1997 Chevrolet Malibu from North America


Hah, I can do it in one word, unreliable


I was in need of a car, and after searching extensively I found a Malibu for about a thousand bucks, with 176,000 miles on it. It started off terrific, the driver assured me the car was working, and it was running great for the initial week. I drove my car around for a month, and it's suddenly giving me problems.

The head gasket has cracked and I must replace it. My glove box is broken, the keys are non responsive on the passenger side door, so there is only one way to get in, and that's driver side. Need to replace door handles on both sides. Driver door handle sticks, so I need to pull and push at the same time. Open door indicator is flashing, even though I am SURE that all doors were securely closed.

Oh, don't even let me mention the overheating on this vehicle!

Now I know, some of those are nick knack problems, but the head gaskets and overheating is what does it for me.

My dad has a foreign marked car with close to 200,000 miles on it, and has yet had to make any major repair or maintenance.

No more American cars for me. Imports only.

General Comments:

The only thing good about the car is that the power steering is superb. Everything else, is a headache.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 16th July, 2008

16th Jul 2008, 08:49

The car is 11 years old & has 176,000 miles on it - what did you expect?

16th Jul 2008, 12:17

You know, that's really not too bad with that many miles. So much depends on how the car was cared for. I mostly drive imports (Japanese) but I've definitely seen problems by that mileage. One Honda Civic I bought used was worn out by 70,000 miles because the girl who had previously owned it hadn't changed the oil. The cracked gasket is the only thing that I wouldn't think would depend on the nature of the use. My dad had a Toyota 4runner that blew a transmission before 100,000 miles were on it. So whatever you get, don't expect it to be perfect when the miles are that high and you aren't the first owner--regardless of manufacturer. Sorry about your troubles, though.

22nd Jul 2008, 16:27

I have always owned GMs. Some with low mileage and some with high mileage and none ever had major issues. Maintenance is the key here. You obviously bought a car that was improperly maintained. Those engines did have issues with the cooling system, and if not cared for properly, can cause serious issues. But if cared for correctly, they are practiaclly bullet proof. Head gasket issues in those engines aren't very common at all. Usually it is the Lower intake Manifold gasket that fail's and can sometimes be misdiagnosed ad a HG failure. However, if this is left uncorrected, it can cause overheating and cause a HG failure. It doesn't matter whether its on an Import or a domestic, overheating can easily cause a HG failure.

23rd Nov 2008, 05:58

That's nothing for that mileage. My sister had a 1996 with about half the miles, and the transmission would downshift into second gear on the freeway at 70mph (dropping the speed suddenly to 50) and had a mysterious tail and headlight electrical short, amongst engine problems, etc. If you want a reliable American car, buy a Toyota, they are made in America anyways :) Beats those "American" Chevies built in Mexico.

1997 Chevrolet Malibu LS 3.1 SFI V6 from Mexico


Ignorance is bliss... ignore the details and you'll be happy with a fancy car :p


1) Front brakes (ugh), partly my fault because the first time I changed pads and rotors too early... until I got ceramics (1 1/2 years and still have those... although I'm pretty sure they're on overtime).

2) Alternator/Battery: Has been rebuilt twice and battery replaced twice as well (once under warranty)

3) A/C switching/cutting: Getting worse and worse, I'll probably have to Jimmy (no pun intended) the control unit to fix it (too expensive to fix at the shop), also I have NO heating whatsoever.

4) Water pump: Has gone under twice or thrice (I don't really remember)...must be the orange gooey coolant.

5) Gaskets: They were leaking since I got it, but let it go until it really leaked @ 105000 miles (coolant light would go on once a week). Fixed @ 120000 miles.

6) Electric System: I'm sure is defective as hell, 'cause my radio/AC/power windows cut off a lot (once it happened in the middle of the summer with temps up to and including 108), which takes me to...

7) Lights: Front lights go out at least once a year; back lights blow out ever so often... assemblies allow water inside, they're crap.

8) Serpentine Belt: Squeaks and breaks too often.

9) Auto Tranny: Who was the idiot that decided not to put a lousy dipstick in so we can check the fluid level? Now, that guy's a dipstick!

10) Rattles/Squeaks: What can you expect from a cheaply old raggedy GM made car?

11) Steering: Had an expensive repair due to fluid leak, and it's leaking again!

12) Check Engine light is on: Don't know why, don't care to know (last time it was canister related, and I fixed it by resetting a vacuum tube)

General Comments:

Other than those eleven things (and some I might be forgetting), the car feels and drives like the old GMs (sans the engine noise and the rattles). It surely is a dream to drive on the road, up to and including 80 mph (yes, it still goes that fast and more)... once I took it up to 105 mph before the fuel cuts off.

Fuel economy is on par with the new EPA estimates (15 city/26 hwy for me). Car seems to have a life of its own: sometimes it wakes up rather peppy and other times it hesitates to accelerate. Also, since it's pitch black, when washed looks like a BMW!

Some suggestions if you own a Malibu:

1) Get better tires! I have Cooper Cobras and, although a bit noisy, they're a gem!

2) Don't use the orange stuff for cooling. That may be the cause for faulty gaskets.

3) Get ready so $pend $pend $pend! Maybe it's better to take out the daytime lights fuse and turn on the things manually.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 29th January, 2008