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MicrosagittaMicrosagitta Member Posts: 3
edited April 2021 in Chevrolet
We bought a 2009 (7th Generation) Chev Malibu Hybrid; we got it really cheap and expected to have to affect repairs in order to get it road worthy.

Unfortunately the seller is a .gov entity so obtaining any info about the vehicle is virtually impossible.
I'm new to the hybrid vehicle scenerio and am learning quickly.
The situation I have with this particular Malibu seems rather odd to me and may be of interest to the seasoned veteran hybrid owners out there and at the same time I may gain some insight on how I should proceed with regards to getting this vehicle up and running nominally, if possible. So without any further introductions I would prefer to get to the interesting parts of my post:

When we picked this car up it was stone cold ded. So, being the amateur that I am I figured the battery is ded. Well, of course it was, so I did what any normal 'newb' would do, I got the jumper cables out and jumpt started it. It started right up and when I took the first jumper cable clamp off of the battery it immediately stalled. After 3 tries with the exact same results I ran off to the local walmart and got a replacement 12 volt starter battery and after installing it we were "off to the races", so to speak. Everything was going fine, terrific actually but we were in a huge city (think Phila) and it got dark so we were doing a lot of stop and start traffic with headlights. So we got maybe 20 or 30 miles and it left our driver sitting, he fortunately had presence of mind to turn off into a neighborhood when it started to 'malfunction', i.e. lost power steering, lights, engine power, etc. We had a 3 vehicle convoy going and we kept the Malibiu in the center, just to clarify for anyone who may be curious. So at this point I'm not sure exactly what reasoning I was using, it was high stress enviro, had get-there'itis (home) with two uninspected but registered and insured, 'half lit motor vehicles, in "think-Phila" with a 3 hour higway trip ahead. So I was burning years away with stress levels that were off the meter. I believe the thought was that the alternator wasn't charging buit I didn't bring any tools for that type of diags. So I did what any 'stressed out newb who will never give up would do', I went to the nearest 'huge bopx store' and bought 2 starter batteries, with an eye on getting everything home and then returning the batteries or exchanging them for something that we might need, like food and groceries for our children in the family. So, luckily my son, aka 'the driver', once again, had presence of mind to mark our breakdown location on his GPS or we would have never re-located the vehicle and I came back with two new batteries and connected the freshly dead battery to the '2-battery' system that I have going on in our Dodge Caravan to recharge. (The extra batteries I brought with me were deep cell batteries that wouldn't fit into the battery compartment (more on that later)). So, put new batt #2 in and off we went, headlights on and out of the BIG city. We made it all but exactyly 100 miles on city rated interstate (turnpike) bnefore we had to swap out battery #2 for battery #3, which got us about 140 miles on medium traffic interstates before batt 3 gave up the ghost. At this point we were only about 30 miles from home and were broken-down on a low traffic, high speed superhighway; squeezed right up against the right guard rail and about an inch between the driver side door and the right fog line. Traffic was whizzing past, tragically close, with each passby, just inches away and followed by a huge blast of wind; so I did what any 'desperate newb with get there 'itis" would do: I put my biggest 12 volt deep cell battery on the front passenger side floor, cracked the front passenger side window, ran the jumper cables through the front passenger window, into the engine compartment and connected the other end of the jumper cables to battery #3's freshly depleted, terminals. Then I announced to my bewildered and highly entertained driver, who was actually on leave from the armed forces, to 'lets get going' and no Sleep til Hammersmith (meaning don't stop unless you have to). That last battery swap, actually a 'running jump', got us home, with myself exhausted, and perhaps just a slight case of added PTSD from the stress associated with having to make an H Ross Perot-like vehicle (you never know if its going to run) make it home.

I realize that this was a long story but I wanted to tell the story in order to help convey what issues I'm having with this Malibu. I don't have to tell everyone that the journey was a five thousand yard stare, dialated pupil, 'white knuckle' drive (and I was driving the 'known good vehicle' while my driver seemed to be having a 'time of his life' and I swear he enjoyed every second of it, somehow... (sort of like a skydiving and bungie jumping thing...)

In summary this 2009 Chev Malibu, ex-gov (probably police), motorpooled automobile has the following symptoms:

1) It runs if the 12 volt starter battery (in the engine compartment) is charged up and when the starter battery goes ded, the lights, power steering and all of the accessories stop working followed by the engine, which consequently will leave you sitting where ever it happens.

2) I used an OBDII code reader to ring out the stored codes from the vehicle's onboard CPU and they are as follows:
A) P1A26-Powertrain
B) P1A59-Powertrain
C) B2AAA-Body
D) P0A92-Powetrain
E) P0AFA-Powetrain

3) I am planning on repalacing the 'propulsion assist' battery (behind the back seat).

