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pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
75,050 miles
Total Complaints:
51 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replaced intake manifold gasket (36 reports)
  2. not sure (7 reports)
  3. re-sealed manifold and replaced water pump (4 reports)
  4. replace intake manifold gasket (3 reports)
  5. replace engine gasket (1 reports)
2003 Chevrolet Malibu cooling system problems

cooling system problem

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2003 Chevrolet Malibu Owner Comments (Page 1 of 3)

problem #51

Feb 202015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 149,000 miles


I have an 03 chevy malibu and I noticed that anti-freeze is leaking out, upon inspection I was told that my intake manifold gaskets needed to be replace at a hefty cost. I understand that GMC knew that this was a forseen fault of theirs and offered a recall in 2008 to some customers but not to all. I was one of those unlucky customers and at that time I didn't have any problems. Is there a possibility that they will re-open their recall and fix the problem?

- ellismd, Greensboro, MD, US

problem #50

Nov 012007

Malibu LS

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

This car was not even 5 years old when the intake gaskets needed to be replaced. I took it to the Chevy dealer and it cost me $1200. Since this issue I have replaced my engine twice. Now there is a gas leak somewhere in the engine so when I start my car, for the first 20 minutes or so there is a strong odor of gasoline inside my vehicle. It is unsafe but I cannot keep affording these repairs and I have two small children that I worry about when traveling with them in the car with me because I never know what to expect out of this car anymore. I just cannot afford to replace the car and the repairs have drained my budget.

- Angel W., Detroit, MI, US

problem #49

Sep 122013

Malibu LS 3.1L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 93,000 miles

This car is absolutely terrible. I owned it for two years and had electrical, cooling, fuel system, exterior and interior accessory problems and engine problems. Did I mention I had to put a new engine in it? And then it started to leak coolant from the intake manifold gasket...I finally traded it in and to be quite honest I didn't really care how much I got for it because I just wanted it gone so badly. If you're looking for a money pit then this car is for you, if you're looking for something reliable than it isn't. I got this car as a gift and I ended up putting more money in it than what it was originally paid for.

- Zachary N., Manorville, NY, US

problem #48

Feb 022012

Malibu 3.1L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 66,000 miles


My daughter purchased this car for herself. we had the motor replaced already now we have the antifreeze problem so many others already stated. I will replace the manifold gasket and see where I am at

- ajlturrf, Calverton, NY, US

problem #47

Dec 282010

Malibu 3.1L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 61,929 miles

  1. The low coolant light came on for a brief time after start up.

    2. Looked at the coolant, say oil.

    3. Took it in, they investigated the problem, said it was the intake manifold gasket. Had the work done.

- Mark B., Kirkland, WA, US

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problem #46

Nov 102010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

This is strictly a malfunction in the plastic portion of the manifold. This is an expensive proposition and could ruin the engine of my car. This is outrageous. GM could care less that they have manufactured malfunctioning vehicles and parts.

I will never ever purchase a gm product again. Too much money. Also, the electric motors on my front windows had to be replaced after 2 years. GM should stand behind the products the way the union stands behind the members of GM. After all, we pay a lot more money for the employee wages than the vehicles are really worth. My car listed for 17,400.00. Today, you couldn't give this car away.

- donnacassidy, Tampa, FL, US

problem #45

Apr 242011

Malibu 3.1L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 111,000 miles


I originally had the coolant flushed because the chevy garage I took it to said I had oil in my antifreeze tank (sludgy, dark, oily), also had the thermostat replaced. my mechanic (not at the chevy/gm garage) told me that's what happens to Dexcool when it breaks down, and its a common problem and can cause major intake system/gasket failures, etc. (shouldn't the gm people have known that it?) my coolant light kept flashing on, mechanic said it might have to do with pH levels, didn't think much of it, coolant seemed fine. two months later, car started to overheat at the start of a two hour trip home, pulled off the side of the interstate to check the fluid, the fluid started to gurgle and burst out the overflow tube, took two hours just to cool it down enough and pour enough fluid in it that I could get it off the interstate. Took it to a garage and had it pressure tested and tore apart, had cracked cylinder/intake gaskets (said there was no head gasket failure) so replaced that and the thermostat, total repairs before warranty coverage was over $1,500.00!. Drove it home, two days later my car over heats, breaks down and I have to have it towed to the garage!, My mechanic told me the water pump was leaking. so I had that replaced, there goes another $120.00. My belts are now squeaky and my car started to overheat again on my way home last night. It tends to teeter between half and the mark or two above half temp (last night it went up to 3/4 mark). This is all within the last two weeks!. I am so sick of problems with the coolant system I am seriously considering getting another car before its paid off. Bought the car at $77,000 miles, now have $111,000 I am looking at replacing the plugs and wires as well. I can't wait until I get it paid off so I can rid myself of it. I've already had to miss a couple days work having to have my car in the repair shop, not to mention the extra trip back to the garage (two hours from my home) to go pick it up, then another two hours back home.

