Chevy Malibu is equipped with Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) for the purpose of warning the driver when one or more of the tires are significantly under-inflated, creating a potentially unsafe driving condition. In this article we discuss the reasons for the amber colored TPMS warning light in Malibu, and how you can reset it.
The TPMS warning light illuminates in Chevy Malibu when air pressure is low in one or more of the tires, battery has depleted in a pressure sensor, TPMS receiver module has malfunctioned, or a pressure sensor has been damaged.
Low tire pressure
When the amber colored TPMS warning light turns on in your Malibu, stop your vehicle when it is safe to do so and check tire pressure on all the wheels, including the spare wheel (if your vehicle has one). Driving on a significantly under-inflated tire causes the tire to overheat and can lead to tire failure.
Reinflate the tires
Reinflate all the tires of your Malibu to the manufacturer specified air pressure, which is mentioned on the vehicle placard or tire inflation pressure label usually located on the B-pillar or the edge of the driver door. If you can’t find the label, check the size of your tire which is mentioned on the sidewall of the tire, and match it to the tire pressure information shown below.
- P205/65R16 94H: 35 psi
- P225/55R17 95H: 35 psi
- 245/45R18 96H: 35 psi
- 245/40R19 94W: 35 psi
Resetting the TPMS warning light
After you have inflated all the tires to the correct air pressure, the TPMS warning light will turn off automatically. Chevy Malibu uses the direct method for monitoring tire pressure, which means a pressure sensor actively records the internal pressure and air temperature of the tire on each wheel. There is no need to reinitialize the TPMS system in order to reset the warning light. There is no reset button like the one you see in vehicles with indirect TPMS system which uses ABS sensors to detect low tire pressure. However, you will need to relearn the TPMS sensors if you rotate the tires or replace the sensors.
If the low tire pressure light does not turn off automatically after reinflating the tires in your Malibu, increase the tire pressure by 5 psi on top of the factory recommended value, and drive your vehicle for at least 10 miles (16 km). After the TPMS warning light turns off, and the vehicle has been parked for a few hours, reduce the tire pressure to the factory recommended value.
TPMS Sensor Matching Process
Each TPMS sensor has a unique identification code. The identification code needs to be matched to a new tire/wheel position after rotating the vehicle’s tires or replacing one or more of the TPMS sensors. The TPMS sensor matching process should also be performed after replacing a spare tire with a road tire containing the TPMS sensor. The malfunction light and the DIC message should go off at the next ignition cycle. The sensors are matched to the tire/ wheel positions, using a TPMS relearn tool, in the following order: driver side front tire, passenger side front tire, passenger side rear tire, and driver side rear tire. See your dealer for service or to purchase a relearn tool.
There are two minutes to match the first tire/wheel position, and five minutes overall to match all four tire/wheel positions. If it takes longer, the matching process stops and must be restarted.
The TPMS sensor matching process is:
- Set the parking brake.
- Place the vehicle in Service Mode. With the vehicle off, and the brake pedal not applied, pressing and holding ENGINE START/STOP for more than five seconds will place the vehicle in Service Mode.
- If equipped, make sure the Tire Pressure info page option is turned on. The info pages on the DIC can be turned on and off through the Options menu.
- Use the DIC controls on the right side of the steering wheel to scroll to the Tire Pressure screen under the DIC info page.
- Press and hold ✓ in the center of the DIC controls. A message requesting acceptance of the process may display. The horn sounds twice to signal the receiver is in relearn mode and the TIRE LEARNING ACTIVE message displays on the DIC display.
- Start with the driver side front tire.
- Place the relearn tool against the tire sidewall, near the valve stem. Then press the button to activate the TPMS sensor. A horn chirp confirms that the sensor identification code has been matched to this tire and wheel position.
- Proceed to the passenger side front tire, and repeat the procedure in Step 7.
- Proceed to the passenger side rear tire, and repeat the procedure in Step 7.
- Proceed to the driver side rear tire, and repeat the procedure in Step 7. The horn sounds two times to indicate the sensor identification code has been matched to the driver side rear tire, and the TPMS sensor matching process is no longer active. The TIRE LEARNING ACTIVE message on the DIC display goes off.
- Turn the vehicle off.
