Issues with Engine Control Modules Leads GM to Announce Malibu Recall

Laguna Hills, CA – Sep. 19, 2019 – Complications with 1.5L turbo engines has caused the fuel injectors on some 2018 Chevrolet Malibu vehicles to become disabled, leading the car manufacturer to announce a recall for that particular make and model. Because of the issues, the car engine may be prevented from starting, or drivers could experience stalls, therefore increasing the possibility of collision. Unfortunately, the updated software designed to fix the defect has not yet been completed—but once it is available, dealers will reprogram the engine control module (ECM) on affected vehicles to prevent the error from occurring. 

The Defect

According to documents filed by General Motors, the defect applying to the 1.5L turbo engines could potentially affect more than 175,000 vehicles, with the manufacturer estimating that roughly 1 percent of those automobiles contain the defect.

“Under certain conditions, an error in the vehicles’ ECM software can cause data used by the ECM to become corrupted,” stated the description of the defect in GM’s safety recall paperwork, “When this occurs, the ECM may send a signal disabling the engine’s fuel injectors. If the fuel injectors are disabled, the engine may not start and, in rare cases, the engine may stall after it is started.” This means the vehicle may stall at speed, which would significantly increase the possibility of collision. However, other makes and models of the Malibu should not contain the defect, as they run off different ECM software.

Finally, to aid drivers in taking necessary precautions, GM has advised that vehicles with this defect may see their check-engine light illuminate if the error arises.

Timeline of Events

GM informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the vehicle recall in a letter dated Sept. 10, 2019. According to that letter and other documents regarding the defect, GM first became aware of the error in May 2019, when it came to the company’s attention as a result of higher-than-usual warranty rates for ECM replacements in 2018 Malibu vehicles. The warranty claims illustrated to GM the risks associated with the defect—that engines may fail to start in the first place, or, more dangerously, may stall while the vehicle is moving at speed.

In collaboration with the supplier of the ECMs, Continental Automotive Systems, the manufacturer discovered notable differences between the software used in 2018 and 2019 models of the vehicle, and soon afterwards discovered a defect in the 2018 software which has the potential to disable the engine’s fuel injectors. 

The Solution

The software update that corrects the ECM issue will be done by dealers at no charge to owners of the automobile. However, that software update is not yet complete, meaning the recall notices will have to wait until the fix is completely prepared. The bulletin will only be posted once the software update has been completed, at which point drivers who own the vehicle will be able to bring it to their local dealership for the aforementioned fix.

Also, vehicle owners directly affected by the recall will be notified by mail. Until then, individuals can check if their vehicle is affected by entering their VIN number into either the GM Owner Center page, or at the NHTSA website. Dealers themselves were notified of the problem in early September, and more information is sure to follow in the coming weeks and months. 

For more information on recalls in the automotive industry, please continue to visit motorsafety.org

Sean ReyesIssues with Engine Control Modules Leads GM to Announce Malibu Recall