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18 Common Chevy Malibu Problems

18 Common Chevy Malibu Problems

The Chevrolet Malibu is a mid-size sedan that traces its roots back to the early 1960s which makes it one of the longest-running single models in the entirety of the US automotive industry. Throughout the years, there have been nine consecutive generations of the Malibu, all of which did something that little bit better. Be that as it may, better does not mean perfect which is why the Malibu has faults of its own, some of which we are going to discuss in this very article, but before doing so, here is a quick recap!

The 2008 and later Chevrolet Malibu suffers from power steering issues, U-joint issues, the steering wheel locking itself in place, BCM issues, shift-to-park issues, the ability to take the key out while the car is not in park, ECM issues, start/stop system issues, generator control module issues, engine power reduced issues, transmission shift cable issues, transmission not wanting to shift into gear, transmission indicator issues, transmission leaks, and anti-theft Passlock security system issues.

Now it’s time to dig deep into all of these and tell you what you need to pay attention to. We are also going to tell you what you need to do to fix them.

Steering System Issues

Steering issues make up a large portion of all the issues reported for all past 2008 Malibu models, especially the 7th gen. These include issues with the power steering system, U-joint issues, and issues with the steering locking itself in place.

Power Steering Issues

The single most complained about aspect of the entire 7th generation of the Malibu (2008-2012) is its power steering system which tends to fail and disengage the car’s power steering assistance. These issues are the most common for the 2008-2009 model which is why Chevrolet recalled almost 1.4 million vehicles back in March 2014 (14V153000).

The recall included Chevrolet going over the EPS (electric power steering) motor and replacing it if necessary. NHTSA officially came out and said, “If power steering assist is lost, greater driver effort would be required to steer the vehicle at low speeds, increasing the risk of a crash.”

To this very day, this is one of the most high-profile recalls Chevrolet ever did because a faulty power steering system can cause people to end up in accidents. Therefore, if you are interested in buying a 7th-generation Malibu, pay close attention to if the car was indeed recalled for these issues.

U-Joint Issues

This issue is not nearly as common as the one mentioned above, but it also deserves attention as it is equally, if not even more dangerous. The problem here is that the steering wheel joint bearing on 2004-2012 Malibu models tends to wear out prematurely and thus leads to separation of the U-joint, resulting in either partial or complete lack of steering control.

Understandably, this also led to a recall of a few thousand Malibu models back in July 2014 (14E044000) when Chevrolet decided to inspect and replace the entire steering shaft free of charge.

Steering Locking Itself In Place

The 2008-2017 Chevrolet Malibu sometimes tends to suffer from an issue where the steering can completely lock itself in place while driving. Some have said that this issue is associated with the car’s electrical system having a party on its own while others suggested that the issue is completely due to a faulty steering column. Taking your car to an experienced mechanic/dealership should solve the dispute.

Electric Issues

After we’ve finished covering a massive source of problems for the Chevrolet Malibu, it’s time to tackle another giant. The biggest of them all is the body control module problem, but Malibu electrical issues also include problems with the shifter (shift to park), the ability to take the key out while the car is not in park, problems with the ECM, issues with the start/stop function, and the generator control module.

Body Control Module Problems

Not too long ago we talked about high-profile Chevrolet recalls and used the words “one of the most high-profile recalls” as this is the highest-profile recall Chevrolet ever did. Numerous owners of the 2004-2012 Malibu reported issues where the car’s brake lights illuminate either improperly or not at all. However, owners also reported problems such as the car flashing its warning lights, accessories going mad, and issues with the central locking system.

As it so happens, these electrical problems (and many others), have been caused by a faulty body control module that failed to maintain a consistent voltage to the car’s electrics. Eventually, GM recalled almost 2.5 million models (including the 2004-2012 Malibu) back in May 2014 (14V252000) to replace the faulty module and its associated components.

Shift To Park Problems

The 2016-2019 Chevrolet Malibu suffers from an issue where the car repeatedly shows the “shift in park” dashboard message even when the car has been put in park which blocks you from taking the key out and leaving the car. This issue is due to some material buildup between the associated positions of the shifter which leads to the system believing that the driver didn’t engage park.

The connection wasn’t complete, and the system repeatedly prompt the message “shift to park”. This eventually led to a fairly large class-action lawsuit being filed against GM. Even though Chevrolet didn’t acknowledge why this came to be, they issued a PIT5616A service bulletin for the same issue regarding the 2016-2017 GMC Acadia.

Ability To Take The Key Out While Not In Park

The 2013, the 2014, the 2015, the 2016, and the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu can suffer from an issue where the car enables you to take the key out of the ignition which can lead to the car rolling away unintentionally. This immediately brought NHTSA into the argument, and it was later found that the cylinder lock housing was faulty which also led to a recall.

