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really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
55,966 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Chevrolet Malibu engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Chevrolet Malibu Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #24

Nov 172012

Malibu 6-cyl

  • 6,500 miles


The car was purchased in November of 2012 in Washington. On the drive from Washington to Missouri, the car would not start after the engine was off. After waiting three days for the mechanic in a small South Dakota town, he "fixed" it in ten minutes. The "solution" of keeping the engine on for ten minutes, turning to off, and then starting it again is only a temporary fix to a very real problem. This problem is so real and obvious that the ten minute solution is included in the owner's manual (why that instead of fixing it, I'm not really sure...) the problem has persisted intermittently for the last year and a half, anywhere from two to eight times a month- until this last month. I began keeping track on a calendar the number of times the car would fail to work - 26 times in five weeks. This is beyond annoying. The problem would be even worse if it were not for the fact that I am a teacher and the last week of school was the first week in these five weeks. Now that I am out for the summer, many days now I stay at home, thus reducing the chance of the car failing to work as I am not using it. That last week of school, it "stalled" every single day. Two days ago, it quit working four times in one day. I have been late for work, church, and other obligations. I have been stranded in dark parking lots late at night. Alone. This is not a problem anyone should have to worry about. I drive as infrequently as I possibly can now, and was fervently praying that my car would start after filling it up with gas this morning. This is a known problem. I was hoping the most recent recalls would affect this car and when typing "2003 Malibu recalls, " into a search engine, while no recalls were shown, web site and forums aplenty all came up, with multiple complaints about this singular problem of this singular car. It is a known safety problem. Why is there no recall?

- Bremerton, WA, USA

problem #23

Jun 102010


  • 75,000 miles
Car failed to start. A local mechanic was aware of the problem that GM was having with the Malibu's. he showed me how to turn the key to on for 10 minutes and then the theft light would stop blinking and you could then start the car. This past year it has been happening about daily or every 5 to 6 times that you go to start the car. Mostly on short trips of less than 2 miles. I contacted 2 local Chevy dealers and they claim to know nothing about the problem! I have been told to bring it in and they would check it out - at a charge. What if this happened in an area that was not safe for my family or me - we could not start the car and would have to just sit there for 10 minutes!

- Harrisburg, PA, USA

problem #22

Oct 012013

Malibu 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 139,126 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Chevrolet Malibu. The contact stated that upon inspection, the engine coolant was found to have mixed with the engine oil when the dip stick was pulled to check the engine oil. The contact also mentioned that the vehicle stalled without warning and had to be towed to the contact's residence. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic, who stated that the engine had to be replaced. The manufacturer was notified. The failure and current mileage was 139,126. Updated 01/28/14 the consumer stated the intake manifold was defective. Updated 04/21/14 updated 06/30/14

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #21

Jan 012011


  • 100,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Chevrolet Malibu. The contact stated that while driving 25 mph, the vehicle over heated abnormally. The failure was recurring. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where the contact was advised that a module failed. The vehicle was repaired however, the failure recurred. The vehicle was taken to the contact's personal mechanic who advised that the head gasket was defective. The vehicle was not further repaired. The failure mileage was 100,000. The current mileage was112,000.

- Magnolia, AR, USA

problem #20

Aug 032010


  • 50,000 miles
For years, car stalls while driving and can not be re-started, or more frequently, just won't start. No warning except a fine, dim red anti-theft system light which is unlikely to be noticed at all, and certainly not immediately. Can happen several times per day, or can go two weeks without a problem. Short term remedy is reliable if inconvenient and in some situation, dangerous; with car in "park, " turn off all system, turn on ignition switch but do not start, do not disturb for at least en minutes. System will then be reset. There is evidence that this problem had multiple causes. Got partial, temporary improvement (less frequent failure) by replacing defective ds lock switch, which is also used to program that locking system features. Because the users is supposed to initiate locking system programming by holding the switch closed, and the lock was sticking closed and opening unpredictably, it was surely creating inputs not anticipated by the system's programmers. I believe the ignition switch system, including the interface with the transmission selector system, is still causing this problem, and frequency of occurrence increases. Have not found satisfactory solution. Can't afford the $400 dealer says it will cost for (possible) fix, ambiguous explanations make me doubt the dealer really understands the cause. No actual property damage or crash yet, but obviously risk is high when car suddenly stall in traffic.

