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Chevrolet Malibu Climate Control/AC Issues

beedublubeedublu Posts: 236
edited August 2015 in Chevrolet
Here's something that isn't explained well in the owner's manual:

It states that when you're in defog or defrost mode, the AC compressor will run automatically. When I set the mode selector knob to one of those positions, I seem to hear the compressor kick on -- but isn't the indicator light near the AC button supposed to light up?

When I turn the temp knob to the cold range the air from the defroster outlets definitely feels cold so I presume the compressor is running as it should, but I'm just wondering.

See also: Edmunds Technology Tips: Air Conditioning


  • If I didn't have GMPP, I swear I'd sink this P.O.S.

    Anyway, last month it was brakes, now it's A/C.

    '00 LS, 61K miles. Have had control head replaced (switching back and forth between norm and recirc); it's not that. Have had fan speed control replaced (didn't work on speeds 1 and 2); not that. Am On 3rd alternator; not that. All of this has been done in the past.

    Put approx. 500 miles on the car between yesterday and today. This afternoon, the A/C started making a noise (inside the car, not outside) which sounds like, well, not a bucket of bolts, but more like a bucket of nails. Very weak on Speed 1 and 2, sound gets louder as I increase fan speed. Not nearly as cool as it'd been. Also, car deposits HUGE amounts of water on the road at rest. That's it.

    Compressor, possibly?

    Guess I'm headed to take my rightful spot in the dealer's waiting room Monday morning.

    I really am at the dealer once a month for something. This has been going on for the last year or more......
  • bluedevilsbluedevils Posts: 2,554
    I don't know if the indicator light observation is an actual problem with your Malibu. I will have to check ours. I do think the same situation exists with one of our other vehicles, a 2002 Kia Sedona.

    This is undesirable. If the AC is running, the light should be on.
  • In my Malibu, with the windshield defroster on, the a/c compressor runs & the a/c light is on.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    I know that implementation of the A/C Compressor LED isn't done consistently across vehicles.

    Some vehicles have LED turn ON whenever A/C compressor is ON.

    With other vehicles it only turn ON when the customer has requested A/C to be ON. It doesn't turn ON if the vehicle itself decides A/C needs to be ON.

    Believe it or not this is sometimes a marketing call.

    I will post back on subject when I get some more details.
  • sgr5516sgr5516 Posts: 156
    On my Maxx LS (manual A/C) the A/C LED turns on whenever the compressor is on. It does not matter if you manually turn on A/C (when in floor and/or dash mode) or if it automatically turns on when you select defog/defrost mode.

    When in floor and/or dash, the body control module remembers your last A/C request forever, until you change it. There were several times when I thought the A/C was not working and I then realized I had to turn on the compressor. Now I always check the LED to make sure it is lit when I want the A/C on.
  • Srry that post b4 I hit enter on accident! New Keyboard! I noticed today when I was fixing to drive my 2002 Chevrolet Malibu home from work that when I pushed the AC button on, and pushed the Recirculation button on that the AC was cutting itself on and off... I noticed when I looked on the RPM gauge on the left it was going up and down abnormally like it was skipping! Well I know it wasn't because I just got the car 2 weeks ago on monday 3rd week having it. I looked down and told my passenger to look, and sure enough the little green light was not exactly flashing but was comming on and off and I noticed that the RPM guage went down when light came on and when it went off it went up... I guess im screwed for this car, its financed till '09 and wondering becuase I already have a radio problem like I said from earlier posting and this cars not got but 32 thousand on it. Does anyone know why the AC was going on and off like that?! Then after I tried it a 3rd time it stayed on and then I eventually just turned it off a minute later because I was scared something maybe shorting out or whatnot! E2helper or ANYONE whos ever experienced this please let me know!!! Also if anyone knows why my back speaker was going in and out erratically while driving let me know too, I took it in on saturday and had the radio repair guy look at it, since he looked at it the radio speaker hasn't acted up but my right front door speaker is not working period!


    if anyone out there who knows anything on these two subjects let me know I am worried this car maybe falling apart on me!

  • I'm with chrpai on this. My '97 did the same thing, and it only got worse with time. It never caused an issue as far as worries over shorting or other electrical problems. We did find that it actually does cut the A/C completely off when it goes out though. I'd be driving down the road on a 95+ F day with the A/C going and suddenly stop feeling cool air. When we looked down, sure enough the light had gone out.


    As far as the cost to fix it goes, I have no idea, because I traded the car off in 2003 without ever having fixed the issue. The problem had been happening for about a year, and I had already decided it was cheaper to just keep turning the thing back on when it cut off than replacing the control head, especially after discussing it with my local Chevy dealer's service department. :P
  • chrpaichrpai Posts: 32
    My system had the blinking A/C light again after the unit was replaced. The second time around it also got the fan speeds 1 and 2 stop working problem. There was also something with my system that when the A/C cut out the air smelled stale. So I knew immeadiatly when the system kicked out. I'd then cycle the fan off and on then hit the button to turn the A/C back on.


