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pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
127,025 miles
Total Complaints:
10 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (8 reports)
  2. replace thermostat (2 reports)
2003 Chevrolet Malibu cooling system problems

cooling system problem

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2003 Chevrolet Malibu Owner Comments

problem #10

Jul 142015

Malibu V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 170,000 miles


My 2003 Chevy Malibu has always had the coolant light on, even if we just filled it. It is draining somewhere that we cannot see. We have checked almost everywhere to see where it could be leaking outside so I'm assuming its an internal leak. It didn't start running hot until about 3 weeks ago and we have changed the thermostat and the water pump and still having the same issue. I can't drive past 45 mph without it overheating or past 10 minutes. From the other complaints about the same problems I have read with the same vehicles I'm guessing its not worth me putting any more money into this vehicle.

There really should be a recall on the entire vehicle if so many people are having the same problems. I know I cannot afford to just go out and get another vehicle or I would. If anyone has figured out how to fix this overheating problem please help I'm am desperate now and don't feel safe driving my children in this car but I have no choice. Please someone help!!!

- , Havelock, NC, USA

problem #9

May 112015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

Can I say that this 2003 brand new Chevy Malibu has been a money pit since I drove it off the lot with 8 miles on it. The car would make noises when I turned the air condition on. I thought this was because it was new and just needed to be blown out. I have replaced numerous thermostats, fans, radiator, hoses, cat. converter, had major engine work done because the head gasket had a crack that allowed oil to leak into my coolant tank.

I have to replace brake pads frequently. The lighter never worked.

Now, once again, I am experiencing my car overheating within 5 minutes of driving it. If I turn the heat on the fans will kick in and allow the car to cool down or getting on the highway for a long drive will cause the fan to kick in. I have noticed this is a common problem with these vehicles. Can we not all get together and demand Chevy reimburse us or fix everything on these vehicles. I have paid for this ride 3x's due to constant repairs. Any suggestions....could it be electrical?

- , Winston Salem, NC, USA

problem #8

Sep 082014

Malibu 3.1L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 256,000 miles

I was stranded on the road on numerous occasions because it kept overheating. Now mind you in the 6 years I owned the damn car this was the 5th thermostat I had put in . But, oh no,....that wasn't simple enough ....You must follow me to my next complaint to find out why I am on here bitching and moaning and my car is outside sitting on blocks being taken apart slowly for the few remaining good parts it still has fricking left!!!!!!!!!!!!

- , Pearcy, AR, USA

problem #7

May 152013

Malibu 3.1L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,000 miles


My damn car has been in the shop for the last 2 months . this is after having a new thermostat put in because that was obviously why it was running hot...smdh...after that it ran even hotter. after further inspection realized the fan in front of the motor had gone out so there wasn't anything cooling the motor down . so not only did an idiot put my thermostat in without bleeding the lines he didn't fully check the car to make sure nothing else was wrong with it before bringing it home !

- , Pearcy, AR, USA

problem #6

Apr 152012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 91,400 miles

Hello, well I have an overheating problem so I changed water pump had it flushed replaced thermostat and I have this nasty black yuck in my reservoir it wont go away some one give me a clue please.

- , bellingham, WA, USA

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problem #5

Dec 152011

Malibu 3.1L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,200 miles

Hello – To whom it may concern

I like to say the 2003 Malibu overheating is a common problem, between the two I own. I just bare with the problem, but use a simple trick to prevent losing coolant. Generally, the problem occurs right after I come off the highway traveling at 65 MPH or better for a long period. As soon as I hit the local street or a traffic jam up on the highway, I can see my temperature gauge creep past the midway normal line. It certainly overheats quickly if I get stuck in stand still traffic for more than 5 minutes on the highway. My trick is as some people might know, is to turn on the car heater to expel the excess heat, into the passenger area. Yes I have to open the windows This helps remove the heat that built up on the engine while at highway speeds. I hate having to do this, yet it's either that or having the pressure cap blow out my coolant. It doesn't take much to understand that while traveling at highway speeds the system is going to get hot. During the hot summer days, it really a problem. Yet in the winter it's a funny things about this badly designed coolant system is I have to insert cardboard over the radiator to drive on the highway, and travel for an hour or so. If I don't do that the heating system barely warms the passenger compartment, and I freeze driving the car, mainly if the outside temperature drops into the single digits. With this winter problem, it hardly melts the snow on the windshield. At times it gets so bad I have to pull over and clear the snow from the wipers.

Up to now I haven't done anything to correct the problem except bare with it. However, I thought about getting the thermostat replace and get one with a higher trigger temperature for the winter, but feel I might risk over heating more often.

