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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have a 2016 Malibu LT 1.5T with ~54,000 miles on it and had the StabiliTrak service message and check engine light turn on while driving on the highway going about 75 mph during a road trip. Found a mechanic at the next exit and got a cylinder 2 misfire code. He pulled out the spark plug, and it was covered in carbon and had about half of the tip missing. After replacing the spark plug, he realized the cylinder was only maintaining a pressure of about 10 PSI. He believed it was a cracked piston. I purchased the car certified pre-owned and have about 2 months left on the powertrain warranty, so I'm bringing it to the dealer tomorrow to have the work done.

After finding and looking through this forum a bit, I've found that this seems to be a known issue with this vehicle. Could anyone direct me to any threads that may be particularly helpful or have any suggestions about this issue? Additionally, have solutions to this issue been found, or is having this fixed a matter of just delaying the piston or one of the other pistons failing at a later date? Last questions, are there any preventative measures I can take to avoid this in the future and are there any items related to this issue I should have checked on while it is at the dealer?

I have a poor working understanding of ICEs so I apologize for any mistakes and let me know if any additional information would be helpful.

Thanks to anyone who reads/has any suggestions!
 

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2016 Malibu 1LT 1.5T/6-speed 6T40
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There are many threads about the issue. Try searching "piston" in the search box. You'll find a couple dozen threads referencing the gen9 1.5 and 2.0 cracking pistons. This forum tends to see a post of a piston crack once a month or every other month or so.

They'll either replace all 4 pistons or replace the engine. If you get a new engine keep the car. If they rebuild, depends on the repair warranty. I'd consider moving on once out of warranty.

There is no way to fully prevent catastrophic pre-ignition. Maintenance is key. Mitigating risk is all about fuel and oil. You must use Top Tier fuel for the life of the vehicle and dexos1 Gen2/3 oil. This car is pretty low miles. How long have you had the car? Had any maintenance work been done in the last year or two? Oil? Air filter?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the reply, and the additional information!

I purchased the car almost exactly 3 years ago and have only put ~6,500 miles on the car a year as my work commute is relatively short and the pandemic eliminated it entirely for a year. I have always used Top Tier fuel and have had the oil changed with full synthetic every 5000-7000 miles, not sure whether it has been dexos1 oil. It may be due for an air filter.

I noticed in some threads you had mentioned issues with air pockets in the coolant and how that may be part of the problem. I was experiencing the gurgling/rushing noise myself on and off over the past few years. I assume the coolant will be drained in order to do the repair and refilled afterward, alleviating that issue?
 

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2016 Malibu 1LT 1.5T/6-speed 6T40
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Thanks for the reply, and the additional information!

I purchased the car almost exactly 3 years ago and have only put ~6,500 miles on the car a year as my work commute is relatively short and the pandemic eliminated it entirely for a year. I have always used Top Tier fuel and have had the oil changed with full synthetic every 5000-7000 miles, not sure whether it has been dexos1 oil. It may be due for an air filter.

I noticed in some threads you had mentioned issues with air pockets in the coolant and how that may be part of the problem. I was experiencing the gurgling/rushing noise myself on and off over the past few years. I assume the coolant will be drained in order to do the repair and refilled afterward, alleviating that issue?
If the oil changes were at the dealer it was definitely dexos1 oil. If a reputable quick lube and was full synthetic is should be dexos1 but be sure to check moving forward. Your oil change interval is good and its great you always used top tier fuel. The concern is what oil and fuel the previous owner used for the first 48,000 miles. I see turbo direct injection cars lined up at my local Speedway and Bud's 1-Stop Gas Rite never seems short on cars. Their just too sensitive for that it seems.

As for coolant... you already beat me to my next question. I find just about every piston break on the 1.5 also has that rushing coolant caused by air pockets. Coolant change is also due at 150,000 or 5 years, whichever comes first. Regardless if you get pistons replaced or a new engine they have to drain the coolant and refill so that will take care of itself. The repair will also take care of spark plugs as those are due at 60,000. They will replace those. Well, they should replace those.

