2018 Chevrolet Malibu Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Electrical System, Engine and Transmission issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

GM claims that their 2018 Chevrolet Malibu is “beautifully balanced,” but that’s not our opinion after reading through the complaints. While they pride themselves on efficiency, engine troubles make the performance lackluster, at best. Furthermore, there are plenty of drivers that struggle with both the powertrain and electrical systems of the vehicle. Maybe GM meant that this car brings a perfect balance of issues.

Click on other model year to view more problems:  2017

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Problems with the Engine

Anyone who fell in love with the Malibu back in the days knows that it was a car with top performance. Drivers who get behind the wheel of the 2018 model might expect that same kind of performance, but find an interesting surprise instead.

Consumers have complained about speeds being reduced when the traction control is activated. At times, it’s impossible to gain any ground. Just listen to what this driver posted on Edmunds. “Caution with this car — When the Traction Control is activated, the screen shows a notice of ‘ENGINE POWER IS REDUCED.’ When it states REDUCED, it means that you are in a lower than Low Gear and cannot accelerate above 10-15 miles per hour. You have to pull over, turn off motor for 15 to 30 seconds to get out of this driving mode. Then the check engine symbol comes on for 24 hours and will reset and disappear if nothing is wrong.”

What could be scarier than having your speed reduced so low you have to worry about getting rear-ended? This isn’t the performance you would expect from the Chevy Malibu, and neither do the people purchasing the car.

In GM Service Bulletin #PIP5557C, the automaker addresses a problem where the car gets stuck in 2nd gear and can’t go above 30 mph. Their solution is to inspect the Control Valve Body spacer plate orifice #33 for blockage and replace it as needed. Of course, that’s no consolation for the driver stuck on the freeway with their hazard lights on just trying to get to the next exit and pull over. Maybe the Malibu was meant for Grandma instead?
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Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Chevy Malibu Engine Problems:

THIS IS THE THIRD TIME THIS INSTANCE HAS OCCURED. THE VEHICLE DASH STATED “REDUCED ENGINE POWER” AND THE CHECK ENGINE LIGHT APPEARS. THIS SLOWS THE VEHICLE TO AN ALMOST COMPLETE STOP. LUCKILY I HAVE EITHER BEEN IN TRAFFIC, IN A PARKING LOT AND A GREEN LIGHT WHEN THIS HAPPENS BUT THIS IS AN ISSUE. I AM IN MOTION.

CAR WILL LOSE POWER WHEN DRIVING. I WAS TURNING LEFT CROSSING TRAFFIC AND IT LOST POWER. CAR WOULD NOT ACCELERATE FOR 3 SECONDS ESSENTIALLY IT FELT LIKE THE CAR STALLED EVEN THOUGH IT WAS STILL RUNNING. I HAVE HAD THIS HAPPEN 3 OTHER TIMES AS WELL..

I BOUGHT MY CAR A FEW WEEKS AGO, MY CHECK ENGINE LIGHT COME ON AND OFF I HAVE A CERTIFIED WARRANTY. THE WARNING THAT POPS IS WHEN I START MY CAR SAY ?REDUCE ENGINE POWER? AND IT MESSES WITH MY LIGHTS AS WELL AS MY GAS PEDAL TO WHERE I CAN?T GO. IT?S VERY DANGEROUS, ESPECIALLY WHEN ON THE HIGHWAY

Problems with the Transmission

Just as you expect an engine to work the way it should, your powertrain should keep you moving down the road as well. Just as essential to driving down the road is the ability to stop the vehicle and get out. What happens when the car can’t be placed in Park? That’s a problem; there’s no doubt about it.

Many drivers find that getting the Malibu into Park can be a difficult task. When you can’t get it to recognize that it is in Park, it’s also hard to turn it off. Let’s read what one consumer said on Edmunds about this situation. “The car started acting up not recognizing it’s in park and would not shut off at all. You would have to shift in and out of park to get the car to shut off. It shut off in the street while I was in the center lane and had no way of exiting the vehicle or putting on the hazards because the locks are all electric I couldn’t even get out of the car. Three lights later the car just turns back on. I really could have died.”