    I drove 45 minutes to work and sometimes I'd have to do this several times in a row and sometimes i wouldn't have to do it at all.


    I traded the car in and didn't disclose the problem. I figured the dealer ought to be expecting it to be broke anyways as common as this problem was.
  • ge_malibuge_malibu Posts: 1
    My Malibu has a problem where I have to constantly press the AC button intermittantly. It goes off by itself.

    Same thing happens with the recirculate button. Button goes off and switches to the other mode.

    If I stick a coin under the button to hold it in on the on position it stays most of the time.

    I took the climate control unit off and made sure the vacumn hoses were on securely.


  • tarmentarmen Posts: 6
    This is a common problem. Look at the previous older messages in this forum concerning this issue. There was a great deal of chatter concerning it awhile back. I have a 98 Malibu, and experienced the same problem. I was able to obtain a home fix suggestion, but opted to just replace the HVAC dash control unit (I think it was around $130, do a little searching at, for instance, at and you may be able to get it cheaper). It was very easy to do myself, just pop the old out, and put in the replacement. Took about 20 minutes, and I have had no problems for over a year.

    Anyway, the on-line "home fix" is available at:

    Can't tell you how well this fix is, but I hope it helps.

  • rdtaylor1rdtaylor1 Posts: 1
    I own a 2001 Malibu LS and owned a 1998 Malibu LS. Both cars have had AC control head failures approx. every one to two years. I had two replacements from 1998 - 2001 on the 1998 model and now have experienced a third failure within four years on the 2001 model. An Internet search also indicates that the problem is common to this model starting with the 1997 model year.

    I've called to complain to the dealer, who referrred me to the GM consumer hotline. 800-222-1020. If you've experienced this problem also, contact GM and raise hell so that a product recall can be initiated (after Delco fixes the faulty ('dirty') contact problem.
  • I have the same problem with my A/C switching from fresh to recirculating and I replaced the A/C cycling switch and that wasn't it, now they say I need an A/C control switch, is that what you got? :lemon:
  • masteryodamasteryoda Posts: 41
    Hey everybody, on my wife's 2000 Malibu LS, all of a sudden, when we try to turn on AC nothing happens, the same thing for the heat. Is that because of the dead blowing motor or some sort of electrical malfunction? THursday, everything was working just fine....
  • dave1951dave1951 Posts: 4
    Chronic problem with blower resistor, speeds 1 and 2. Another chronic problem with the a/c switch. My mechanic charged $80 to fix both (probably double at a dealer)
  • timmietimmie Posts: 1
    when i turn air conditioner on it starts cooling but quickly blows fuse in engine compartment 10 amp that goes to compressor and gas guage and temp guage. also blower 1-2 doesnt work 3-4-5 works .if blower motor resistor was bad would that blow fuse? please help !!!!!!
  • pcmkrpcmkr Posts: 2
    I am having the same issue as you with my blowers 1-2 not working but 3,4,5 are working and my gas and temp gauges are also not working...Oh yeah, my AC isn't working eiether. I was wondering if you found a slution to the issue.
  • jerrywimerjerrywimer Posts: 588
    I didn't have any issue with the blower settings on my 1997, but I had the exact issue with the AC working for xx minutes (sometimes a whole trip, sometimes seconds..) before it would blow a fuse that caused not only the AC to quit, but several guages. When I took that car to the dealership to have it checked out they were stumped at first and put in a call to higher level GM support. What they told me when they came back was that this issue was rare (this was in 2003). Supposedly it had been reported on like 6 cars at that time and the fix seemed to be replacement of the compressor. They couldn't explain why this worked (all tests on the compressor seemed within normal specs).

    I was told that I could expect around $1k to fix it (parts and labor? dunno, didn't go for it). When I told the mechanic that I'd just replaced the alternator for the third time and didn't want to spend another small fortune on the car (essentially making repairs add up to more than the car's value at that point), he gave me a box of the fuses (6 amps comes to mind??) and recommended living with it for a while.
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    E2helper: like others, when running the car with the recirculated air button set with no fan or A/C turned on, my button will suddenly switch over to fresh air right at the 10 mile mark every time. Is there some kind of built in logic that will "force" drivers to accept fresh air into the cabin if the recirculated air button has been on too long?
    I do not get this same result when the fan is actually blowing air or A/C into the cabin, only when it is off, and I am not refreshing the air.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    Not sure but I am checking - however it would be time-based not mileage based so next time you try this maybe see how many minutes it takes ;)

    You have the manual HVAC system, right?
  • globe199globe199 Posts: 6
    What do you mean that it's time-based? Also, what is the manual HVAC system? Sorry, excuse my ignorance! :)

    The other thing is...and maybe this is because of the heat...but the problem appeared suddenly. It wasn't like it would do it once a month, then once a week, then everyday. No, it worked fine Monday, then Tuesday (for example), it was all screwed up, and doing it everytime.