Let us know how the repair goes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Update: GM is honoring my warranty and replacing the whole engine, got really lucky as there were only 54 days remaining on the warranty. The mechanic showed me a scope into the engine and, I believe in addition to the piston cracking, a chunk of one of the valves broke off inside. Unfortunately, the new engine won't be in until next Tuesday, so they are anticipating finishing up the job next Thursday.

Thanks again for the information and help!
 

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2016 Malibu 1LT 1.5T/6-speed 6T40
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Great news. New engine is the best case. When the piston failure is really bad you usually get a new engine.

Let us know how it runs when they put it all back together.
 

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2015 Chevrolet Malibu LT 1LT, 2.5L DOHC Ecotec, 6-speed Auto
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Going forward, check with your GM dealer about the prices for the routine maintenance on the vehicle. With a lot of newer vehicles, it is strongly recommended to have the dealer service them at the required service intervals.

It isn't that all independent shops are bad. It really comes down to the engineering of the vehicles and the sensitivity to maintenance.

So, with independent shops(which most people use to save a little bit of bucks), you are taking a risk. With a GM dealer, when issues become common or begin to arise, GM will typically do one or more of the following:

Release an internal Technical Service Bulletin to address the issue

Issue a recall to repair the affected component

Extend the warranty on the known defective parts, and send you a letter stating this and recommendations to get the vehicle serviced immediately

With these engines, they are very sensitive to the oil and fuel used, as previously stated.

From what I am still learning, it has something to do with the amount of calcium content contained in the engine oil, that can lead to destroying the pistons.

I have a lot of experience with working on cars, and even with my Malibu being the NA 2.5L, I am taking no chances. I have a lot of payments on the loan, so it is dealership serviced.
 

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i will say , you got very lucky ,that is the reason i got rid of my 16 at 60000 miles , just didnt sit easy in my stomach, with the issues of cracked pistons
is it a brand new engine or a used engine that they are puting in ?
 

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2008 Malibu 2.4L, LT, FWD, 117k (1/16/22)
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is it a brand new engine or a used engine that they are puting in ?
... and how would you even know - other than a bill of work that showed “installed new engine” on it?

If it was, in fact, a brand new engine, would that mean it would be a 2022? And would that even cleanly go into a 2016 without other updates around the engine?
 

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... and how would you even know - other than a bill of work that showed “installed new engine” on it?

If it was, in fact, a brand new engine, would that mean it would be a 2022? And would that even cleanly go into a 2016 without other updates around the engine?
A complete engine assembly is still available, from GM. They aren't cheap, by any means, but they are available.

When you take your car into a GM dealership, they scan the OBD-II port for the mileage, oil life remaining, and other vehicle data.

The service, even if it just routine maintenance, generates a "Repair Order" in their system.

In his case, it is a warranty related issue, so there will be a "Repair Order" and dealerships only utilize Genuine GM OE parts.

They do not use salvage yards, unless they are doing body work for a collision repair, and even then, that is rare because used body panels have to be sanded and repainted. They may also have to pull small dents or sand minor areas of corrosion, where as a new GM OE body panel will come with the primer directly shipped from the factory, and all they have to do is paint it.

He is going to be just fine. The engine they use will either be a rebuilt unit or a brand new unit, and it may even come with a new warranty. It all depends on what kind of deal he can strike with the service department.

OP, going forward, make sure you have your oil changed by a GM dealership to ensure you are not getting inferior oils into the engine. Don't wait until the oil life monitor prompts you to change it, and try to change it before you get below 20% of your oil life. Turbo engines are hard on engine oil, and even though GM Dexos 1/2 oils are pretty good for handling the heat and thermal abuse, the oil changes being done on turbo engines are critical to keeping them running for a long time.
 

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i have heard of dealers putting in low mile engines from wrecks in some of the forums i read, i am not a gm mechanic , buy mechanically minded , i would say that a 2021 or 2022 engine would fit in
it is something that people need to be aware of , replacing the engine could mean a new factory engine or it could mean a used low mile engine which is definatly 2 different things , if it was my car i would be making sure it was a brand new factory engine
 

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... and how would you even know - other than a bill of work that showed “installed new engine” on it?