- Set all four tires to the recommended air pressure level as indicated on the Tire and Loading Information label.
Service Mode in Chevy Malibu
This power mode is available for service and diagnostics, and to verify the proper operation of the malfunction indicator lamp as may be required for emission inspection purposes. With the vehicle off, and the brake pedal not applied, pressing and holding the start/stop button for more than five seconds will place the vehicle in Service Mode. The instruments and audio systems will operate as they do with the ignition on, but the vehicle will not be able to be driven. The engine will not start in Service Mode. Press the button again to turn the vehicle off.
Chilly weather can turn on low tire pressure light in Malibu
Cold weather is one of the most common cause for low tire pressure warning light in Chevy Malibu. When analyzing WheelsJoint’s statistical data, it has been observed that there is sharp rise in the number of searches for TPMS warning light causes at the start of every winter season, about three times higher as compared to mid summer season.
The air, like most other substances, expands when heated and contracts when cooled. So when the weather gets colder, the tire pressure decreases, which could trigger TPMS warning light in Malibu. The tire pressure will vary with temperature by about 1 psi (7 kPa) for every 12°F (6.5°C).
Inflate tires when cold
Tire pressure in Malibu should always be set based on cold inflation tire pressure. This is defined as the tire pressure after the vehicle has not been driven for at least three hours, or driven less than 1 mile (1.6 km) after a three-hour period.
Do not adjust tire pressure when hot
The tires on your Malibu can get around 50 degrees hotter than the outside temperature when you’re driving, which increases the tire pressure by about 4 psi – this is normal and there should be no adjustment for this increased pressure.
Does altitude affect tire pressure?
Yes, altitude can change tire pressure values, but it is negligible and not a cause for concern. If you drive your Malibu from sea level to Mount Evans Scenic Byway in Colorado which is the highest paved road in North America at the altitude of 14,130 feet (4,307 m), the tire pressure should theoretically increase by approximately 6 psi. But, the decrease in ambient temperature at higher elevation contracts the air in tires and compensates for any altitude pressure changes.
Is it safe to drive Malibu with low tire pressure?
The driving characteristics of Malibu change even if the air pressure is 5 psi less than manufacturer’s recommended value: the braking distance can be longer, cornering worse, and at particularly high speeds there is even a risk that the tire will burst. Low tire pressure also increases tire wear, and the higher rolling resistance of the tire means higher fuel consumption. So it is recommended to reinflate the tires to the correct pressure as soon as possible.
Dead battery in a tire pressure sensor
Each tire pressure sensor in Malibu is powered by a built-in lithium-ion battery. When the battery is depleted, the sensor stops transmitting tire pressure information to the receiver module. When this happens, the TPMS warning light will flash every time the engine is started, and will remain illuminated until you turn off the vehicle.
How long do the pressure sensor batteries last?
The tire pressure sensor batteries usually last anywhere from 5 to 10 years in Malibu. When the battery is depleted, you must replace the sensor itself, as the battery is sealed into the sensor unit and is non-replaceable.
Identifying a faulty pressure sensor
The most reliable method for detecting a faulty tire pressure sensor or a sensor with dead battery is by testing each sensor with a scan tool. For example, MaxiTPMS TS408 is commonly used for diagnosing and programming tire pressure sensors. A sensor that is not detectable by the scanner is most likely defective and should be replaced with a new one.
If you don’t want to spend over a hundred bucks on a scanner, then head over to any reputable tire shop and perform a TPMS diagnostic scan of your Malibu. Some shops like Discount Tire and Pep Boys offer free of charge TPMS diagnostic services.
Installed new tires?
If a pressure sensor stopped responding after you installed new tires on your Malibu, it is possible the sensor got damaged during tire installation. These sensors are quite sensitive, and can be easily damaged if utmost care is not taken while changing tires.
Chevy Malibu TPMS user guide
The Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS) uses radio and sensor technology to check tire pressure levels. The TPMS sensors monitor the air pressure in your tires and transmit tire pressure readings to a receiver located in the vehicle.
Each tire, including the spare (if provided), should be checked monthly when cold and inflated to the inflation pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer on the vehicle placard or tire inflation pressure label. (If your vehicle has tires of a different size than the size indicated on the vehicle placard or tire inflation pressure label, you should determine the proper tire inflation pressure for those tires.)