Does anyone have any advice on how I should proceed?


  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Member Posts: 5,745
    Maybe get training on the hybrid system in the vehicle before you just start throwing parts at this?

    Plus you're going to need more than just trouble code support from the scan tool. Hopefully you have one that provides the full data list and bi-directional controls for every module involved in the system. A digital oscilloscope along with current probes might come in handy depending on what you find with the first things you need to check.

    The Hybrid system (Starter motor / Generator plus the Battery module) provides both the 36v system as well as the 12v system with power. The fact that you can make this run with a fresh 12v battery until it is depleted suggests you have a charging system problem not a battery problem. I would be starting my testing with the P0A92
  • MicrosagittaMicrosagitta Member Posts: 3
    Thank you, very much for the info. I had a sneaking suspicion that it wasn't a battery problem as well. So for starters I did test the output voltage into the battery to see if it was attempting to charge at around 14 volts and its not surprising that it isn't. So just to see where the generator is located and how difficult it may be to change I noticed that there was no serpentine belt and while the car is running the generator is not 'rotating' Shocker! So it must be something so simple. I'm mystified that this car can actually run and drive on the 12 volt battery under the hood! Whats more is does the 2008 malibu have a starter? How is this vehicle actually started?

    Additionally, due to cost constraints this vehicle WILL NOT be going to a dealership. Since I am asking the question it really isn't helpful for people to recommend such a course of action, though I do understand that initially it may be a good idea to recommend this to people who may not have experience servicing vehicles or working with hybrids. I understand that people may not realize that I am familiar with working around high voltage (even though the charging system on this vehicle is completely depleted) and we bought this vehicle with an eye on learning how to service hybrids, I do have an oscilloscope and familiar with operating it, I don't think that my scan tool is designed for work on this type of vehicle. I'm not completely sure of its capabilities, it works from my tablet or PC and I use TORQUE to get an idea on how to proceed. I will add that I'm not some penny pincher who thought I could save a bunch of $$ and do it myself based on a few youtube videos. I'm a penny pincher with over 40 years of doityourself work on cars and automotive and have saved tens of thousands of dollars avoiding dealerships. I was working on my own cars before the internet even existed. I generally do stop when I run into transmission issues. That all being said if it is not repairable by us or our local mechanic then it will be sold out as parts. Taking this vehicle to a dealership is out of the question. Thank you for your time and consideration and I bid you good day.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Member Posts: 5,745
    edited April 2021
    As a professional technician for more than forty years and an instructor who provides continuing educational classes for other professional technicians, what I said in the first line of the response is EXACTLY what I would say to any other shop/technician let alone a DIY'er who tried taking one of these on without first getting formal instruction on how they work.

    That being said, wanting to learn about hybrids is fine. This Malibu which is classified as a mild hybrid is as good of a place as any to start. These engines do use a conventional starter to start the engine, the starter/generator is used for the start/stop operation.

    I'm not surprised that the belt is missing based on the codes you had listed. As far as knowledge and skill go, ask yourself why you hadn't looked there before you ever posted. Now for the fun part. You need service information to see how to replace that belt. Hint. It's not obvious by what you can see. Make sure to inspect the tensioner carefully as they often are failing and that results in the belt failing.
  • MicrosagittaMicrosagitta Member Posts: 3
    I just started to work with the vehicle and have not dedicated any sort of time towards diagnosing it
    I did not check the tensioner just yet but that is exactly my concern, that something may be seized which caused the belt to prematurely fail. The vehicle only has 105k miles on it so it seems to me that even if it were the original belt that it shouldn't really have failed. I'm actually thinking that for sure something is seized. I plan on putting the car inside and taking off the air cleaner, etc so that I can actually spend time diag'ing and finding out what is exactly wrong with it. That is planned for early next week.
    I'll admit, I've never run into a vehicle that was missing the serpentine belt and it wasn't at the top of my list as something to check. Just the same it would have been difficult to overlook. I'm thinking that the tensioner is probably seized and it destroyed the belt.

    I will absolutely follow up and let everyone know.
    I appreciate your response and advice, especially from someone with your experience and knowledge. Having a person of your caliber responding to this thread is a stroke of luck that I certainly did not anticipate. I certainly don't claim to be an expert and have had no training, although if it were available to me and affordable I would certainly like to participate in that training. Would something like that be possible?
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Member Posts: 5,745

    I certainly don't claim to be an expert and have had no training, although if it were available to me and affordable I would certainly like to participate in that training. Would something like that be possible?

    The Covid era has resulted in a lot of opportunities that didn't exist a year ago. Just about every training organization now has live online classes that anyone can subscribe to. This is just one of the possible choices for a training provider who does present hybrid vehicle classes. https://ctionline.com/
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