In this post, I will try to provide a comprehensive overview of why Stabilitrak failed, resulting in the Service Stabilitrak warning light appearing on your Chevy Malibu dashboard.
So nothing to worry about; I have your back.
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What Is Stabilitrak And What Does “Service Stabilitrak” Message Mean on A Chevy Malibu?
Stabilitrak is a feature that uses various sensors to keep the car moving in the direction intended by the driver.
It takes input from the steering wheel and wheel sensors and correlates them with the direction the vehicle is moving and applies corrections if needed.
It is quite possible that when Stabilitrak fails, there would be an indication except “Service Stabilitrak.” It then boils down to properly diagnosing the problem.
It is easier said than done, but as I said, I have your back. I am going to cover all major reasons for Stabilitrak’s failure message.
The telltale sign of a Stabilitrak failure is hard shifting and loss of power or limp mode. Unless the car is in limp mode, driving is perfectly okay.
You just need to be careful when maneuvering through tricky terrain.
If “Service Stabilitrak” appears, try resetting it first. Pull over your car. Turn off the engine and let it be for a minute or so.
Start the car, and hopefully, the issue will be resolved. If, however, it reappears, then this would need a proper diagnosis by a qualified technician.
11 Reasons for Service Stabilitrak on A Chevrolet Malibu
There can be many reasons for Stabilitrak’s failure. Let us look at them one by one.
Culprit number uno, but also the most challenging; A failed sensor, which can either give no output or erroneous output. Incorrect output means an incorrect response from the module taking action.
Sensors can fail for various reasons, dust, poor connection, shock, exposure to excessive heat, etc.
Stabilitrak depends on input from sensors located on other subsystems such as wheels, steering column, brakes, etc., to name a few.
Isolating faulty sensors or modules would require scanning for relevant OBD and then taking appropriate action, some of which may be DIY, while others would need intervention by a qualified technician.
You can check out our recommended OBD2 scanner tool:
Misfiring Engine (Faulty Coils or Spark Plugs)
A very common reason for the Service Stabilitrak message is a misfiring engine. If the OBD scanner gives codes P0301 to P0304, for example, then that means a misfiring cylinder. The last digit is the cylinder number.
Cylinders will misfire if spark plugs or the coils need to be replaced. It is a reasonably easy DIY, and there is a video in the reference section below to guide you.
Brakes are an important enabler of all traction control systems. A faulty brake, therefore, will not have the desired effect when Stabilitrak engages them to counter the loss of traction.
Faulty brakes will generate relevant OBD codes that can be scanned by a professional scanner.
If implicated, check for brake fluid because low brake fluid levels will result in inefficient braking, which can be catastrophic.
If it is running low, you can refill your Chevy Malibu with this Synthetic DOT-3 brake fluid.
Otherwise, you will need to have the brakes inspected for faulty parts and replaced.
Faulty Alternator and Weak Battery
A faulty alternator will not properly charge the car battery or provide the electrical energy needed by other components in the car, most importantly the Electronic Control Unit (ECU).
Modules such as ABS and traction control (Stabilitrak) rely on ECU to perform the functions that they are designed for.
Loss of power to ECU means loss of power and voltage to other components and hence degradation in functionality.
As a first step, check the voltage on your car battery; it should be 12.6V or above.
You can use a multimeter to check the voltage.
Check it several times over the next day or two, and if it has dropped, either the battery or the alternator has gone bad.
In either case, you need to take your car for further diagnosis.
The Service Stabilitrak light will glow when your car gets into limp mode.
A limp mode indicates a fault that is serious enough to warn that the car should not be driven for any considerable distance.
If the Limp Mode indicator is on and the car will not go above a certain speed, the traction control indication will invariably light up.
Since the limp mode can either be due to a glitch or the result of a serious issue, I suggest that it should be taken, rather than towed, to a workshop for inspection.
Failed ABS Module
Stabilitrak relies heavily on ABS for its functionalities. So a failed ABS module will also cause a failure of the traction control functionality.
