Top 9 Chevrolet Malibu Problems (Explained) - Engine Patrol (2023)

Chevrolet Malibu is one of the longest-running brands in the automotive industry, having first appeared on the market in 1964.

The popular mid-size sedan is known for its excellent ride and handling, attractive styling and efficient engine.

However, it is also the car that has collected thousands of complaints.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the most common Malibu problems…


Top 9 Chevrolet Malibu Problems (Explained) - Engine Patrol (1)

1. Reduced engine power

One of the most common Chevy Malibu issues reported is that the car slows down or stalls and displays the "Engine Power Decreased" notification.

This issue has been widely reported on 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005 models.

Here's what the owners had to say:

“An engine power reduction notification appeared on the dashboard and the car repeatedly slowed down on the highway to less than 25 mph. On the last occasion, about 2 months ago, the notification appeared again, the car turned off and would not start again. It was in constant motion and I could have been seriously injured if the people behind me weren't able to stop in time. I sat in the middle of traffic for 45 minutes until the fire brigade arrived and pushed the car off the road to the side of the road until a tow truck arrived."

“It's happened to me several times. I was driving home on the freeway with the cruise control set at about 100 km/h and all of a sudden the engine lost power and the car started skidding. The message "reduced engine power" appeared on the computer display.


The "Reduced Engine Power" conundrum peaked for 2016-2018 models and involved thousands of customers.

The vehicles allegedly had faulty electronic throttle control and accelerator pedal position sensor.

The class action lawsuit was filed because GM reportedly knew about the defect but failed to inform consumers and recall parts of the vehicle.

Ultimately, the class action lawsuit was dismissed.

For other affected 2005-2015 models, reduced engine power was caused by a variety of issues, including faulty starter motors, faulty fuse blocks, and faulty engine control modules.

There are no product recalls specifically for "Reduced Engine Power" issues.

2. Steering problems

According to Car Problem Zoo, a car owner feedback site, the most commonly reported problem in Malibu falls under the "steering" category, with a total of 5,648 complaints. The most common steering failure was the complete loss of power steering.

Steering issues were greatest on the 2004-2010 models and to a lesser extent on the 2011-2013 models as shown in the table below.

Chevy Malibu
Model year
Control problems

Steering issues plagued the Malibu for a decade, here's what owners had to deal with:

  • Total loss of power steering
  • Steering wheel locked while driving
  • While driving, the vehicle loses power steering at random times
  • Can't steer


The Malibu had a lot of steering issues, fortunately there were also calls to fix the issues.

One of the most high-profile recalls affected 1.3 million General Motors vehicles, including 2004 and 2005 models and some 2006 and 2008-2009 Malibus models.

The NHTSA pointed out that "in the event of loss of power steering, steering the vehicle at low speeds would require more driver effort, increasing the risk of an accident."

In most cases, GM will replace the power steering motor, steering column, power steering motor control unit, or a combination of the steering column and power steering motor control unit.

Customers who have previously paid for the repair of these parts will be entitled to a refund.

To see if you've been affected by the recall, run a VIN check on the NHTSA website.

3. "Shift to park" problem.

A very common problem with the Chevy Malibu is that the car fails to recognize that the shift lever is in Park and displays the message "Shift to Park", resulting in the owner being unable to turn off the vehicle (headlights, radio, etc.) leads to battery discharge problems.

The "Shift to Park" problem has plagued Malibu for years, and there is no shortage of dissatisfied customers all over the internet.

This issue was most commonly reported on 2018, 2017 and 2016 models and to a lesser extent on 2019, 2015 and 2014 models.

Here is how several owners describe the problem:

“When I put the transmission in park, the instrument panel screen tells me to put the gear into park. I can turn off the engine but not turn off the electrical system, which ends up draining the battery. The gear is in park but the steering column switch is not working properly.

“For almost a year, my vehicle has been signaling to go into park mode, but it is in park mode. This happens regularly. I shouldn't be sitting there fiddling with the shifter to turn it off. This caused my battery to die and now my gearbox is slipping. This is a known issue with several models and is becoming a major concern for me."


A class-action lawsuit has been filed against GM because they allegedly refused to fix a fault affecting hundreds of thousands of its vehicles affected by the "Shift to Park" error - this includes the Malibu, Volt and Blazer.

A quick fix to this is to move the shifter back and forth until the car recognizes it is parked, or repeatedly force it from low to park until it is recognized.

