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Chevrolet Malibu: Problems & Solutions



  • moleman16moleman16 Posts: 2
    My mom just bought an '05 malibu (4cyl) with 30k on it previously used as a rental car for enterprise. She paid about 12,000 out the door. Now I work at a Honda and Toyota dealership, and I am a firm believer that the Japanese products are all-around better vehicles. I know that you definitely get what you pay for. With all of that in mind, my mom went against my will and paid about $1000 less than she would have for a comparable Corolla.

    She has about 4 days left that she can return it, and my question is should she? I am obviously pushing for her to return it and get something more reliable, but I'm looking to you guys for some help. Is this car a gamble? Has anyone owned a Honda/Toyota and a Chevy/Ford? Is there a comparison that you can show me in order to convince me that she'll be safe, comfortable, and better off with the Malibu???

    Thanks in advance! I'd love to hear the success/failure stories!
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    Here are recommendations. Sorry if repeating myself from when we discussed this before. Unfortunately in both cases they require dealer to look into:

    Get issue to occur again. DO NOT use cruise control again until dealer can look at vehicle - to maintain "history"

    1. Have dealer check for any diagnostic trouble codes (in any module).

    2. Have dealer check the Cruise Disable history in PCM. This stores the last 6 reasons the cruise control was disabled/shut off. This is why you want to avoid using cruise control after having issue to maintain that reason as most recent - or at least in the last 6.

    Good luck
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    well, this isn't very tough moleman. Either way, she's driving a grocery getter. The Malibu sedan has some neat options, but still is a grocery getter. It also does not have great leg room in the rear. The Maxx is the best choice if buying a new Malibu. It is the most versatile car on the road, hands down. If your mother can fit into the small Corolla cabin, and wants nothing more than a grocery getter, with good gas mileage and a GREAT repair history, she should get the Corolla. I simply don't think the Malibu sedan stacks up against much of anything, except for the nice options. Aside from that, it's just a sedan. If your mom needs to haul items, or carry adults in the back seat, nothing stands up to the Malibu Maxx.
  • moleman16moleman16 Posts: 2
    Thanks for the opinion!

    She didn't have the option of the Maxx. And she needs basic reliable transportation. Can the Chevy do it, or will silly repairs for the things I keep reading about overcome the price difference very quickly? Is there any engineering differences (suspension, brakes, motor, tranny) between a 4cyl Maxx and a 4cyl Malibu? Do they make a 4-cyl Maxx may be a better question...

    Consumer reports rates the suspension reliability as a full black circle, aka awful. My '93 Civic with 100k has a bad ball joint, but if the Malibu lasts 13 years I have a feeling I'd be impressed...

    Anyone know if the 2.2L Eco-tec motor is any good??
  • mr_botsmr_bots Posts: 236
    The problems the Malibus were having were ironed out before 05 so that shouldn't be a problem. Also, the Ecotec engine seems to be a pretty good engine, not the smoothest or most economical, but reliable. Also, the 4T45 transmission has been out a while and is also very reliable and shifts very smoothly. On the other hand Corolla's get stellar gas mileage, kinda bad when I get made fun of by a friend that has one because the highest I've ever got is "only" 38 mpg. You also have to remember they are in a different class, so it's best to just see which "size" she likes better.
  • 37453745 Posts: 152
    I have a 2004 Ecotec powered Malibu. Maxx is not powered by the Ecotec.

    The Ecotec is the easiest engine to maintain. It uses a drop in oil filter that sits up front so that you can get at it by just opening the hood. There are no spark plug wires and the plugs are easy to get at. Do not by the way leave them in for 100,000 miles because being an aluminum head the plugs will freeze to the head. This goes for all aluminum heads. Take the plugs every 25000 miles or so and check them. A bit of anti-seize on the plug threads will also help.

