02 Chevy Malibu engine issue

just replaced intake manifold gasket and valve cover gaskets - put car back together and now it will ‘start’ but kills almost right away and the engine sounds like it is missing real bad - checked plug hook up of course. Was told we should not have moved the fuel rail (which we had) could that have anything to do with it? I think it sounds like the timing chain is off, but we did not touch that (according to my friend who did most the work). Maybe it is not getting fuel? would the oil settling in the pan cause the engine to be loud initially? I don’t think so which is why I think it may have something to do with timing even though that wasn’t ‘touched’ (according to my friend) Help! Thanks!

You might be sucking air past the new intake manifold gasket…did you make sure they were on properly? Leaking vacume past the intake manifold gasket will produce a miss in whichever cyls are sucking air…so it will sound out of time.


would have to redo whole job if that was the case - but may have to - would that make it kill right away? runs very rough for about 3 seconds before it kills - thanks for your input!

Yes you would…and it happens.

Did you have all the spark plug wires off during this job? methinks you did…Got em on the right way now?

An intake manifold leak would be subtle unless you totally boneheaded the install of the gaskets…I mean like upside downed them or something…so I dont want to panick you…check simple things first. Like the plugs wires/firing order… Bet you have one or two out of order, not hard to to do that either

Ah…just looked at the engine you worked on…are you saying that you did the LOWER intake man gaskets and valve cover gaskets? If so you DID have the wires off…and the upper half of the intake…so you have multiple gaskets to sweat here…DOUBLE DOUBLE CHECK the wires FOR CERTAIN…then move your worries elsewhere if they check out. I also worry about the injector gaskets/orings…got to have all of the injectors seated and o-rings properly fitted also…

thanks! I might have more questions later after looking at it again - have a great day! (I know I will :))

No problemo…let us know. Not hard to mix up a wire or two… if that’s not it…we can get more Medieval on you…


Was told we should not have moved the fuel rail (which we had)

Can you clarify that? The fuel rail has to come off to do these gaskets. So are you saying that you relocated the fuel rail somehow? I once got finished with a bunch on work on my van & it wouldn’t stay running. I had temporarily tucked the brake booster line out of the way & forgotten to hook it back up - talk about a huge vacuum leak.

Ad HB has said - you need to check and double check everything. Check the fuel pressure. Triple check the order of the wires. Use vacuum gauge to try to see what engine vacuum is up to when it starts. With it running that poorly it might be hard to say what is going on, but it can’t hurt to give it a shot. If is stays really low you can be pretty sure of a vacuum leak.

Your engine uses unequal length pushrods. You did keep track of those and installed each one exactly where it came from, didn’t you?

Only other thing I can think of is that, when I did this job on my sister’s 2002 Grand Am, I had similar symptoms when I got it back together: fire, stumble for a few seconds before stalling and refuse to restart. I knew it was done right because I have done literally dozens of these. The solution was to perform the relearn procedure for the anti-theft system. If you are positive you didn’t goof somewhere mechanically, try this. Turn the key to run. Do not crank the engine. Leave it there for ten minutes, then start the engine. If you had the battery disconnected (a good idea since the alternator has to come out), you may just have to do this relearn procedure for the security system.

Oh yeah…never thought of that…but I wouldn’t think it needed anything with the “reboot” with power being removed. What happens it doesn’t recover or is there always a procedure after a battery swap or similar?


If the battery is disconnected for an extended length of time, the Passlock2 equipped vehicles often need to go through the relearn procedure. I’m not sure how long, exactly, but my sister’s Grand Am was the first car I have had to do this with when doing this job. When I was doing this for a living, I had the lower intake gasket job down to about 3 hours (and left the battery hooked up and just taped off the alternator harness so it wouldn’t arc), but my sister left her car with me for 3 days while she was out of town, so I took my sweet time with it. It had me worried, too, the way it was acting and the way it sounded when cranking. I actually pulled the valve covers back off it to make sure something didn’t happen to the pushrods somehow. Then the anti-theft idea crossed my mind, I turned the key on, slapped the valve covers and ignition system back on, fired it up and felt like a moron for thinking I screwed up a job I can practically do in my sleep.

Happens to the best of us Bro…Hey at least you caught yourself.

does anyone know in what order do the push rods go on my '02 Malibu?

Short pushrods actuate the intake valves, long ones actuate the exhaust valves. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to know this if you keep everything in order as you take it apart. I usually take everything out of the box the gasket kit comes in, mark it “engine front”, and punch holes in it to hold the pushrods so this doesn’t become an issue. I also have a tool to remove the pushrods without having to loosen the rocker arms. If you mixed them up, let us know what happened, if anything. I don’t think this engine has sufficient clearance in the combustion chamber to keep from bending the valves under such conditions.