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Many Problems - 2003 Chevy Malibu

Zervic's Avatar
CF Beginner

Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 4

October 15th, 2009, 3:22 PM   #1  
Many Problems - 2003 Chevy Malibu

Hello all just joined the forums for two reasons - one having many issues with my 03 chevy malibu and two this was the first result on google when i did a search for chevy forums...hoping to get a bit of help with my here it goes:

What's going on? Well, I think the better question is, what isn't going on? Here is a list of symptoms my car is experiencing:

1. Loss of power, i.e. won't go over 2,000 RPM
2. Loss of power, i.e. little acceleration due to #1 BUT it does accelerate and will, over time, gain enough speed to actually reach the speed limit.
3. Over heating - It's only over heat once since the problems started (I will give you a brief history after this list). The temp gauge seems to be very tempermental, by that I mean it will start to go up then swiftly go back down. Partially stuck thermostat?
4. Along with the above, the heat inside the car is not working.
5. Smoke (due to **** burning off the outside of the engine, possibly?) is coming from the hood. Source, I haven't a clue BUT I will show you pictures later in this thread.
6. There is what appears to be a vacuum line that looks as if its been snipped, not sure how long its been that way but again, will show pictures later in the thread.
7. There appears to be two coolant leaks, one on the left side of the engine and one on the right side of the engine. Pictures will be shown.

So, next I'll hit off on the history, this will explain maintenance and just general history and the timeline leading up to the issues:

1. Oil change very recently.
2. The air filter is BRAND new.
3. All of this started on the way to Lake Tahoe, CA on the 2nd of October. It over heated on the way up the mountain and leaked all of the coolant out through the over flow line. Prior to this there were NO issues with the car other than a flat tire which was a $10 fix (it was the stem).
4. It took us forever to get the car up the mountain and to the hotel but once we got it there we left it with the exception of taking it to the only shop that was open on that saturday. They supposedly ran a block test and said it would be $2300 to fix everything. We said to hell with it and took it back to the hotel and left the next day for our 1 hour ride back to Fallon, NV. The car didn't give us any issues on the way back down the mountain or the entire way home. When I say no issues I mean no over heating BUT the loss of power still existed.
5. Since we've been home I've been looking here and there for possible diagnoses but haven't really came up with anything myself. Got a check engine light and took it to Kragen and they ran their diagnostics on it and it said:
- EGR Valve
- Oil pressure switch
- Cylinder 3 misfire
6. I plan on taking the EGR valve off and cleaning it today, along with replacing the thermostat and the oil pressure switch (if i can find it on the engine).

So, now for some pictures:

This picture is showing you the vacuum line that is snipped or broken.

This is just an over head view of the entire thing, right below the oil cap in the middle-bottom of the image is where the smoke is coming from, you'll get a better understanding in the last picture.

This hose WAS leaking. I tighted the clamp on it and it seems to be good now.

This is the leak on the left side of the engine. You'll get a better view of WHERE it is in the picture below this one.

Okay, in the bottom-middle of the picture is the hose that WAS leaking, directly above that, in between the belts and the engine is where the leak is. In the bottom right corner of the image is where the smoke is coming from when the engine is running.

This picture is showing the right side leak. This is right by the thermostat housing.

If you need any other pictures or any other amplifying information please let me know. Thank you very much in advance.


Last edited by Zervic; October 15th, 2009 at 3:26 PM.
EvansBlue's Avatar
CF Monarch

Join Date: Jul 2007
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Princeton, NC, USA

October 16th, 2009, 1:01 AM   #2  
You could be seeing multiple problems, but the main thing you should be concerned about is the fact that you have a failed intake manifold gasket. On top of that, it seems that the thermostat gasket is leaking. If coolant is leaking into the intake at the right place, it could very well cause a misfire and a loss of power as well.

The most likely cause for your heat not working is the fact that there is a large air pocket present in the heater core caused by air being forced into the cooling system through the leak.

It is also leaking externally which is causing the smoke from the outside of the engine.

The vac line could also contribute to your loss of power. It must be replaced.

Zervic's Avatar
CF Beginner

Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 4

October 17th, 2009, 12:07 PM   #3  
Howdy EvansBlue,
Thanks for the reply. Where is the evidence of the intake manifold gasket failure? Here is an update for you:

- Replaced thermostat.
- Replaced spark plugs and wires.
- Fixed vacuum line.
- Cleaned engine!

Since I've cleaned the engine and done all of the above, I have noticed no leaks at all. The two spots I showed you before are completely dry. I also didn't know about the bleeder valve on top of the water pump so I bled that and my god there was a lot of air in there...I also added some transmission fluid.

The over heating SEEMS to have been for the power issues...not quite sure yet. Hopefully I get my check engine light back soon so I can see what code it is. Let me know what you think about all of this, please and thank you in advance.


schtrapper's Avatar
CF Beginner

Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 1

January 7th, 2010, 11:49 PM   #4  
I have an 03 malibu 3.1 that had the same power issues you are having. If you gas it slowly you can get it up to speed but if you step on it, it just sputters. I scanned it myself with a friends obd scanner and it gave me an erg code, I did a little more research online and found that a bad catalytic converter will cause an egr code, loss of power, overheating, etc... anyway I took off the cat and I instantly had power back. Unfortunately for me I live in california and we have new smog laws. So the cheapest direct fit I could find was on the kragen website for about $400.00. Anyway if you are still dealing with the same issue I would bet that is your problem.

chevy54's Avatar
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Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 3

October 29th, 2012, 8:52 PM   #5  
03 malibu here too

I had the same issue and yes it is a bad cat....autozone for 200 bucks and you can do it yourself.......anyone know how to do to replace a heater core on an 03 malibu?

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