Chevy Malibu Problems: 9 Most-Common Issues (Explained)

Are you considering a Chevrolet Malibu? If so, you should know the mid-size sedan is affordable, comfortable, and handles well on the road.

We previously looked at how long the Chevy Malibu lasts and some interesting facts and statistics about the Malibu models. Now it’s time to look at some of the most-common problems people have.

But like all vehicles, it is known for a few common issues.

Check out the 9 most common issues with the Chevy Malibu below and the possible solutions.

Before we start: Make sure to check our list of the best and worst Chevy Malibu years.

Failed Passlock Sensor

In the Chevy Malibu model years 1997 to 2016, a passlock sensor failure is an issue and is a common complaint.

When this sensor fails, the vehicle will not start, or drivers might have problems with the vehicle’s anti-lock system.

With either of these issues, it might be impossible for the vehicle to be started.

Probable Causes and Solutions

Usually, replacing the ignition lock cylinder and the passlock sensor fixes the problem.

Power Door Lock Problems

Power door lock problems affect the 2009 Malibu most often, but the issue has been reported in other models as well. Symptoms of this problem include locks that won’t unlock or lock on command.

Neither the keyfob nor manually trying to lock or unlock the doors will work.

Usually, the problem happens in the summer months when the temperature is hot. When the weather cools off, the windows will begin working again. But, in the meantime, you won’t be able to lock the vehicle and might have problems with the anti-theft system.

Probable Causes and Solutions

When the doors don’t lock or unlock when they are supposed to, it’s usually a faulty door lock component.

Replacing the faulty door lock component will fix the problem.

If left unresolved, you might find yourself locked out of the car, or unable to start the car because of an issue with the vehicle’s security.

Turn Signal Switch Failure

A turn signal switch failure symptom involves the turn signal or hazard lights continuing to flash after it has been turned off.

The problem is most common in Malibu models from 1997 to 2006 and the 2010 model.

It’s possible to temporarily correct the issue by wiggling the signal switch, but it will not fix the problem. And, could continue to happen intermittently.

Probable Causes and Solutions

The best way to fix this problem is to replace the turn signal switch. Once the issue starts to happen, it will progressively occur more often.

Eventually, the turn signal might not work at all.

Broken Front Coil Spring

1999 Chevy Malibu owners have reported banging and clunking noises while turning. The sound may also occur when you accelerate or stop suddenly.

It’s an alarming sound that shouldn’t be ignored.

Probable Causes and Solutions

If you hear a banging or clunking sound coming from your Chevy Malibu, it could be a problem with the vehicle’s front coil springs. A professional mechanic can diagnose the problem for you for sure.

If this is the cause of the sound, replacing the front coil and struts should fix the issue.

Headlights Burning Out Quickly

A common problem with the 2009 Chevy Malibus is the headlights burning out quickly and issues with low beam lights.

The problem can be gradual, or come on suddenly. There are a few reasons this may happen.

Probable Causes and Solutions

The first thing to check is the sedan’s wiring harness connector and headlight assembly or switch.

Both of these components are prone to having loose wires or shorting out.

Replacing these components will usually solve the problem of the headlights burning out too quickly or any problems with the low beam lights. If the problem isn’t corrected, you could find yourself without any lights.

Power Steering Malfunctions While Driving

Owners of a 2004 Malibus reported problems with the vehicle’s power steering around 81,000 miles.

Drivers reported the power steering failed intermittently or would stop working completely while driving. 

If the power steering fails, the Malibu could be difficult and unsafe to drive.

Probable Causes and Solutions

The first thing a Malibu owner should do if you suspect a problem with the power steering is to check the power steering fluid.

If the power steering fluid is fine and the problem is still happening, it’s likely a more serious power steering issue.

The best way to correct this issue is to replace the vehicle’s steering column.

Key Stuck in Ignition

A common issue with the automatic transmission Chevy Malibus from the years 1997 to 2016 is that the key gets stuck in the ignition. The problem usually occurs around 100,000 miles.

If the key is stuck in the ignition, you won’t be able to lock the car and could have issues with the vehicle’s security system.