This isn’t just an embarrassing situation, but also quite dangerous. Service Bulletin #18-NA-297 addresses the problem where the car prompts a driver to shift into Park even though it’s already there. GM identified that the condition was caused by a faulty park switch in the transmission control shifter which doesn’t pull the BCM signal properly. To repair it, the mechanic must replace the assembly completely.

To review, we have a car that doesn’t want to drive and doesn’t want to Park either – you can’t seem to win.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Chevy Malibu Transmission Problems:

TL* THE CONTACT OWNS A 2018 CHEVROLET MALIBU. THE CONTACT STATED THAT THE RPM GAUGE INCREASED; HOWEVER, THE TRANSMISSION GEARS FAILED TO CHANGE OVER WHILE THE VEHICLE WAS DRIVING ON THE HIGHWAY. AS A RESULT, THERE WAS A DRASTIC REDUCTION IN SPEED AND THE CONTACT HAD TO MANEUVER THE VEHICLE WITH EXTREME DIFFICULTY TO PREVENT A CRASH. INITIALLY, PERFORMANCE CHEVROLET (1005 W EHRINGHAUS ST, ELIZABETH CITY, NC 27909, 252-338-9100) WAS UNABLE TO REPLICATE AND DIAGNOSE THE FAILURE WITH THE SERVICE CENTER MANAGER. FURTHER DIAGNOSTIC TESTING WAS NOT PROVIDED. A DEALER TEST DROVE THE VEHICLE WITH THE CONTACT AND DIAGNOSED THAT THE SPACER PLATE NEEDED TO BE REPLACED. A LOANER VEHICLE WAS PROVIDED FOR TWO DAYS. THE VEHICLE WAS NOT REPAIRED AND THE CONTACT WANTED THE VEHICLE BOUGHT BACK BY THE DEALER IF THERE WAS NO SOLUTION. THE MANUFACTURER WAS NOTIFIED OF THE FAILURES. THE APPROXIMATE FAILURE MILEAGE WAS 45,000.

AT ANY GIVEN TIME, WHEN VEHICLE IS STATIONARY AND SHIFT LEVER SET TO ‘PARK’, THE INSTRUMENT PANEL SCREEN DISPLAYS A ‘SHIFT TO PARK’ MESSAGE EVEN WITH THE LEVER SET TO THE ‘PARK’ POSITION. THE VEHICLE SEEMS TO BE IN ‘PARK’ HOWEVER, BATTERY POWER TO THE VEHICLE REMAINS AND WILL NOT SHUT OFF. CAR ELECTRICAL SYSTEM REMAINS ON AND HONKS THREE TIMES IF THE KEY FOB IS NOT IN RANGE. IT IS CONCERNING THAT THE VEHICLE IS NEVER FULLY IN ‘PARK’ MODE OR THAT THE VEHICLE IS NEVER FULLY TURNED OFF AND CAN CAUSE AN ACCIDENT IF UNATTENDED..

Problems with the Electrical System

When you are driving the 2018 Chevrolet Malibu, you want all the lights and electronics to work, but that seems to be an issue as well. Among the numerous electrical problems, it’s possible to experience trouble with the power windows, radio and the Passenger Presence System (PPS) which offers faulty airbag information.

While not every electrical system seems monumental, they sure can be a pain to deal with. Take the example from this driver who complained about it on the NHTSA website. “My right blinker and brake light keep shorting out. It will be fine for a few days and then stop working.”

GM Service Bulletin #19-NA-086 resolves a rear tail lamp turn signal that either intermittently or temporarily flashes too fast at lower temperatures. The company’s fix is to inform the customer that the tail light is working as it was intended. They even go as far as to call it a “normal condition” of the vehicle and ask dealerships to share the bulletin within anyone that suffers from this situation.

If you enjoy visiting the dealership for constant repairs, then the Malibu should fit the bill. If you’ve gotten behind the wheel of this car not knowing what was ahead, it’s safe to say that you probably learned your lesson.