As an added safety feature, your vehicle has been equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) that illuminates a low tire pressure telltale when one or more of your tires is significantly under-inflated.
Accordingly, when the low tire pressure telltale illuminates, you should stop and check your tires as soon as possible, and inflate them to the proper pressure. Driving on a significantly under-inflated tire causes the tire to overheat and can lead to tire failure. Under-inflation also reduces fuel efficiency and tire tread life, and may affect the vehicle’s handling and stopping ability.
Please note that the TPMS is not a substitute for proper tire maintenance, and it is the driver’s responsibility to maintain correct tire pressure, even if under-inflation has not reached the level to trigger illumination of the TPMS low tire pressure telltale.
Your vehicle has also been equipped with a TPMS malfunction indicator to indicate when the system is not operating properly. The TPMS malfunction indicator is combined with the low tire pressure telltale. When the system detects a malfunction, the telltale will flash for approximately one minute and then remain continuously illuminated. This sequence will continue upon subsequent vehicle start-ups as long as the malfunction exists.
When the malfunction indicator is illuminated, the system may not be able to detect or signal low tire pressure as intended. TPMS malfunctions may occur for a variety of reasons, including the installation of replacement or alternate tires or wheels on the vehicle that prevent the TPMS from functioning properly. Always check the TPMS malfunction telltale after replacing one or more tires or wheels on your vehicle to ensure that the replacement or alternate tires and wheels allow the TPMS to continue to function properly.
Tire Pressure Monitor Operation
This vehicle may have a Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS). The TPMS is designed to warn the driver when a low tire pressure condition exists. TPMS sensors are mounted onto each tire and wheel assembly, excluding the spare tire and wheel assembly. The TPMS sensors monitor the air pressure in the tires and transmit the tire pressure readings to a receiver located in the vehicle.
When a low tire pressure condition is detected, the TPMS illuminates the low tire pressure warning light located on the instrument cluster. If the warning light comes on, stop as soon as possible and inflate the tires to the recommended pressure shown on the Tire and Loading Information label.
A message to check the pressure in a specific tire may display in the Driver Information Center (DIC). The low tire pressure warning light and the DIC warning message, if equipped, come on at each ignition cycle until the tires are inflated to the correct inflation pressure. Using the DIC, it may be possible to view the tire pressure levels.
The low tire pressure warning light may come on in cool weather when the vehicle is first started, and then turn off as the vehicle is driven. This could be an early indicator that the air pressure is getting low and needs to be inflated to the proper pressure.
A Tire and Loading Information label shows the size of the original equipment tires and the correct inflation pressure for the tires when they are cold. See Vehicle Load Limits 0 186, for an example of the Tire and Loading Information label and its location.
The TPMS can warn about a low tire pressure condition, but it does not replace normal tire maintenance.
CAUTION: Tire sealant materials are not all the same. A non-approved tire sealant could damage the TPMS sensors. TPMS sensor damage caused by using an incorrect tire sealant is not covered by the vehicle warranty. Always use only the GM approved tire sealant available through your dealer or included in the vehicle.
Tire Pressure Light
For vehicles with the Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS), this light comes on briefly when the vehicle is started. It provides information about tire pressures and the TPMS.
When the Light Is On Steady
This indicates that one or more of the tires are significantly underinflated. A Driver Information Center (DIC) tire pressure message may also display. Stop as soon as possible, and inflate the tires to the pressure value shown on the Tire and Loading Information label.
When the Light Flashes First and Then Is On Steady
If the light flashes for about a minute and then stays on, there may be a problem with the TPMS. If the problem is not corrected, the light will come on at every ignition cycle.
TPMS Malfunction Light and Message
The TPMS will not function properly if one or more of the TPMS sensors are missing or inoperable. When the system detects a malfunction, the low tire pressure warning light, defined above, flashes for about one minute and then stays on for the remainder of the ignition cycle. A DIC warning message may also display. The malfunction light and DIC warning message, if equipped, come on at each ignition cycle until the problem is corrected. Some of the conditions that can cause these to come on are:
- One of the road tires has been replaced with the spare tire. The spare tire does not have a TPMS sensor. The malfunction light and the DIC message, if equipped, should go off after the road tire is replaced and the sensor matching process is performed successfully.