Chevrolet issued a Technical Service Bulletin regarding this issue, stating that the problem is caused by an electrical disconnect between the shift lever and the vehicle's ECU.

The adjustment dealers will need to make is adding a jumper to the Shift Harness in line.

The TSB also states that after this repair, if the "Shift to Park" message is still displayed, the dealer should replace the shift assembly.

Some owners also paid out-of-pocket for repairs that included replacing the shift assembly.

Note: The TSB is a guide for mechanics on how to fix a problem, but is not a free fix per se, unlike a recall.

4. Fuel pump relay failure

A common problem on the 2011 and 2012 Chevy Malibu is fuel pump relay failure.

The main function of the fuel pump relay is to give the fuel pump enough power, if the fuel pump relay is not working, the fuel pump can't either.

Failure of the fuel pump relay caused many drivers to stop while driving, unable to restart the car.


We haven't been able to find any specific solutions to this issue, although it has been linked to wiring issues that cause the trunk fuse box to heat up, as well as the fuel pump relay to overheat and fail.

5. Transmission failure

According to, the Chevy Malibu's worst problem is transmission failure, which occurred after about 100,000 miles.

Typically, a transmission can be expected to last at least 200,000 miles.

Premature transmission failure was widely reported in the following Malibu model years:

  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009

The owners reported that they were driving and the car suddenly lost power, here is the account of one of the owners:

“A car with 91,000 miles and a gearbox completely self-destructs. Cannot be repaired due to damage. This is a KNOWN issue with this vehicle and transmission. It had to be replaced by my local Chevy dealer.


In most cases, owners will have to pay for a gearbox replacement or rebuild, which can exceed $3,000.

In September 2012, GM issued a subpoena to rectify issues with a faulty transmission cable, although the transmission problems were not solely due to the flimsy cable.

In most cases, the problem is caused by excessive offset causing excessive stress on the corrugated sheets.

Some owners have avoided transmission failure by replacing the plates before reaching 90,000 miles on the odometer - which can be done relatively cheaply.

6. The dipped headlights do not work

Most commonly reported on the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 Chevy Malibus, thousands of owners have filed complaints about faulty low beam headlights.

The problem is exacerbated by the design of the car, where you have to almost completely remove the entire front (bumper) of the car to replace the headlights.

What the owners experienced is listed below:

"Dipped headlights go out even after replacing them"

“The headlights burn out multiple times! This happens randomly on both sides when the car is turned off. On average, 1 to 6 months between headlight changes.”

“The dipped headlight on the passenger side keeps going out and needs to be replaced every six months or less. Very expensive for the design.”


In some cases, headlight problems have been linked to a short circuit in the headlight harness, accompanied by a blown low beam fuse.

However, some owners have reported replacing the entire harness, only to have the problems return after about a month.

Replacing the headlights is only a short-term solution.

On, one premium member shared his thoughts on this very common problem:

  • The problem is almost always with the headlamp housing wiring harness.
  • Corrosion builds up on the metal contacts, which increases the resistance to current flow.
  • It doesn't require a lot of resistance in a high current circuit like headlights to produce A LOT of localized heating, resulting in melting of the plastic connectors and poor electrical conductivity.
  • You can get high temperature braids that don't melt as easily, but most importantly, use dielectric silicone gel on the metal contacts to displace water.
  • The same will probably happen with the second headlight.
  • Also, the fuse does NOT trip because the circuit is not overloaded.

7. The car does not start and the anti-theft light is on

The owners complained about problems with the anti-theft system, which were accompanied by problems with the ignition and engine. This was widely reported on 1999-2004 Malibu models.

Basically, the anti-theft system prevents the car from starting, which has resulted in many owners being stranded or late for work, etc.

Here's what the owners had to say:

"Tired of waiting ten minutes for the car to start and now it acts like it won't start at all, it's sooooo annoying, there should be a cancellation!"

“The car doesn't start often. It happens more often when I'm running errands. I'll run to the store or the post office, leave, and the car won't start. I will have to sit down and wait a few minutes then try to restart the car. It was a real pain and may be a security issue. "


In many cases, replacing the ignition cylinder, ignition switch and lock sensor solves the problem.

8. Auto stop/start function cannot be disabled

While not a problem in itself, many Malibu owners find the engine's Auto Start-Stop feature particularly frustrating and irritating.