Probable Causes and Solutions

If the ignition key gets stuck in the ignition lock cylinder, it could be a problem with the vehicle’s automatic transmission shifter.

The most common fix for this sedan is to replace the ignition lock cylinder. 

If you continue to have issues with the key getting stuck in the ignition, you will want to have it diagnosed by a professional.

Unexplained Check Engine Light Due to Gas Cap Issue

No one likes to see a check engine light suddenly turn on. At around 90,000 miles, some Chevy Malibu drivers have experienced an unexplained engine check in model years 1997 to 2016.

A quick diagnostic test can explain the check engine light code.

One common problem that causes this light to turn on is a loose or worn out gas cap.

Probable Causes and Solutions

One reason for an unexplained check engine light in Malibus that meets the criterion is a worn-out gas cap.

Replacing the gas cap will usually take care of the issue. The light could suddenly turn on if the gas cap is loose as well.

If you get a gas cap check engine light, the first thing you should do is remove the gas cap and put it back on making sure to tighten it.

If the engine check light immediately goes off, the cap may not have been put on correctly the last time it was screwed in.

Engine Power Reduced Warning

Malibu drivers have reported an “engine power reduced warning” on the dash followed by a sudden loss of power. The problem can be a lack of acceleration or a total loss of power.

The car issue can be scary when it happens, especially if turning in an intersection or merging onto a highway, but is easily fixed.

Probable Causes and Solutions

According to Chevrolet, this problem is associated with a defect in the electronic throttle control and accelerator pedal sensor. Unlike older Malibus, these car parts aren’t connected by a cable.

Instead, there is an intricate amount of wires that power the system, which can cause an electrical failure.

Replacing the electrical units causing the failure will correct the problem.

A diagnostic test can determine whether the problem is related to the throttle control.

Delayed Acceleration Problems

Not only can delayed acceleration be frustrating, but it can also be dangerous.

When you’re on the freeway and you need to merge, you need to rely on your Malibu to accelerate fast enough to get you in your lane.

Probable Causes and Solutions

There’s a few reasons the Malibu may experience throttle lag. Visiting a Chevrolet dealership for a diagnostic test can help you narrow down the problem and determine whether an additional throttle controller will fix the problem.

Some drivers have been able to correct the problem by adding an additional throttle controller.

Others have replaced the throttle wire controller to eliminate the problem.

General Pros and Cons of the Chevrolet Malibu


  • Adjustable console
  • Great handling
  • Spacious cabin
  • Available in a variety of trims
  • Comfortable ride
  • Excellent infotainment system
  • Affordable
  • Large interior for tall people and families
  • Equipped with advanced technology


  • Failed passlock sensor
  • Power door lock issues
  • Turn signal switch failure
  • Broken front coil spring
  • Key stuck in ignition
  • Loss of engine power
  • Issues with the check engine light
  • Power steering malfunctions unexpectedly
  • Headlights are burning out faster than expected

What Do the Reviews Say?

“The 2022 Chevy Malibu offers good acceleration and a composed ride.”

[Source: Car Connection]

The 2022 Chevrolet Malibu is a four-door coupe and has an overall classy look. The interior is functional and well-organized, which makes it a popular choice for families.

“Although this Chevrolet might not be first in mind when thinking of midsize sedans, the Malibu is good enough to deserve consideration.”

[Source: Autotrader]

The Chevy is best-known for its pick-up trucks and SUVs, but it’s mid-sized Malibu is a great option for those looking for affordability and comfort.

What’s the Resale Value on the Chevrolet Malibu?

Like all mid-size sedans in its class, the Chevy Malibu will begin to depreciate immediately after purchase.

Year Model Mileage Resale Value
2009 Chevy Malibu High $5,299
2011 Chevy Malibu High $6,843
2014 Chevy Malibu Good $8,671
2019 Chevy Malibu Best $15,928
2020 Chevy Malibu Best $21,600

Final Thoughts

The Chevrolet Malibu has a lower starting price than other mid-size sedans in its class, which makes it a budget-friendly, comfortable ride.

Go back to see problems for all Chevrolet models.



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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.