- Sandusky, OH, USA

problem #19

Jun 162009

Malibu 6-cyl

  • miles
I have a 2003 Chevy Malibu and I had to get a gasket replaced due to the possibility of anti-freeze leaking into the oil. I've been told the problem will happen at about 77,000 miles. One person created a website about this problem. If not fixed it would cause massive problems for the car.

- Ankeny, IA, USA

problem #18

Mar 062009


  • 118,000 miles


Engine cutsoff while driving causing the car to lose power and come to a complete stop.

- Westland, MI, USA

problem #17

Mar 032009


  • 72,000 miles
I have a 2003 Chevy Malibu with approx 72,000 miles that has been leaking antifreeze (small visible marks on pavement) that require refilling coolant every 3 to 4 weeks. I took the car in for a diagnosis, and it was found to have a leak around the intake manifold. The price estimate is $878 and 7 hours to repair. There was a class action lawsuit against dexcool for this problem, but window for claims ended on Oct. 2008. I spoke with GM dealership, and there is no GM recall for this issue, even though there are many cars with this problem (leaky intake manifold gasket). Will have work done, but unhappy with the cost involved.

- Overland Park, KS, USA

problem #16

Jan 042009


  • 51,000 miles
I own a 2003 Chevrolet Malibu with 51,000 miles on it. I was checking my oil when the dip stick showed it a quart low. I then checked the engine coolant and discovered the oil had gotten into the coolant. I took it to a mechanic and he confirmed that the coolant had oil in it. He said the manifold gaskets had to be replaced which included flushing the cooling system. I know GM doesn't care about our problems with their sorry built car. The total cost of the repair was over $600. This is the first car that I have ever owned that a manifold or head gasket had to be replaced.

- Chattanooga, TN, USA

problem #15

Jul 152008


  • 85,000 miles
After engine coolant light coming on and reservoir being almost empty service station added coolant. Same thing happened approx 2 months later same action taken. Went to get oil changed and person said don't waste your money because you have oil mixed with your radiator fluid, you have some major engine problems. Took car to my local mechanic and he said this was a common problem on the 2003 Malibu and that the manifold gasket was the problem and needed to be replaced. He replaced it at great expense to myself, and he did make the comment that there is a design flaw with this particular part.

- Reedsburg, WI, USA

problem #14

Nov 152008

Malibu 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,500 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Chevrolet Malibu. While driving approximately 5 mph, the anti-freeze warning indicator illuminated on the instrument control panel. The contact pulled back into the driveway and noticed that the reservoir was empty. He had to refill the vehicle with anti-freeze. Approximately one month later, the reservoir was almost empty again and he had to refill the vehicle with anti-freeze. In January of 2009, the vehicle was driven to a local repair shop for an oil change and the mechanic stated that there was some anti-freeze on the engine due to the manifold gasket being defective. The vehicle was not repaired. The dealer and the manufacturer were not notified. The current mileage was 79,000 and failure mileage was 78,500. Updated 2/5/09 the consumer was informed the gasket was made out of plastic that was the reason for the failure. Updated 02/10/09.

- Warren, OH, USA

problem #13

Jan 072007


  • 46,000 miles
I own a 2003 Chevy mailbu. I have had numerous problems with the anitfreeze draining out. I have had it in the shop a couple times and have had the manifold intake gasket replaced. This was very expensive for a single mom on a budget. The problem still persists. I have also started having problems with the theft system light coming on and preventing the car from starting. I can turn it to "on" and get it started after 10 minutes, but this is bothersome when I am in a hurry. I think that GM should have these problems under recall and pay to have them fixed.

- Linden, AL, USA

problem #12

May 122008


  • 91,000 miles
2003 mailbu 6 cy. I just had $1,300 car repair that could have been avoided if GMC would have recalled all cars that have the antifreeze with acid in it. This is a repair that they are fighting in a class action law suit blaming the drivers when our books state no changing antifreeze for 150,000 miles. In stead they are putting people who bought american made cars have this unnecessary expense. This is money that I had to borrow and now find some way to pay back so that I may continue to work. This shouldn't even be a law suit. They should own to their mistake and make good the error that they made.

