Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Malibu gauges off and steering stiff

Diagnose and fix Malibu gauges off and steering stiff

GM has issued a service bulletin #16-NA-303 to address a Malibu gauges off and steering stiff issue on the vehicles listed below. You may notice that the gauges or entire instrument cluster is off, the radio display blank and the power steering is stiff. The problem may be intermittent or permanent. When intermittent, it will usually occur when you’re driving at a slow speed, like making a turn or maneuvering in a parking lot. The issue is caused by reduced voltage.

Vehicles affected by service bulletin #16-NA-303

2013-2016 Chevrolet Malibu vehicles with power steering but without stop/start.

Cause of reduced voltage and Malibu gauges off and steering stiff

The power steering in these vehicles is electric and if your battery is failing, the alternator might not provide enough power at low speeds to fully power the power steering motor. The dramatic drop in system voltage at low idle speeds and steering maneuvers causes the motor to draw more current at a time when the system is already low of power. That lack of power turns off the gauges or instrument cluster, makes the radio display go blank and increases steering effort.

Fix reduced voltage and Malibu gauges off and steering stiff

The root problem is caused by corrosion on battery terminals, a failing battery or a failing charging system. In order to test the battery you must first follow these steps to prevent damage to the OnStar backup battery (if your vehicle is equipped with OnStar.
1. Never disconnect the battery terminal with the key in the ON or accessory position. The IGN must be in the OFF position.
2. If you have OnStar, be warned that the system has a backup battery that will kick in if you don’t follow these procedures. The backup battery provides emergency power to the OnStar device in the event of a loss of vehicle power. However, once activated, the OnStar backup battery will continue to discharge until the battery is completely dead. THE ONSTAR BATTERY is not rechargeable and must be replaced after draining.
3. If you disconnect the battery terminals to the main battery turning the IGN to off and waiting for Retained Accessory Power to time you, you will automatically activate the OnStar backup battery. Do not try to disable the OnStar module by pulling the fuse while the IGN is in the ON position to avoid this.
4. Turn the IGN to OFF.
5. Remove the OnStar fuse
6. Wait until Retained Accessory Power times out OR open the driver’s door to turn off the retained power.

Conduct a voltage drop test across the battery connection

Set your digital multimeter to MIN/MAX
Connect one lead to the positive battery clamp and the other lead to the positive battery terminal
Start the engine

malibu steering stiff, gauges dead

Review the voltage on the meter. If the display shows more than 200-millivolts, replace the battery cable because it has too much internal resistance. If the reading is less than 200-millivolts, test the battery using a simulated load and conductance/resistance style battery tester. See this post on how to test a battery.

©, 2019 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat


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