    There is adequate power and I get up to 37mpg on the highway. The Ecotec engine is GM's universal engine and powers Opels, Vauxhauls, Holdens, Saabs and Saturns amongst others. It has been used since about 2001 as far as I can recall. There are no known issues.
  • kurtamaxxxguykurtamaxxxguy Posts: 1,798
    Not exactly. People with '05's and '06's here are having similar problems. But '04 was the Maxx's first year and most of its suspension pieces for that year seem to be problematic. CU gives the Malibu a solid black eye for suspension, electrical and a few other areas.

    If you want a versatile car, the Maxx is that. If you want a __reliable__ car, go Toyota.
  • beedublubeedublu Posts: 236
    Many thanks for your help.

    Naturally, in my frustration, I kept trying to get it to work today on the way to work...and true to Murphy's law, it worked fine. And yes, I disabled it more than 6 times, so I guess I just have to wait for it's next malfunction before I have the dealer look at it.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    I forget how many different reasons the PCM disables cruise control. I think there are at least 10. I happen to have access to one of the dealer service tools and so pretty easily was able to cause 5 different ones on a 2006 vehicle I am driving, typical stuff though not due to any true faults (not saying you should try this :) : Cruise turned off, cruise canceled, shifted out of gear, park brake applied and service brake applied.

    As I caused each to occur I could see the reasons pushed down in the "stack" of 6. Only thing I am a little unsure of is if there is any time limit where it might "clear memory". I will have to play around a little with that and report back later this week.

    Keep in mind that even just applying the normal (service) brake is a reason for disabling cruise from the PCM perspective and that 6 consecutive cruise disables during normal driving by applying brakes would fill up buffer.

    This disable history is the absolute first thing that should be checked when a cruise "drop-out" like you described is encountered. When technician finds the reason "why" the next troubleshooting step of course is to "root cause" what could have caused that reason to occur.
  • kurtamaxxxguykurtamaxxxguy Posts: 1,798
    As a former EE, was interested to hear that the cruise control has a "stack" for retaining various "turn off" conditions, and that repeating the same condition during driving (applying brakes) could fill up the stack and switch off the cruise control.

    How odd. Why would the PCM need a stack to "store" these events?

    Would simply turning off the cruise control by way of the steering wheel controls "purge" the stack buffer?
    Or does one have to stop the engine (ignition switch to off) to purge the buffer?
  • beedublubeedublu Posts: 236
    Keep in mind that even just applying the normal (service) brake is a reason for disabling cruise from the PCM perspective and that 6 consecutive cruise disables during normal driving by applying brakes would fill up buffer.

    OK, so as I understand it, the next time it malfunctions I should leave things exactly as they were: Leave On/Off switch (left side of steering wheel) in its last position and no further attempts to set or resume the last speed (with the right rocker switch).

    Again, thanks for the quick response.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    This information is provided for diagnostic purposes in order to assist a service technician in troubleshooting a cruise control complaint. Similar information is available for last several reasons air conditioning turned off, remote start is inoperative and why the content theft alarm was triggered.
  • meandmymaxxmeandmymaxx Posts: 134
    Was wondering e2helper does the CHMSL on the Maxx work on a 12 Volts signal from the BCM? Or is it lower??
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    I don't remember any previous discussion we had on this topic with your vehicle so my comments are without looking at any past thread history

    Yes the LED CHMSL is driven directly by the BCM. It it is provided battery power. The actual value depends on underhood temperature, state of charge of battery and electrical load on vehicle. Typically it would be higher than 12 volts when the engine is running (more likely between 13-14 volts). Since the CHMSL is in the back of the vehicle there is a bit of a voltage drop in wiring but not too much since an LED CHMSL has a very small electrical draw.

    There are diagnostic reasons which might cause your CHMSL not to work (it sounds like you know your other brake lights are still functional - that is good thing to look at first which isolates issue). If you have a situation where your CHMSL doesn't seem to work please check and see if your cruise control will engage or not and report back.

    I saw your other post - I hope you didn't try to hook a trailer lamp to the CHMSL feed - that would not be a good idea and would likely cause a problem.

  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    beedublu - there is no problem with turning off the ON/OFF switch on cruise once you have reproduced the problem - in fact is is probably smart thing to do.