ABS failure will be indicated by its own OBD codes as well as by the ABS light being lit. It could be the module or any of the allied sensors.
While you are at it, make sure to check the wheel hubs since the tone ring on the wheel hubs sometimes goes to heaven and causes the StabiliTrak issue.
Stabilitrak takes input from the steering wheel to ensure that the car keeps control under tricky driving conditions.
A faulty steering rack does not correctly translate into the driver’s steering action or the correction intended by the traction control.
The issues with the steering can be mechanical such as problems with the steering rack, or electrical such as a faulty sensor in the steering column which is essential for measuring the steering wheel’s angle, position, and rate of turning.
Failure of any of these components will degrade the Stabilitrak functionality, and the failure light will switch on.
Low Tire Pressure/Bad Wheel Alignment
Low tire pressure can cause your car to drive and steer erratically and respond indifferently to input from steering and throttle.
Since the traction uses input from the steering and speed sensors, any inaccurate or flawed information will be perceived as a fault, and the Service Stabilitrak message will come up.
Similarly, a car with bad wheel alignment pulls to one side or the other, even under normal driving conditions.
As with low tire pressure, this can cause inaccurate or flawed readings to be sent back by the sensors, and as a result, the traction control may indicate a fault. As a general rule, it regularly checks tire pressure.
You can do the following maintenance procedures to solve these tire pressure/wheel alignment issues:
- Have your tires properly inflated
- Check your tire air pressure monthly
- Rotate your tires regularly every 5,000-6,000 miles
- Get a wheel alignment every year
- Assure that your tires are balanced correctly
If you feel that the car pulls to one side, have the wheels aligned immediately because features such as ABS, Stabilitrak, Collision Avoidance, etc., work best when elements such as brakes, wheels, and tires are properly maintained.
Loose wiring and harness on sensors and modules and rust around connection points are sources of electrical noise or signals that can change the sensor output and result in a Service Stabilitrak message appearing.
In case of sensor failure, for example, the first step should be to check for loose connection or rust.
Use a contact spray to remove debris and reconnect it to get a good connection.
The fault should go away if a poor connection is the issue. Reset the Stabilitrak to confirm.
Issue with Onboard Computer
The onboard computer may sometimes malfunction. When this happens, it will most likely result in a number of warning indications being lit at the same time.
It is remedied by reinstalling the software and rebooting it.
Use of E85
This one is strange, but there have been reports of Service Stabilitrak right after filling up with E85 fuel, but it disappears once they refill with unleaded gasoline.
Is it okay to drive my Chevy Malibu with a “Service Stabilitrak” message?
If your car is not in Limp Mode, it is perfectly okay to drive it. However, if your dashboard is all lit up with achievements, I mean check lights, you should immediately stop on the side of the road and not drive any further.
What are the symptoms of a bad Stabilitrak?
A number of symptoms due to a bad Stabilitrak include poor and inconsistent steering, loss of power, and hard shifting. You will also get a message on the screen saying, “Service Stabilitrak.”
Is StabiliTrak covered under warranty?
The Stabilitrak is only covered in warranty when you have the bumper-to-bumper warranty. A simple drivetrain warranty will not cover the Stabilitrak issue.
Will the car fail to start with a bad Stabilitrak?
The Stabilitrak does not impact the car from starting. You can drive the car without a problem; however, your traction control and StabiliTrak will remain off.
Make sure to have it checked if it’s not starting. You are probably having a different issue other than the Stabilitrak.
In this post, I have looked at why the Stabilitrak on Chevy Malibu might fail with the message “Service Stabilitrak.”
As I have shown, the Stabilitrak can be impacted and influenced by input from other systems, and any failure in this system may also trigger an issue with Stabilitrak.
Although it is not a critical issue, and you are mostly okay to drive your car, wise heads know better not to delay the proper diagnosis and repair of a problem. Happy Driving.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7P4MZjxk1c (Service Stabilitrak; wheel sensor clean up and reconnection)