- Middleburg, OH, USA

problem #11

May 102008


  • 50,000 miles
You can add my name to the list of individuals shelling out an excessive amount of money to replace what appear to be defective parts and/or manufacturing designs in the 2003 Chevy Malibu. We purchased the car new in Feb 2003 and repair costs to date are in excess of $2,000 and the car only has 52,000 miles on it. First, the brakes and rotors needed placed after about 40,000 miles (most of which were interstate driving)...cost was over $300. Next, we were getting the car repaired after an incident with a deer and the mechanic informed us that coolant was starting to leak into the engine because of a faulty intake manifold cost almost $1,000. Finally, my wife was recently stranded because the fuel pump cost $1,000. All of these incidents occurred within the past 6 months. By far the most frustration thing is that all these items appear to be very common failures with this make and model made by Chevrolet and there has yet to be any recalls...very disappointing. My entire experience has continued to snowball ever since we had issues with getting the dealership to fix items that were still under warranty. General Motors seems to be more focused on earning profits that compete with the foreign producers rather than taking care of their current customers. If things don't change, the company will have very limited repeat customers.

- Bettendorf, IA, USA

problem #10

Aug 012005


  • 50,000 miles
I have been informed that I need a new intake manifold gasket. I was told that GM went to a cheap cam shaft and intake gasket on most of the 3.1 to 3.8 litre V6 engines about 7 years ago and that over 90% of these engines have a leaking intake gasket which causes the cheap cam shaft to rust and then break destroying the engine. I was told that this happens between 50,000 and 90,000 miles on these engines, that there are no replacement engines available in the salvage yards and that GM continues to produce this defective product. Now im looking at approx. $600 to replace just the intake manifold gasket. I don't think that I should have to foot this bill to replace a problem that GM has known about for a long time and refuses to correct.

- West Milton, OH, USA

problem #9

Apr 292008

Malibu 6-cyl

  • 71,000 miles
The car has died at night in not a very good side of town and would not start on 10/07. Had it towed and they found the intake manifold gasket damaged $1,000. Feb 08 car would not start after work. 10 miles away from home. Had the car towed back to Firestone thinking it was the same thing instead the anti-theft system had caused the car not to start. 4/08 car again would not start after work. Please force GM to take responsibility for their vehicles malfunctions before some one gets hurt because of the anti theft system.

- Arlington, TX, USA

problem #8

Dec 072007

Malibu 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,000 miles
My 2003 Chevy Malibu had died on me 3 times while I was driving it and would not restart. Twice I had it towed to the dealership (jba in glen burnie, md) and they cannot find a problem with it. I can't drive it, because I have a 45 minute commute to work and cannot afford to keep having it towed.

- Pasadena, MD, USA

problem #7

May 012007

Malibu 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles
I have a 2003 Chevy Malibu, the coolant started to slowly leak out, then proceeded to leak faster within a few weeks, we couldn't see where the coolant was going. I called my older brother every weekend, and his 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix was in the shop getting a new engine installed, his Grand Prix, and my Chevy Malibu have the same engine, I asked what happened, and he said that his coolant started leaking, he couldn't see where it was going so he took it into the shop, and the mechanic told him that a common problem with these vehicles made by GM was that the lower intake manifold gasket is faulty. I have looked it up on line, and there is a class action law suit in Canada against GM for this problem, as well many people say (including my mechanic) that the dex cool is very bad for you vehicle. Anyway, my brother got his car to the mechanic too late, and after shelling out 700 to fix the lower intake manifold gasket, he ended up having to pay 5900 to replace his 2001 Grand Prix engine. As it turns out my Malibu had the same problem with the lower intake manifold gasket, we have yet to replace it, it is worthless, the mechanic who is Chevy certified, said that the coolant has gotten into our oil, and the engine is worthless, we don't have the 5900 to shell out for a new engine. I have contacted GM twice, the first time I talked to a representative on the phone, and he said that he doesn't know why they are not recalling the gasket, it is a known problem, but they aren't going to recall it, the second time I talked to them they told me that they will not discuss the matter with me any further. I am a single mom with three kids, and a full time job, and full time school, I have a car that when I bought it the salesman talked me into, he told me "a Malibu will last you a very long time, " as it sits in my parking lot while I am left riding the bus, and making payments on a car that does not run, due to a problem that GM knows about.

- Mesa, AZ, USA

problem #6

Jan 272006

Malibu 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,000 miles
: the contact stated at 75 mph, the vehicle stalled without warning. The vehicle coasted to the side of the road and after a half an hour, it restarted. The dealership was unable to duplicate the problem and there are no codes on the computer.

- Deltona, FL, USA

problem #5

Aug 022004

Malibu 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Vehicle experienced sudden stalling at various speeds. Took vehicle to the dealer for checkup, but the cause was undetermined at this time.

- Louisville, KY, USA

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