    Even if you inadvertently turn on cruise control and have a D'OH! moment, not a problem as long as you don't do it more than 5 times before taking to dealer.

    On the vehicle I am monitoring I intentionally caused an unusual cruise disable condition and am going to try to remember not to engage cruise on my commute and check a few times a day to make sure the disable history persists for a while.

    I might also ask someone a little more knowledgable about this than me so I am not doing this purely by experimentation method ;)
  • meandmymaxxmeandmymaxx Posts: 134
    NO Sir, When you say don't do it. I don't. Was just thinking of something totally different. Thanks again for all your help.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    OK - just checking ;)

    I don't want to bore you with details but the reason I asked to have cruise operation checked is that if the BCM is intentionally disabling the output that controls CHMSL for diagnostic reasons you will also find that cruise control is inoperative. If cruise does work but your CHMSL still inop then the problem is most likely CHMSL itself or the wiring to it.

    Just an easy check before going to dealer :)
  • paopao Posts: 1,867
    and I am an expert at CHMSL replacement....GRIN....
  • shadow5599shadow5599 Posts: 101
    I owned a previous generation Malibu (2003) which was totalled off so I was forced to go car shopping. I test drove many, and mostly imports but in the end mainly based on factors such as reviews, cost, safety, I went with a 05 Malibu. A fully (side, seats, front) airbag equipped Malibu, it rates in the top 6 in it's class for safety. That puts it in with Subaru, Audi, Lexus, VW. The platform is European and this new generation Malibu is COMPLETELY different than the last so dont base anything you read about the 97-03 Malibus on the 04 and newer cars. These are not comparable.

    I looked at and drove the Maxx but we dont have alot of rear seat passengers so we opted for the sedan since I just couldnt bring myself to accept the looks of the Maxx from the outside. GM missed the mark on that one, its one ugly car. Of course that's MY opinion so you Maxx owners...take it easy! But I agree, the interior is amazing!

    The ratings are good on the 05 and newer Malibu, and I love the car so far. GMs have always been good to me and I dont like the feel of Japanese cars. Even just based on drivability and feel I'd choose it over Subaru, Honda, Toyota....but not Nissan. The Altima was the only car I tested that I liked better, but the cost was way beyond the Malibu.

    Drive the car, see how you like it. I cant speak for the 4, mine has the V6, a perfect match for this size of car.
  • kurtamaxxxguykurtamaxxxguy Posts: 1,798
    The Saab Aero 9-3 Sportscombi is very much like the Maxx in apperance and size, being built on the same Chassis. But it's less squared off and has a sweeping back hatch (minus the small protrusion/trunklett/bulldog butt so many people find ugly on the Maxx).

    Unfortunately Saab 9-3's have a terrible reliability record, far worse than the Maxx.
  • zanparzanpar Posts: 1
    Just bought a 2004 Malibu. This morning I couldn't start it so charged the battery and I fired right up. Then after turning it off, I tried to turn it on and the key wouldn't budge. Turned the steering wheel etc. but no go. When I bought this car I did notice that the key would never turn completely to off but would stop between off and ACC. Now it won't turn on at all. Any idea what happened or how to fix it?
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    FYI - the steering wheel on your vehicle doesn't lock and so no interaction between wheel position and ignition switch like you have on vehicles with ignition switch on column.

    I would say that the cable between your shifter and ignition switch might need adjustment. Make sure your shifter is going all the way into PARK and if it is and still having problem then have dealer look at adjusting the shift interlock cable.

    I don't know how to adjust cable on the Classic - likely similar to new body style but that would just be a guess.
  • skyhawkskyhawk Posts: 126
    I have an early Feb 04 build Maxx LT. I have had a thermostat replaced (running cool - check engine light) and the left front light assembly replaced. The steering was replaced due to recall not failure. I run Mobile 1 syn oil. I ignored the tranny howl and did not care about the rear shades. I don't have the front end noise. I have 24k and the car is stored 4 months every winter. I basically use it for around town errands and average 25 mpg with very little highway driving. I still am happy with the car. I am planning on replacing it with a pick up truck when the warranty is up next year.
  • Haven't been reading here for awhile-too busy keeping the CRD alive. We have an 2004 Malibu LT. Never got sprocket/chain replacement in the tranny-we thought as long as it is not a durability issue why bother. Is this wrong thinking?