If it was, in fact, a brand new engine, would that mean it would be a 2022? And would that even cleanly go into a 2016 without other updates around the engine?
The new 1.5T is identical to the one being taken out, other than a revised piston design. No manufacturer would put a redesigned or upgraded engine into a car for warranty purposes. There is a stock of new engines that remains available for a number of years after a vehicle is no longer produced at the factory.
 
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2008 Malibu 2.4L, LT, FWD, 117k (1/16/22)
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A complete engine assembly is still available, from GM. They aren't cheap, by any means, but they are available.




In his case, it is a warranty related issue, so there will be a "Repair Order" and dealerships only utilize Genuine GM OE parts.

They do not use salvage yards

He is going to be just fine. The engine they use will either be a rebuilt unit or a brand new unit, and it may even come with a new warranty. It all depends on what kind of deal he can strike
OK, but my question stands: how do you know what they put in there? You don’t, right? And I’m not saying it would be wrong to put a “remanufactured” engine in ... after all ... the OP had used almost 1/2 the effective life of his original engine ... but I’m just curious if there would be any way to tell what they put in there.
 

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Serial on the block or other casting numbers would identify when block was made. Reman. would likely be older than say the last 6 months.
GM in warranty would not use a JY motor. Only new or GM reman. engine.
JY motor or other outside supplier would most likely be used on a 3rd party warranty replacement though as they put that in their disclaimers.
 

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2015 Chevrolet Malibu LT 1LT, 2.5L DOHC Ecotec, 6-speed Auto
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i have heard of dealers putting in low mile engines from wrecks in some of the forums i read, i am not a gm mechanic , buy mechanically minded , i would say that a 2021 or 2022 engine would fit in
it is something that people need to be aware of , replacing the engine could mean a new factory engine or it could mean a used low mile engine which is definatly 2 different things , if it was my car i would be making sure it was a brand new factory engine
According to the link I provided, from the Chevrolet dealership I have ordered parts from in the past when I had my 1995 Saturn SC2, the 1.5L engine as a complete assembly fits from 2016-2021 model years, and fits in base, LS, and LT trim levels.

It certainly would not hurt the OP, to ask his local GM dealer service manager whether they are using a new engine or a rebuilt engine.

In my experiences, I have known of a dealership to use a low-mile, wrecking yard engine, in only ONE occurrence, and there was something "off" about that deal, imo, as soon as my dad explained we were pulling the engine and had to put a one year warranty on it, because it was for a GM dealership in the area.

It was a Cobalt 2.2L DOHC Ecotec engine, and the core we got back from that dealership had a connecting rod that took a "vacation" outside the engine block, which means it is likely that it shouldn't have been a dealership-replaced engine to begin with.

Like I said, something never did sit very well with me, when I learned what the terms of that deal were, between us and the dealership. We did sell engines, driveshafts, transmissions, and axles to third party shops on the regular and we only gave a 30-day warranty on them.

There are only four possible causes for a connecting rod blowing out the side of the block:
1. Over revving the engine (so abusing the engine)
2. Low Oil levels/No oil remaining(possible neglect/lack of maintenance)*
3. Bad Connecting Rod Metallurgy (very rare, but possible as this was a problem with the 1984 Fiero 2.5L engine)
4. Bad Connecting Rod Bearing(about as rare as the probability of getting a bad rod from the factory)

*This is the most likely reason, when a connecting rod shoots outside the engine block, and is usually a combination of high revs in addition to the low oil levels

That is the ONLY time I have ever heard of a dealership using a used powertrain component in a repair, and my family has owned their own wrecking yard for over 50 years, in addition to my experience of working at a competitor yard for a few years.

They will sometimes order body panels, particularly on older vehicles, since parts can be discontinued and a used part can help keep the vehicle from being totaled by the insurance company.
 