As far as the overheating, I've come to know that the electric fans are not doing the job of venting the heat. They are totally inadequate. I can't drive around in the city at 25 to 30 MPH with stop and go traffic for than 30 minutes from the time I start the car to the point it starts to over heat. That's about when I have to turn on the car's heater. Yes even in the winter where the outside temperature is above 30 degrees. Once I can gain enough speed around 40, the overheating stops, and if I can get to at least 50, the temperature will drop back down. Like I said I own two of these cars. They both do the same. The only reason I have the second one is that I got it very cheap, and it only had 75K. The other one I got, had 56K when I bought it, and today it now has 198K wow... And except for the overheating, it run good. At highways speeds it gives no problem at 65 in the summer. However, in the winter its runs cold and I need to place the card board. Now if there is a better electric fan I can replace the current ones with, I know the over heating will go away, and then I would get a thermostat with a higher rating.

- , North Bergen, NJ, USA

problem #4

Nov 182010

Malibu Sedan 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles


I bought my Chevy Malibu thinking that this car was a good bc it was a gas saver and i could use that mentioning the fact that I was driving back and forth to school about an hour away from home..... needless to say, this car really is a piece of crap. lucky I've had friends and family to get me to school. The car first started to overheat so i had a mechanic fix it by replacing the water pump not long after the car fuel pump went out I had the same mechanic replace that ass well. The car drove for a few months before it over heated again so the same mechanic replaced the motor in it. Again the car purred like a kitten until it started over heating again now by this time I cant seem to figure out what else can be wrong with this car bc I've replaced the main parts already this time the same mechanic fixed the fans. Basically I've had the exact same mechanic fix this car for the past 3 years and i continue to have the same freakin problems. i started to think it was him honestly but needless to say I've replaced the thermostat the theft system the motor the water pump and fuel pump o and the fans some parts more then once.. the mechanic thinks its me and I'm crazy cus this car has all the problems even wen i take it to place like goodyear they look at it for like a few sec and say its the water pump... in my my mind I'm thinking no cant be I've REPLACED IT 2 within 1YEAR GET real................... This car has really made me hate chevy I WILL NEVER BUY another chevy bc YU SUCK plain and simple IF yur thinkin about buying a malibu bc it looks good LEAVE IT ALONE its not the car for yu and chevy wont even do a recall most of yu have said it best this car deserves one thing to be beaten with a bat until yu cant beat it no more then JUNK IT like the piece of crap that it is ......... F trying to put a little work into a car ALL the money Ive invested into this car hell I've could have had another one buy now I really wish i would have found this site sooner because i promise yu i would not have bought this piece of sh*t car ......... all in all I've spent about 6,000 in repairs but payed only 3,200 for the car that's 9,200 on a new car so again thank yu chevy Its hard trying to get on top wen dealers like chevy are on your side. This car pours antifreeze like crazy and it takes the most expensive antifreeze i hate my car with a passion to this day I still have car matter of fact it quit once again today but im done im not putting another dime in this vehicle its gotten so bad the mechanic put it on a toggle switch by the way that is basically a switch that's inside my car for me to turn off and on my fans for when i drive it so it regulates the temp control this car SUCKSSSSSSSSSSS i cant say it enough

- , Louisville, KY, USA

problem #3

Jun 142011


  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,653 miles

Last week someone told to my attention that the car was leaking as I was idling at a gas station, I looked at the temperature gauge and noticed it was 3 lines above normal heat index, so the day after after diagnose of bad water pump because of the water coming out of pump shaft, I replaced it with a little help from my brother and the car ran good for about a week, very happy since It cost me only 35 dollars in parts, but sure enough exactly 8 days after replacement it started to overheat and the coolant was gone, filled it up with water and it ran locally fine but today again i started to overheat, what do I do? Is this going to be another of these permanent problems that make people go mad? or the fix for it I thank u in advance.

Thank you.

Drive ON!!!

- , Newburgh, NY, USA

problem #2

Apr 262011

Malibu 3.1L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

Looks like I'm in the same boat as many other people... overheating of the Malibu V6 3.1. Changed thermostat, water pump, radiator, bottle, flushed, and fans are working normally; but the darn thing still gets hot and shuts off! Why GM??? Why???

- , Brandon, FL, US

problem #1

Mar 012010

Malibu LS 3.4L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

CAr is overheating, changed water pump, thermostat, harmonic balancing sensor, reservoir tank. Now looking at radiator. also belt keeps shredding.

- , Peoria, AZ, US

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