Aside from coolant issues, I've had braking and caliper issues as well.

What else will be next? THESE CARS ARE CRAP!!!

- fuzzybunny, North East, PA, US

problem #44

Mar 012010

Malibu 3.1L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,652 miles

I've been driving an absolutely mint condition 2003 Malibu passed down from my grandfather (so you know its been driven softly, regular maintenance, etc.) for a year. At the 96000km mark I was told by 2 mechanics that there was coolant leaking from the intake manifold gasket. $900 CAD later it was fixed. Same exact thing happened to my old 97 grand am...same engine and 181,000km. Cant figure out why it took GM so long to figure this out.

- csorichetti, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

problem #43

Dec 012009

Malibu LX 3.1L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles

I first noticed the problem when my DEX Cool antifreeze/coolant was empty (bone dry) after filling it up just a few weeks earlier. Supposedly DEX cool should last for 50+ thousand miles (HAHA). So I filled it again. Then, the engine started running really rough. So, I put more DEX Cool in the tank, which promptly leaked out. Took the car to the mechanic and they did a pressure test. Sure enough the gasket was bad. So bad, that it almost didn't exist anymore as it was in 5 or so pieces. With the replaced gasket, replaced radiator cap, and oil change (had mixed with oil), the final cost came to nearly $700. I do not know how auto makers get away without having to pay for these repairs we have to make on products that are inherently crap!

- Eric H., Logan, UT, US

problem #42

Dec 052008

Malibu LS 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,000 miles

After I found out that I had to replace the intake manifold gasket for my vehicle, I saved all my pennies and finally had it done right before Xmas 08. Well wouldn't you know it, I take my car in to get serviced again July 09 only to find out that the Intake Manifold gasket and Water Pump needs to be replaced again. The company I took my car to the first time had worked on a Continental I previously owned so I know the would not have claimed to fix something they did not really fix. Now I'm back to saving pennies and taking out a loan in order to get the parts replaced again. Why isn't this addressed with Chevy or a recall announced.

- malibudiva, Waldorf, MD, US

problem #41

Mar 062008

Malibu 3.1L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,617 miles


As a follow up to my previous posting, I contacted GM Canada (even though I was in Florida for the winter) and they promptly called the Florida Chev dealer that I had been dealing with and approved a warranty replacement for the Intake Manifold Gasket. The only thing GM Canada didn't cover was a coolant system power flush (which I think they should have covered since the damn gasket caused the oil in the coolant in the first place) but nevertheless the day's work cost me $114. instead of the original $1048. I was quoted by the Florida GM dealer for the job. I am somewhat satisfied with GM Canada's response to my problem, but I don't think there will be another Malibu in my driveway ever again!


Zephyrhills, Florida

- Mike D., Zephyrhills, FL, US

problem #40

May 082008

Malibu 3.4L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,000 miles

I bought a 2003 Chevrolet wit only 14 miles on it in 2003. I had to replace the catalytic converter, and back in 2008 a mechanic told me that the intake gasket was leaking and it would cost around $800.00 dollars I notice that there are a lot of complaints of this problem is the Chevrolet dealers doing anything about this!!!! if not they should this a defect in the gaskets cracking belt.

- ritat, Hattiesburg, MS, US

problem #39

Aug 032009

Malibu LS 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 111,299 miles

i bought a 03 malibu and had no problems with it at first but then i was going through brakes like crazy and i have only owned this car since Feb of 08 and i have already been through 3 ssets of brakes. then just last week, july 30, i had to take it to a shop b/c it wouldnt hold water and kept running hot, well go figure i needed a new water pump, so i replaced it $200 dollars later!! then this week i was driving it yesterday aug. 3 and it started running hot again and not holding water, well i took it back to the auto shop and well well i need a complete new intake!!!! that will cost $650, which i have dcecided i will not pay for GM can have this car back and kiss my ass in the process!!! i will go buy me a honda b/c i have never had a problem with them, i dont know why i decided to buy this car in first place. i have had more problems out of it than i have any car before. then the guy at the body shop was telling my it was a problem and that there is or was a lawsuit out to GM because of this problem so guess what GM here i come now!!!!! MAKE BETTER CARS YOU ASSHOLES!!!!!