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OK, but my question stands: how do you know what they put in there? You don’t, right? And I’m not saying it would be wrong to put a “remanufactured” engine in ... after all ... the OP had used almost 1/2 the effective life of his original engine ... but I’m just curious if there would be any way to tell what they put in there.
I know there are some procedures, that are "standardized" between dealerships, such as the GM MPVI sheet when you take your car in for service. From the explanation I got, from a service manager at Sims Buick/GMC, they do the GM MPVI sheet during the oil change/tire rotation/maintenance services as a way to protect themselves, should they find a problem and the customer declines to have the issue repaired at the time the problem is discovered.

Now, when it comes to repairs or part replacement, since dealers only use GM OEM parts(except in very VERY RARE cases like I stated in my above post), I would think they would explain the difference between a new or reman engine, and differences in price, and/or differences in warranty on them.

I did read, in another thread on here, where an owner was frustrated because his local dealer offered him the choice between a reman engine or a new engine, with the reman engine being a little less costly, but they both came with the same warranty. That owner had a 2.0L turbo engine, in a Malibu LTZ. I think it was 8th Gen, like mine is. His 2.0L turbo engine had the same problem as our OP, where the #2 cylinder piston cracked. In his specific case, there was also damage to the block, hence why the dealer priced him for a complete engine replacement. Piston failure seems to be a very common problem with the turbo engines, on these cars.

In that case, I did advise him that he could try and source a used engine from a wrecking yard and use a third party shop to replace his engine, and advised him that he was taking a risk as some yards do not offer warranties on used parts. One of our other moderators also advised him of the risks of using a third-party shop/JY engine to reduce his costs.
 

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2011 Malibu LTZ 3.6L V6 Red Jewel Tintcoat
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A fifth reason is oil starvation during higher-G cornering, such as a ¾-circle cloverleaf on-ramp. It happens with transverse (FWD) engines more than it would in a longitudinal (RWD) engine.

I believe that my 2011 3.6L V6 may have suffered from windage as a result of pushing my comfort zone on freeway on-ramps. It had a con rod take a similar vacation, but it was covered under Power Train warranty and I'm driving the replacement engine to this day.
 

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You mean your timing chain is holding up? I got a buddy, that just traded in a Traverse, with that engine, and he went through two engines in about 5 years, because of the timing chains. I don't know what year his Traverse is, and I do know that not all 3.6L engines have that problem, because their displacement is about the only thing that is shared in the engine family.

I didn't even think about the oil shifting, if you pushed the limits of cornering and running the sump dry. If you are doing some hard cornering, though, there is a good chance you are also in a higher rev range.

I used to push my Saturn and my Fiero like that, because of how light both of those cars are. My Saturn weighed in at 2,380 lbs, and I think when I scrapped my Fiero, I think is came in a little over 2,600 lbs.

With the mid-engine, RWD setup in the Fiero, though, donuts were a blast. At least, until the Champion police officer watching me do them(unbeknownst to me at the time), pulled up to issue me a citation. That was a four point violation and a hefty fine.....🤦
 

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They replaced the engine, so there is none of the old engine there except maybe the stuff that bolts on. Timing chain is fine so far.

From the time I bought it used until it failed, I had added 38,ooo miles. Since then, I've added 61,ooo. I also drive it differently, so that should help as well.
 

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Well, I have also read a few blogs, by GM techs, that stated the 3.6L in its earliest days, had an issue with oil consumption, which would accelerate the failure of the timing chain.

I have read a few of your posts, so I am gonna take a stab that you are probably pretty good at keeping up with your oil changes, using the correct oil viscosity/type, and other maintenance.

I know the early timing chain design on those engines can be absolutely horrendous, with like 8 or 9 sprockets, but a lot of times it comes down to maintenance.

2.2L Ecotecs ate chains, even if you maintained them, because the hole for the oil flow through the chain tensioner was drilled too small in diameter. In that case, GM just wound up with a dud. The fact they never corrected the problem, until the engine family was phased out, well, that was prior to Mary's leadership too, so there could have been a variety of reasons why it never got addressed.
 
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