    Again, this points to something electronic, and doesn't really sound like there's just some dust in the buttons. I could be wrong, but logically it just doesn't sound like dust.
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    Sorry, My comments were on Maxx4Me's vehicle :)

    I was comparing what I call the "manual" AC system found on Base and LS models with the "automatic" AC system found on the LT. I have those models correct, right? I don't normally call them by that terminology.

    The "manual" system although still basically electronic in functionality doesn't have access to information about the vehicle that the automatic system does. So the "thing" that decides whether you are in "outside air" or "recirculation" mode (besides which button was pushed) really doesn't know how fast the vehicle is going. It does know when the fan is OFF so I guess it could have some timer which would reset back to outside air after a certain amount of time.

    Hope that helped ;)
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    Thank you. Yes, I have the manual system on my LS Maxx. It could indeed be time based since it takes me essentially the same amount of time to get to work every day, and therefore, the recirculation mode goes to fresh air mode at about the same point in time and miles. This certainly is no more than a minor annoyance, but I'd like to know the reason behind why things happen. Thanks for looking into it.
  • globe199globe199 Posts: 6
    Well, I tested the defrost last night in my 99 Cutlass, and it seemed to hold. It's harder to tell since the A/C light isn't on when I turn on the defrost. I can really only tell when I smell outside (unconditioned air) coming in, or hearing the compressor click off and on when idling (and the windows rolled down).

    Has anyone else noticed that the defrost may display the same problem as the A/C light blinking? In other words, the compressor clicks on and off randomly whilst using both defrost and the A/C button?
  • e2helpere2helper Posts: 1,002
    I received confirmation there is a 10 minute (approx) timer which does function you indicate. I don't know details on WHEN it actually operates but you obviously found one of the conditions :)

    Good catch, you found something I didn't know about - LOL
  • maxx4memaxx4me Posts: 1,340
    yep, if there's something odd about this car, I'll find it. Thanks e2helper
    Kurt: my steering starting twitching slightly last year in parking lots only. It also was still during the cold winter months. I had the column replaced and alignment done like pao said. It has been flawless since. Now, if my dealer could only find the squeeking noise I have up front (which I believe is from the new steering column.........if it is, I'm leaving it alone since it is working better than the last column)
  • The dealer told me the same thing for my 99 malibu. I searched around and found that you can simply clean the control module and do not need to spend $300 getting it fixed from the dealer. It is a very common problem

    Tells you how to clean the control unit on your malibu
  • globe199globe199 Posts: 6
    malibu_aches: have you tried cleaning the module? If you do, I'd like to know how hard it is, and whether it works. Thanks!

  • Better yet - print and keep a copy of the following. Takes a lot less time than bitching out the dealer and having to take aspirin after...

    Instructions for cleaning the AC control unit for chevy malibu...
  • tfhtfh Posts: 1
    Tried it today after 3 years of frustration with intermittant a/c operation. Flashing A/C light. Pushing buttons and turning dials would get it to work for a short period.

    After cleaning it works fine. Took me about a half hour. Pry off trim. 2 screws hold the module. 4 plugs unplug from the back(5 min). Take apart module carefully, clean with denatured alcohol and cotton swabs, use pencil on contacts, snap it back together(20 min). Put back in car(5 min). Took me longer to find the alcohol than to fix the problem.

    Trickiest part is opening the module. 4 push buttons are loose, so keep track of where the go. 4 plastic tabs hold the face plate in the housing and there seemed to be a little adhesive on the ends of the face plate so take your time. Small screwdriver worked fine.
  • globe199globe199 Posts: 6
    I did it last night too, and I believe it actually worked! We had a dew point of 80 last night in the Twin Cities, so this was perhaps the best test I could imagine. My wife helped me do this -- that was indispensible!

    Getting the dashboard apart was easier than I thought. (It probably helped that it had been done once before -- I didn't need a pry tool except for the ignition switch bezel). I switched the transmission into first gear to get the shifter out of the way. What I didn't realise is that you can't turn the car off or get the key out unless the tranny's in P or N. I panicked for a few minutes thinking I'd screwed up the ignition switch! I shifted back into P after prying the trim panel off and all was well. I think that should be documented somewhere for this procedure.

    Anyway, we disconnected the HVAC controller and brought it inside. Here's where it became far less interesting. After getting the controller apart, I was very sceptical as to whether cleaning it would help. I could find almost no dust or dirt inside the module -- the buttons and selectors were all pretty clean. But I cleaned the contacts on the board and the copper contacts in the selector well. I used compressed air to dry them. And then I put a little graphite on everything.

    I reassembled it and drove around with the A/C on for about 1hr 15min -- and everything seems to work. The light didn't blink once. Seriously can't believe it!

    I think I could do it again in probably under a half hour if I needed to. I may keep the 7mm socket in my car just in case!!

    Thanks to everyone for your help. :) :D :shades:

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