Here are some actual complaints logged with the NHTSA about the 2018 Chevy Malibu Electrical Problems:

I WAS DRIVING MY 2018 CHEVY MALIBU LS THAT I HAVEN’T OWNED FOR MORE THEN 30 DAYS AND MY CHECK ENGINE LIGHT CAME ON IN THE DRIVEWAY WHEN I STARTED IT UP TO LET IT WARM SINCE IT WAS WINTER SO I TOOK IT TO CHRISTENSON CHEVROLET IN HIGHLAND INDIANA AND THE CODE U01B0 CAME UP WHICH IS THE BATTERY SENSOR MODULE AND THE DEALER TOLD ME THERE IS NO FIX FOR IT AND ENGINEERING IS LOOKING INTO IT AND THE PAPERWORK THEY GAVE ME SHOWS THEY HAVE HAD THIS PROBLEM WITH THE 2017 AND 2018 MODELS AND NO FIX YET. THEY ARE SELLING CARS WITH DEFECTS AND I TOLD THEM I WANTED A DIFFERENT MODEL OR SAME MODEL AND THEY TOLD ME I HAD TO TALK TO CORPORATE WHICH I DID AND CORPORATE TOLD ME I HAD TO TALK TO THE DEALER SO NOW I AM IN THE WORKINGS OF FILING A LAWSUIT FOR LEMON LAW SINCE THEY HAVE NO INTENTION ON FIXING THIS PROBLEM SINCE NOW THE REMOTE START WON’T WORK SINCE THIS ISSUE AND CORPORATE ISN’T DOING ANYTHING WHICH IS FINE BECAUSE THE COURTS WILL WORK THIS OUT CHEVROLET USE TO BE A GOOD RELIABLE COMPANY BUT NOT ANYMORE

MY VEHICLE HAS AN ELECTRICAL ISSUE WITH THE POWER WINDOWS AND THE RADIO. THE POWER WINDOWS WILL STOP WORKING IF I TRY TO ADJUST THEM TO THE PERFECT HEIGHT FOR ME, FORCING ME TO HAVE TO PRESS BUTTONS ON ANOTHER WINDOW IN ORDER TO BE ABLE TO GO BACK TO THE WINDOW THAT I WOULD LIKE TO ADJUST. THIS PROBLEM IS PRESENT IN ALL FOUR WINDOWS.

OIL LEAK NOTED ON GROUND AFTER BEING DRIVEN. STARTED OUT BEING SMALL DROPS BUT GRADUALLY WORSENED. DEALERSHIP STATED “WELD AROUND OIL PAN WAS NOT PROPERLY SEALED”

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Share your story

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15 COMMENTS
  • Cassandra S

    Purchased my 2018 Chevy Malibu on July 4,2020 it had just over 31,000 miles. I loved it. I was so proud. First new car for me and I’m 49. In less than 2 months I received my lovely “Shift to Park”. I thought maybe I was doing something wrong, nope it just kept happening. I thought maybe something was wrong with the button on the shifter. After a week of this off and on I was on my way to work. I’m a dialysis technician. I have to be at work by 4am, so around 3:30 I’m on the interstate and an exclamation mark pops up!!! Reduced Engine Power!!! Immediately my car sounded like I was on rumble strips. It was losing power. Got down to 25mph. I’m frantically trying to pull over scared as hell it’s 3:30 in the morning! I finally got over on the side of the interstate put it in park… hello Shift to Park!! At this point I’m in tears scared to death I turned the car off. Sat there a few minutes couldn’t get ahold of anyone because it’s the middle of the night!! I tried starting my car. It started but the engine light popped up and I drove on to work. I called the dealership where I bought the car… pretty much sorry about your luck! Then I called a GM dealership and the had me bring it in. No loaner though so I had to miss work for 2 days. This was in September 2020. I picked my car up. I didn’t have to pay it was still under warranty. As soon as I pulled it in my driveway wouldn’t ya know Shift to Park!!! I called the dealership and they had me come right back. The guy drove it around the parking lot it did it to him and he just cleared the code!!! The very next week I’m on my way to work and again!!!!Reduced Engine Power!! I pull off the interstate almost getting hit this time!!! Again I take it back to the certified dealership and once again he resets the code!!! In the weeks and months since then sometimes it does it and sometimes it doesn’t however last week it was every day. My engine light will not go off. Shift to park keeps me in the car a good 20 minutes each time I drive it. I have no choice. I have to drive it it’s the only car I have. I called the dealership two days ago because I was turning my car off and on for every trip I made. My car is at 47,000 miles now so my warranty is gone. I found a special coverage clause that said it would pay for repairs on Malibu’s with the reduced engine power however the certified dealership I went to once again wanted me to pay $400 for parts and labor because it “threw” the wrong code… ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! I had to decline the repair. I can’t afford it right now. It cost me a $128 for them to tell me they wanted $400 more!! I drove home. I’m so sick. Just paid my car payment yesterday. I’ve been researching and trying to find any kind of options. No luck so far. I saw this and thought I’d share. I’m so disappointed and scared every time I drive. I have a 10 year old. I don’t know what to do. I have to work. It’s not right for people to make bad products especially automobiles that we pay 10’s of thousands of dollars for!!! It’s awful. I don’t understand why the company wouldn’t want it returned immediately!! It’s a death trap. I can’t afford another car. I shouldn’t have to. GM should replace it.

