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really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
90,950 miles
Total Complaints:
7 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace timing components (6 reports)
  2. replace cylinder head (1 reports)
2012 Chevrolet Malibu engine problems

engine problem

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2012 Chevrolet Malibu Owner Comments

problem #7

Feb 012023

Malibu LT 2.4L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 109,500 miles


I'm the original owner of a 2012 Chevrolet Malibu LT that has been very well maintained and has never been in an accident. At 109,500 miles the check engine light came on. I took the car into my local mechanic and they told me the timing tensioner and timing chain/belt need to be replaced. The cost is approximately $2900. I'm so frustrated since I've taken such good care of this car and had all maintenance done as required. It still runs just fine but it won't pass the state inspection with the check engine light on. I assume at some point, the engine will just stop running.

- Kevin D., Dallas, TX, US

problem #6

Feb 052020

Malibu LS 2.4L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

A plastic timing chain guide broke resulting in the timing chain having to be replaced. The $1800 cost included changing the water pump (no issue - just preventative maintenance that would want to be done if the chain is being replace).

Very expensive and not driveable otherwise - no advance notice.

When I buy a car with a timing chain, I think of that as one less thing to worry about - should last the life of the car.

Not the case with my 2012 Malibu.

- David B., Saint Louis, US

problem #5

Jul 022020

Malibu ES Ecotec

  • Automatic transmission
  • 126,000 miles

click to see larger images

timing chain tensioner failure timing chain tensioner failure timing chain tensioner failure timing chain tensioner failure timing chain tensioner failure

I've had my car since 2014 at 9,000 miles, maintained my oil changes parts and details because I really love my car and I had no issues until... I finish paying off my car last year - had about 100,000 miles - and most of my problems started then. I had light bulbs replaced almost every 6 months. My car shut down on me - thank god, a block away from my home. I had my steering wheel lock on me while I was on the highway. My car broke down on the highway.

This has gotten to the point to think is it really worth keeping but I had no choice being that I had no other means of getting another vehicle money-wise, and do not want another car payment. This has been hell with this car, it's like Its just one issue after another. If they have a lawsuit on this ecotec engine then I would like to be reimbursed for my life and livelihood being in jeopardy for their careless acts of manufacturing a product that could potentially cause harm to a human being.

- Britney C., Holtsville, US

problem #4

Nov 192020

Malibu LT 2.4L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,000 miles


Had car at the dealer. They said it needed a new timing chain kit. $2200.00 when the car has been serviced by them as suggested by them but now I have the pain in the bill at 80000 miles.

- Brent R., Des Moines, US

problem #3

Mar 012019


  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

Car simply wouldn’t start......towed to dealer who charged a $160 diagnostic and stated “timing chain loose due to timing chain tensioner failure. Broken chain guide. Bent valves. Cylinder head needs replacement.” $4500 to fix. 😡😡😡😡😡

- diletto , Hamilton, US

problem #2

Mar 182019

Malibu LS V4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,018 miles

Asked when the timing chain should be replaced a few months ago and was just told that it was "good for the life of the vehicle" and now here I am needing to replace it. I wish I knew what the interval should be to replace it so I could have at least saved up.

- Nathan K., Hummelstown, PA, US

problem #1

Oct 012018

Malibu 1LT 2.4L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles

Engine began making a chattering / slapping noise from the passenger side under the valve cover. The noise always occurred between 1500 and 2500 RPM, at high load conditions, i.e. accelerating from a stop.

Removal of the valve cover revealed a severely slack timing chain, a destroyed upper timing chain guide, and pieces of metal and nylon sitting in the cylinder head by the cam towers. Mind you, I've maintained this car since it was purchased new. Ive changed the oil more often than the computer "oil life" algorithm calls for, and Ive ALWAYS used dexos approved oil of the correct viscosity, checking twice a month and adding as necessary.

Quotes others received to repair this problem ranged from $1500 to $2000 from all the things I read online, and seeing how involved this job is, I am not surprised. Thankfully, this was something I was able to fix myself, barely. It was an intimidating job made possible for me only by the internet and a good ol' Haynes manual. I paid approximately $400 for parts and an inch/lb precision torque wrench I did not have.

Upon pulling the timing cover from the front of the engine, I found more chunks of broken timing chain guide, pulverized nylon, and metal shavings that had been circulating in the timing case for God knows how long. Otherwise, the engine was squeaky clean and free of deposits, as you'd expect from a well maintained engine with fewer than 70,000 miles on it. I maintain that this was NOT a maintenance related failure.

The upper timing chain guide, the steel one that sits between the cam phaser sprockets just under the valve cover was eaten almost completely through. Much more, and a piece of it about 10mm x 60mm would have been dislodged and released into the timing case. That would be more than enough to break teeth off a timing sprocket, make the chain jump teeth, or break a chain, causing valves to hit pistons. UNACCEPTABLE.

The job took me, with no lift, only a garage, basic hand tools, and a corded impact gun about 12 hours to complete, my entire weekend. This is NOT something that was caused by neglect or abuse on my part. This is very clearly a fatal design flaw. One timing guide has a weak point. The story is the same for all these engines. It breaks, the timing chain goes slack, and begins destroying the rest of the timing components as it knocks around. If left unchecked, this can cause engine destruction, as this IS an interference engine.

This chronic problem is well documented among GMs 2.0, 2.2, and 2.4 engines; the entire eco tec line. It is something GM should be fixing out of their pocket.

I've had many vehicles with overhead cam engines and timing chains over the years, and I've never had to replace timing components on any of them. This is an item that, when designed well and maintained properly, should have NO PROBLEM lasting the life of the vehicle. Timing set failure at 70,000 miles is an absolute joke! Otherwise, why not just use a belt!? Belts are supposed to have a maintenance interval. Chains are not!

Also, I'll work my ass off in the garage for a whole weekend before GM's service departments get any more money from me. This car has been a complete disaster. I can't recommend an eco tec equipped GM product to anyone, which is a shame, because these have the potential to be a very robust engine. If GM would revise one plastic timing chain guide and make it from tougher composite, these engines would be fantastic. I had a 2004 Malibu 2.2l go 240,000 miles and still run great. It was the body and suspension wearing out that did the car in. GM, you owe it to your customers to fix this at reduced or no cost.

- Doug B., Manassas, US

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