This feature automatically shuts down and restarts the engine to reduce the amount of time the engine spends idling to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

One of the main complaints about A.S.S is that it cannot be permanently disabled.


There are a few hacks that disable A.S.S, although these can affect your vehicle's warranty, so do so at your own risk.

For Malibu 2016 - 2019:

  1. Turn off the car
  2. Raise the hood
  3. There is an electrical connector right next to where the bonnet latch is located
  4. Disconnect this connector
  5. Protect both female and male end to prevent water damage
  6. Close the bonnet

Other owners have had success with the "Hitch Stop Eliminator", which is a plug & play device.

The device remembers when the Auto Start/Stop feature is turned off and automatically retains your preference for this feature.

9. Poor visibility

Both car critics and owners criticized the Malibu for its limited visibility, both front and rear.

Despite having a good-sized cabin with plenty of room for passengers, the Malibu has poor outward visibility compared to most competitors.

This was partly attributed to the A-pillars being thickened and moved slightly forward for better crash safety performance.

This has been a topic of debate for models produced from 2011 up to the latest models.


Unfortunately, nothing can be done about it.

Top 9 Chevrolet Malibu Problems (Explained) - Engine Patrol (2)


Advantages and disadvantages of the Chevrolet Malibu

If you are considering the Chevrolet Malibu as your next car, you may be wondering what its strengths and weaknesses are…


  • Comfortable interior
  • Nice driving behavior
  • Spacious cabin
  • Good safety equipment
  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • Large trunk
  • Handsome exterior


  • Not as well equipped as some of its competitors, especially in the lower versions
  • Weak engine
  • Driver's aids are charged extra
  • Poor visibility to the rear
  • The basic model is very simple
  • Unrefined auto start/stop
  • It looks and feels cheap inside

Reliability of the Chevrolet Malibu compared to similar cars

Consumer Reports ranks the Chevrolet Malibu 7th with a score of 21/100.

Make and modelConsumer ReportsReliability rating
Toyota Camry86
Honda Accord84
Ford Fusion47
Hyundai Sonata45
Kia Optima45
Chevrolet Malibu21

Source: Consumer Reports

The value in use of the Chevrolet Malibu

We looked at Car Gurus to assess the resale value of the Chevrolet Malibu, below are typical asking prices for each model year.

According to Car Edge, the Chevrolet Malibu will lose 27% in value after 5 years and its resale value after 5 years will be $20,345.

Note: Pricing for used models will vary by trim level.

Model yearMileage (miles)resale price
20214927620 796 $
20206437419 461 $
20195863219 988 $
201870 91818 777 $
20174505817 997 $
20167661218 990 $
20157706414 900 $

Source: Car Guru

What do owners like and dislike about the Chevrolet Malibu?

Based on owner feedback from Kelley Blue Book, here's what real owners love and hate about the Chevrolet Malibu.


  1. Driving pleasure
  2. Reliable car
  3. Security features
  4. Minimum maintenance requirements
  5. Spacious interior
  6. Elegant

Does not like

  1. Not so responsive
  2. No side camera
  3. Relatively small engine size
  4. Minor mechanical problems

Owner reviews

“Excellent car with power when you need it! Great gas mileage! I average 39 miles per gallon. Very smooth ride, spacious interior and I just love the infotainment screen! The car drives very well.”

Source: Kelley Blue Book

"High crash rate, low weight (3,100 lbs), responsive 1.5L engine, excellent entry-level sedan with the flexibility to meet the demands of any driver."

source: Edmunds

"Excellent fit and finish, I have the LT version and the mpg petrol is within spec."

source: Edmunds

Related:How long does a Chevrolet Malibu last? (11 important facts)

How reliable are Chevrolet cars?

According to a recent report by Consumer Reports, Chevrolet is ranked 14th among the 28 brands of the most reliable automakers, with a score of 48/100.

19hurry up43

Source: Consumer Reports



Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Last Updated: 19/08/2023

Views: 6475

Rating: 5 / 5 (70 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Birthday: 1996-05-19

Address: Apt. 114 873 White Lodge, Libbyfurt, CA 93006

Phone: +5983010455207

Job: Legacy Representative

Hobby: Blacksmithing, Urban exploration, Sudoku, Slacklining, Creative writing, Community, Letterboxing

Introduction: My name is Merrill Bechtelar CPA, I am a clean, agreeable, glorious, magnificent, witty, enchanting, comfortable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.