job you'll be sold on future cars there. (Talk to the sales manager first maybe for a "tour".) then "check out" the service and tell them you don't want to get "burned" again. Just a thought.
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