Therefore, Chevrolet recalled certain 2013-2017 Chevrolet Malibu models back in July 2016 (16V502000) where Chevrolet decided to inspect and potentially replace the faulty cylinder lock housing.

ECM Issues

The 2018 Chevrolet Malibu equipped with the 1.5L turbocharged motor has had a serious issue where the fuel ejector electronic control module can fail and cause the injectors to stop spraying gas into the engine. This can happen at any time and can lead to stalling and thus causing drivers to crash. Understandably, Chevrolet recalled more than 177,000 2018 Chevrolet Malibu models back in September 2019 (19V642000) to replace the faulty ECM.

As such, if you are after a 2018 1.5L Malibu, check if the car you are looking at has been part of this recall.

Start/Stop System Problems

The 2017 Malibu and some 2018 and later Malibu models seem to be suffering from an issue with the start/stop system where the car refuses to start up after engaging the start/stop system. Many owners have reported these issues, and many are probably yet to come, but it seems like Chevrolet can’t replicate the issue, and thus it’s difficult to tell what exactly is causing it.

Moreover, we also need to add that many owners complained about not being able to disable the start/stop system at all.

Generator Control Module Problems

The Chevrolet Malibu also seems to be suffering from certain alternator/generator control module issues in two different ways. The former is mostly reported for the 2013-2016 Malibu where the general control module fails to deliver enough power for the car’s functions. The latter is associated with the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco hybrid model which prompted Chevrolet to do a recall.

The recall occurred in May 2013 (13V173000), and it is said that they did it because the GCM can (once again) fail to deliver enough juice to the car and thus lower the battery’s overall output. The recall also said that this could lead to smoke coming out of the car’s trunk, possibly even leading to fire.

Engine Power Reduced

As far as Malibu’s engines go, they don’t seem to be the most problematic part of the Malibu, but the Malibu has had quite a few reports concerning the 2008-2018 Malibu and that its engine can suffer from reduced power output. Apparently, these issues are caused by some accelerator pedal-related issues or the throttle control system.

Powertrain Issues

The Malibu powertrain issues are almost exclusively tied to various transmission-related issues. These include problems with the transmission shift cable, the transmission not wanting to shift into gear, issues with the indicator, and transmission leaks.

Transmission Shift Cable Issues

The transmission shift cable seems to be the most fragile aspect of the Malibu’s transmission which is made apparent by the fact that GM managed to recall the Malibu for transmission shift cable issues on three 14V092000 separate occasions. These recalls are:

  • 12V460000 – Chevrolet recalled certain 2008-2010 Chevrolet Malibu models back in September 2012 due to the shift cable fracturing and not showing the correct gear. This means that the actual gear and the one communicated to the driver are not the same which can cause accidents.
  • 14V224000 – Chevrolet recalled certain 2008 Chevrolet Malibu models back in April 2014 due to the transmission shift cable fracturing and not showing the correct gear. This means that the actual gear and the one communicated to the driver are not the same which can cause accidents.
  • 14V092000 – Chevrolet recalled certain 2014 Chevrolet Malibu models back in February 2014 due to the transmission shift cable not representing the gear the driver has selected.

Transmission Not Wanting To Shift Into Gear

It seems like many 2008-2017 Chevrolet Malibu models also experience issues where the transmission refuses to engage a gear completely. One owner of a 2018 Malibu suspects the issue is down to a gear selector sensor while some believe it’s associated with the car’s clutch. All in all, it seems like there are multiple reasons why these types of issues can occur.

Transmission Indicator Issues

The 2012 Chevrolet Malibu is known to suffer from an issue in which the transmission indicator fails to illuminate the gear the driver has selected which can create confusion about which gear is engaged. Chevrolet did a recall on certain 2012 Chevrolet Malibu models back in April 2015 (15V245000) to combat this issue. It is said that the problem was due to a transmission control module.

However, a similar issue was also reported for a few 2014 Malibu models where the indicator also fails to show the correct gear. This also led to a recall in February 2014 (14V092000). However, in this instance, the problem was traced back to the transmission adjuster cable directly communicating with the indicator itself.

Transmission Leaks

To round up our list of the most common Chevrolet Malibu transmission issues, we also need to mention transmission leaks which were also why Chevrolet recalled the 2018 Malibu back in October 2018 (20V668000). After investigation, the leak occurred due to a few bolts missing from the start/stop accumulator.

Passlock Security Issues

The last problem we will mention today is associated with the car’s anti-theft system which prevents owners from starting their cars. These have mostly been associated with pre-2008 Malibu models, but it seems like many Malibu models up until 2017 can also suffer from this issue. There are a few ways how one can temporarily fix this, but a permanent fix is likely going to require replacing the pass lock sensor and maybe the ignition cylinder as well.

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