- The TPMS sensor matching process was not done or not completed successfully after rotating the tires. The malfunction light and the DIC message, if equipped, should go off after successfully completing the sensor matching process.
- One or more TPMS sensors are missing or damaged. The malfunction light and the DIC message, if equipped, should go off when the TPMS sensors are installed and the sensor matching process is performed successfully. See your dealer for service.
- Replacement tires or wheels do not match the original equipment tires or wheels. Tires and wheels other than those recommended could prevent the TPMS from functioning properly.
- Operating electronic devices or being near facilities using radio wave frequencies similar to the TPMS could cause the TPMS sensors to malfunction.
If the TPMS is not functioning properly, it cannot detect or signal a low tire pressure condition. See your dealer for service if the TPMS malfunction light and DIC message, if equipped, come on and stay on.
Tire Fill Alert (If Equipped)
This feature provides visual and audible alerts outside the vehicle to help when inflating an underinflated tire to the recommended cold tire pressure.
When the low tire pressure warning light comes on:
- Park the vehicle in a safe, level place.
- Set the parking brake firmly.
- Place the vehicle in P (Park).
- Add air to the tire that is underinflated. The turn signal lamp will flash. When the recommended pressure is reached, the horn sounds once and the turn signal lamp will stop flashing and briefly turn solid.
Repeat these steps for all underinflated tires that have illuminated the low tire pressure warning light.
WARNING: Overinflating a tire could cause the tire to rupture and you or others could be injured. Do not exceed the maximum pressure listed on the tire sidewall.
If the tire is overinflated by more than 35 kPa (5 psi), the horn will sound multiple times and the turn signal lamp will continue to flash for several seconds after filling stops.
To release and correct the pressure, while the turn signal lamp is still flashing, briefly press the center of the valve stem. When the recommended pressure is reached, the horn sounds once.
If the turn signal lamp does not flash within 15 seconds after starting to inflate the tire, the tire fill alert has not been activated or is not working.
If the hazard warning flashers are on, the tire fill alert visual feedback will not work properly.
The TPMS will not activate the tire fill alert properly under the following conditions:
- There is interference from an external device or transmitter.
- The air pressure from the inflation device is not sufficient to inflate the tire.
- There is a malfunction in the TPMS.
- There is a malfunction in the horn or turn signal lamps.
- The identification code of the TPMS sensor is not registered to the system.
- The battery of the TPMS sensor is low.
If the tire fill alert does not operate due to TPMS interference, move the vehicle about 1 m (3 ft) back or forward and try again. If the tire fill alert feature is not working, use a tire pressure gauge.
Reset the entire system
If the low tire pressure warning light won’t turn off due to a glitch in the tire pressure monitoring system, it may be possible to reset the TPMS system by resetting all on-board computers in your Malibu. This method should only be considered as a last resort, when all else fails.
You can reboot all the on-board computers by disconnecting the main 12 volt battery for a few minutes. Remove the cable from the negative terminal of the battery first, then from the positive terminal. With the battery disconnected, press the horn button a few times and turn on the headlights to drain out all the residual electricity from the system. After about 15 minutes, reconnect the battery in reverse order: positive cable first, then negative cable.
Tire pressure keeps getting low
If the TPMS warning light turns on frequently in your Malibu, and the tire pressure is also decreasing after you have reinflated the tires, there may be an air leak. One or more of the tires may have been punctured by an external object, or the air may be leaking from a defective value stem.
Can I disable the TPMS system in Malibu?
No, the TPMS system is federally mandated, and cannot be disabled in Chevy Malibu. All vehicles must have a working tire pressure monitoring system to be legally compliant.
Use OBD2 scanner for diagnosis
Since Chevy Malibu is equipped with on-board diagnostics (OBD), a fault diagnosis can provide initial indications of where the malfunction is located. But when it comes to TPMS, a basic code reader will not suffice. You will need an advanced scanner to monitor TPMS data or read TPMS codes.
BlueDriver is a commonly used scanner by DIYers that can read TPMS codes for most vehicles and isn’t too expensive – costs about a hundred bucks. You can also clear the TPMS fault codes with this device which will turn off the warning light, but the light may come back on if the on-board diagnostic system detects a fault again.