    Catching up saw post 3195 fix for bouncing headlight. Is this the fix or does the dealer have a replacement headlight?

    Squeeking from the driver's seatbelt at the side of the seat. Is there a once and final fix or do I just keep lubing it?

    24k miles, commuting 26mpg now at 24mpg with 10% ethanol.
    Best mileage 36mpg on cruise at 68mph, mobil1 5w30, clean air filters. Once to dealer not to long ago for a belated flash for the idle - no difference maybe better mpg.

    Tirerack bounced from bridgestone turanza to bfg comp ta and back to bridgestone tires. One poster in Iowa loves the comp TA, thinking of that tire soon. Any body change one for the other because of dissatisfaction?
  • gonogogonogo Posts: 879
    Haven't been reading here for awhile-too busy keeping the CRD alive. We have an 2004 Malibu LT. Never got sprocket/chain replacement in the tranny-we thought as long as it is not a durability issue why bother. Is this wrong thinking?

    The howling chain is 5/8 inch and proper chain is 7/8 inch. I think some bean counter thought the cheaper 5/8 chain would do the job, wrong. For an engine with 200 HP and 220 FT LB of torque I would go with the 7/8 inch chain.
  • shadow5599shadow5599 Posts: 101
    "Once to dealer not to long ago for a belated flash for the idle"

    Is there a common procedure to do with idle that's supposed to be done? I have noticed my 3.5 isnt a real smooth idler.
  • 37453745 Posts: 152
    I was the person who posted about the bouncing headlight fix. This is my own fix. It's just too much schlep for me to go to the dealer and convince them to fix it. I don't think a new headlight will fix the problem unless the locating pins on the bottom of the headlight assembly are a larger diameter. The holes they fit into in the body are too big.

    I solved the problem by enlarging the locating pins by putting shrink tubing over them and getting the pins to fit tightly into the locating holes. If you carefully remove the headlight assembly you will see what I mean.

    I have the 4cyl. 2004 Malibu and have had the steering column replaced under recall - no failure with old one. Intermittent no-start condition was fixed with software update. Now and again a weird electrical problem crops up but clears when the car is restarted - so far I have never been stranded. Mileage can be up to 37mpg on the highway which is borne out by gallons it takes to fill so the calculations on the display are correct.

    All in all, I am happy with the car. The Ecotec engine may seem small but I find for me at least, it has adequate power. By the way, it is the smoothest 4cyl. I have driven which is no doubt due to the double balance shafts in the engine which counteract vibration. The engine runs like a turbine. Being all aluminum the power to weight ratio is also very good. In fact the 4cyl. has lighter front springs than the 6cyl.
  • Thank you. Months ago some said if it ain't broke don't want a dealer to touch it and break something else. Other said sorry he waited so long to get it done. Other soory they took it in because the ____ got messed up.
  • Old talk here of a tsb for a reflash, waited long after it first came out. I think "" and vin will get an answer. Our idle is very smooth and sometimes not. Use Valvoline or redline synthetic fuel injector cleaner per bottle instructions no sooner than 3k miles. They are strong detergents.

    Just checking yesterday noticed that the hose clamps on the intake tubes/ducts had dirt in front of the hose clamps (and since the CRD makes you tighten everything when you finish the build process that started in Toledo) the hose clamps all needed a little tightening after2 years but I don't know yet if that did anything - better half commuted today and saw the dic mpg go up.

    And yes, this is the best vehicle we have ever owned. No more fords or chrysler (import dealers leave a lot to be desired - and apparently some dcx dealers too)products. I am hoping for one heck of a Trailblazer body on frame update with a good push rod engine.
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