- dcoleman, Hernando, MS, US

problem #38

May 052009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,000 miles

Leaking intake seal was found during diagnostic evaluation of my car for another problem. This was covered under my extended warranty but would have been about $700.00 if I didn't have the coverage. Funny, that replacement of the fluids wasn't covered! I had noticed that the temperature gauge had been past the middle mark for several weeks, just thought it was needing fluid in the radiator. Warranty for repairs is 12,000 miles or 12 months per the dealership. Don't understand why someone would design an engine that could leak coolant into the oil. I don't drive great distances so this may have saved me additional expense.

- dardenva, Portsmouth, VA, US

problem #37

Mar 192009

Malibu LS

  • Automatic transmission
  • 127,853 miles


- cardenas95691, West Sacramento, CA, US

problem #36

Mar 012009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

Just had this exact same thing repaired a year ago. When the mechanic did the repair he said LOTS of GM owners have this exact same problem and there is a good chance it would have to be replaced again... I was thinking in several years, not months.

No wonder American car companies need a bail-out. No GM for me ever again.

- ryanm527, Joplin, MO, US

problem #35

Feb 012008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

This could have ruined the car. Apparently LOTS of people have had this same problem with several GM model cars. Just google "dexcool".

- ryanm527, Joplin, MO, US

problem #34

Feb 042009

Malibu 3.1L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles

Same as everyone. I figured it was just a really slow leak that's why I didn't notice any puddles. Eventually the performance got really bad and I couldn't ignore it any longer. At least it broke down at tax refund time when I had the cash to pay for it.

- yachem, Parma, MI, US

problem #33

Mar 102008

Malibu LS 3.1L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles

I actually found problem by accident. My coolant reservoir bin is f'd up any time u take cap off it never re thread right and have to buy new. So upon getting that fixed I found out @ Intake problem. I figured I never knew b/c Chevy did most of my repairs before I moved to Florida. Now it has to be fixed b/c its bad, and alot of $$$ 800$$$ to fix it. I already did head gasket, and tried to submit a claim to the dexcool site but no one returned my emails, or calls. So we are all SOL, unless a lawyer feels bad enough to take this on and help us!

- mfblinky, Jacksonville, FL, US

problem #32

Nov 122008

Malibu LS 3100 Model V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,000 miles

click to see larger images

leaking coolant, cracked intake manifold gasket leaking coolant, cracked intake manifold gasket leaking coolant, cracked intake manifold gasket

This whole problem started out with noticing that every 6 months or so I would have to add a little coolant to the holding tank. I never really noticed any spots in the garage I just thought that it may be the water pump leaking a little after it was warmed up , maybe it was getting ready to take a dump. So I went and purchased a new water pump and planned on doing it over the weekend, it didn't look like to bad of a job, everything was pretty much right there at the top where you can get to it. Then my boss at work told me his father's Malibu was in the shop and i asked him why, he said that it was leaking coolant and the mechanic told him it was a bad design of intake manifold gasket that GM never recalled and it was going to cost him about $560 to repair it. (and that guy was a friend) SO I then recalled seeing some greasy looking scum floating around in my coolant reservoir and a light came on, Oh sh*t this coolant was mixing with my engine oil and vise versa. So I didn't have the time or $600 to shell out so of to the parts store I went. I can only make some recommendations on things to do while you have this apart. Change the plugs and wires since it is much easier to access the back plugs when this is all apart. Change the water pump since you have th coolant drained. I hope you don't have to change the stupid belt(thanks for the sh*tty design again GM.) Because it requires that you support the motor with a jack and unbolt the motor mount just to remove this. And I have heard that they recommend replacing the intake manifold bolts when you do this project(and I do mean project,16 hours total for me and I am pretty handy) but I did as many others and Just cleaned these bolts off with acetone and wire wheeled them then put workable strength locktite thread lock and re-installed them. Seems O.K. so far. I also recommend having a digital camera handy when you tear it apart so you can snap some shots to aid in putting it all back together . In case you forget where something goes this works great. Be sure to flush the coolant out at least 3 times when you get this all back together so you get all the crap out of the system before you start running it again. and I would recommend that you change the oil when done and then change it again after a weeks or so of running it. After that get rid of the piece of sh*t before something else breaks. After all it is just a matter of time, I was a GM fan until I got this car, I have seen some of the worst design flaws in my history of working on my vehicles. I hope they do get a recall on this before they go belly up so that the poor bastards (me and you) that bought into this steaming pile of dog sh*t can get some of our money back. Thats all for now, but if I keep this much longer I'm sure I'll be back to write some more and hopefully inform someone who is looking to buy one of these lemons.

- exitxidrummer, Bridgeville, PA, US

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