  • Toya

    I am so glad I am not the only person who is going through this. I got my 2018 Malibu in 2018 used it had 23,000 miles on it. The reduced speed came on all the time driving everywhere. People would get on my bumper I’m like u may as well go around. Even on the interstate I finally got it fixed and two years later the light popped on but didn’t slow down I’m scared. In the meantime picking my daughter up from work pulled out thought I did something wrong until I saw something say shift to park. Had to leave my car sitting in that parking lot running for 3 hours with inside electronics on. I was hurt. I love the look of the car but the performance is way beyond sub par. Now I have to have my car towed and hope my extended warranty pays for it. I don’t even want my car anymore either. I feel like we all need to go to the local news outlets and any kind of media and complain GM needs to be held accountable. Give us our money back… a different vehicle or unlimited Rosie warranty. Driving the car is like driving a snail. No speed just not too much to be proud of except the sexy sleek look of the car! Shame on them!

  • Amy

    I hate this car! Purchased 2018 chevy Malibu LT. so many issues. 1st was the shift to gear, when it was in gear. That’s still comes and goes. Next was random reduce engine mode. My car in the middle of traffic will not go above about 20. Next radomly won’t restart from auto start. Break pedal wouldn’t go down, car would not start due to the break for push start. Replaced break booster, started up great ran for about 30 min then shut it off. Active recall but called dealership they told me that the would charge me 145 just to hook it up. I am at a lose. I hate this car and wish I didn’t get it. I feel stuck with a lemon. Running out of money and patience. Nothing but problem since day 1. Well actually month 2.

  • Lucero P

    I have a 2018 Chevrolet Malibu, I got home from work I parked my car , in the morning I tried to start my car and it wouldn’t start , I don’t know what’s wrong with it !!

  • Melvin S

    2016 Mailbu: When I stop and put it in park a light comes on saying “Shift to Park” and it is already in park. When this happens I cannot lock the doors and the driving lights stay on.

  • KM

    I bought my 2018 Malibu with 7 miles on it, for a few months now it keeps saying shift to park while the car is in park and Chevrolet said it will be $450 to fix it. I have read many complaints about this issue and they will not recall it to fix it.

  • Paola J

    I purchased a 2018 Malibu in March of 2018 and from the start I’ve had issues with it. First the sunroof went out, then I had issues with the transmission the car would not speed up, then it was the injectors. Luckily all of that was died under the warranty but the latest issue with the car is the AC compressor it went out and here in Houston we have very hot summers. I have a car that I can not use and the part is on back order with not date of availability. I have a new born and a 5 year old an unreliable vehicle that I cannot use.

  • Emily S

    i bought my 2018 malibu and the throttle body sensor went out twice within a three month span. The reduced engine power constantly came on and they said it was because of the throttle body sensor. now a few months later my car will not shift to park and because if that i cannot turn my car off. Never will buy a malibu again.

  • Bahasha S

    I purchased my Malibu in January 2019. Here it is in March 2020 they’re having to rebuild my motor because of the pistons. The dealer stated that GM will not replace the motor with a new one. I was on the freeway and my car suddenly lost power which was the scariest situation. Thankfully the traffic behind me was able to go around me. The car is under warranty but the dealership doesn’t want to extend the warranty; which I feel isn’t fair. I only have a little over 36,000 miles on my car. I don’t want it anymore because I can’t trust it to be dependable.

  • Christina A

    2018 Chevy Malibu.

    First started with corroded wires under the car which has lead to the USB port melting my cellphone charger which was fixed but after that the ac/heater only would blow out the defroster that got fixed. Car had about 20,000 miles. My car had a recall for the ECM module needed updated but auto nation said it didn’t need to be updated after getting my car back it wouldn’t start I would have to lock it unlock it open the door a few times and then it would start, so my battery got fried because something was draining it paid 200$ for a new one because auto nation said they didn’t touch the car because it didn’t need an update but what gets me is they had to plug into it to find out it didn’t need an update, then the car started saying (shifter to park) got GM corporate involved and they made an appointment 1/13/2020 at Chapman for me to take my car in to figure out that I needed a new wiring harness from the shifter to the transmission and they updated the ECM module but yet auto nation said it didn’t need the update, so basically the auto nation doesn’t want to take responsibility for the car messing up. I sat at auto nation for 45 minutes and they didn’t touch my car. Something isn’t right and no one wants to take responsibility.
    Yesterday I picked my car up from Chapman 1/27/2020, they replaced the wiring harness from the shifter to the transmission, today 1/28/2020 I’m getting the same message “shift to park”. I’m getting tired of the run around with Brittany and having 3-4 other people call that doesn’t know the situation and don’t know what to do with this situation. So now the miles are at 59,000 miles no warranty. This isn’t a reliable car. GM said is our fault why this happen that is what Taylor the advisor told us today 2/3/2020

  • Gabriel

    Reduce engine speed has came on for the 4th time and they keep saying it’s because of my subwoofer and all they do is turn the check engine light light offf happens every 2-4 mounts since owned the cars only have 28000 got it with 12 miles I won’t ever buy a Malibu again

  • Bryon C

    Is there a solution to fix the 2018 chevy malibu ‘reduce engine power’ problem?? Please help!

  • Glenn L

    I have been thru alot of issues with my Malibu and finally GM reprogrammed my cars motor which improved its performance but now I have been getting noise from the motor plus last night the motor started acting funny. Also found a defect with the third break light where the plastic has broke.

  • JenG

    I bought a 2018 Chevy Malibu lt. Ever since i bought it the take off has been rough i thought it was just because the vehicle has the stop/go shut off however 4mths after i bought it the Stabilitrak light came on as well as a flashing engine light but upon stopping and turning the car off it cleared. When the Stabilitrak light comes on the car feels like it doesnt grip the road. About a month later the Stabilitrak light came on again with the flashing engine light except this time the light stopped flashing and remained on so i took it to a shop and they said the engine had a misfire. I work for a chevy dealership and had it put into service they cleared the code and stated there was no misfire. On my way home the light came on again they looked at it and ordered parts (pistons) needed to be replaced. The car has been in the shop since 08/08/2019 today is 08/13/2019 its expected to be ready tomorrow. I hate that i even purchased this vehicle the dealership that i bought it from wont exchange the car so here i am with a 5yr note on a car that isnt safe and the engine has already had major work done to it. I contacted gm they basically said they can not determine what will happen when the work is completed but that it is warrantied. If they feel like this car is okay then they can have it and own it. These are known issues so to mean in a way they are just stealing money from people that are buying these defective cars. I cant trade it in so i’m just stuck with a horrible vehicle. Lucky for me i work for the dealership and i trust the guys that work here but the fact is that most of these cars are fixed and have the same problem later on.

  • Juliana N

    Purchased a Malibu 2018 Premier in July and a month later the car while driving it, it slowed done to almost a complete stop. Car was towed the next day to the dealership and is been one month and they still can’t fix the problem. I honestly don’t want this car anymore it doesn’t feel safe.

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