How Do I Reset the "Service Vehicle Soon" Message in a Chevy Malibu?

Although the Chevy Malibu was first manufactured from 1964 to 1983, it wasn't until it was reintroduced in 1997 that the vehicle came equipped with an on-board diagnostic computer. When diagnostic trouble codes are detected by the sensors or circuits, it communicates the problem to the electronic control module, then triggers the malfunction indicator light (MIL), also known as a "check engine" or a "service engine/vehicle soon" light. In 1996, the second phase of on-board diagnostics (OBD-II) standardized the equipment used and the procedure to both read and erase the MIL.

Step 1 - Open the driver's side door to the Chevy Malibu, then look under the dashboard to locate the diagnostic link connector (DLC). The DLC represents the male connection to the OBD-II code reader/eraser plug. The Chevy Malibu stores the DLC under the dashboard on the left hand side of the steering column.

Step 2 - Plug the code reader/eraser into the DLC, then place the key in the ignition. Turn the ignition key two clicks forward to empower the electrical equipment and instrument panel lights without the engine running. Most code readers are powered by the vehicle battery once the ignition key is on, but some come equipped with an on/off button. If necessary, turn the code reader on.

Step 3 - Follow the onscreen menu displayed on the faceplate of the code reader/eraser. Some require you to scroll to an "erase" option on the onscreen menu, while other code reader/erasers come equipped with an erase button on the faceplate. If equipped with an erase button, press the button. If there is an "erase" menu option, use the scroll button(s) until the onscreen cursor highlights "erase codes" or "erase DTCs" (diagnostic trouble codes), then press the enter or send button.

Step 4 - Wait for the onscreen menu to display "command sent" before turning off the ignition key, then unplugging the code reader/eraser from the DLC.

Step 5 - Start the engine to the Malibu and check the status of the MIL (service vehicle soon light) on the instrument cluster panel.

TIPS: Any Chevy Malibu equipped with a theft deterrent radio or an internal car alarm should not have the battery disconnected to reset the service vehicle soon light. While doing this will indeed reset the light, it will also wipe out the preset radio and internal car alarm code. The car and or radio will be rendered inoperable until the preset codes are reset into the respective components.

THINGS YOU'LL NEED: OBD-II code reader/eraser

WARNINGS: Trouble codes should not be simply erased on OBD-II equipped vehicles without properly diagnosing (and making repairs if necessary) first. Erasing the codes simply turns off the MIL, but does not necessarily fix the problem. The computer will then reboot and run through a series of inspection and maintenance monitors. Once the sensor or circuit detects the repair was not made or sufficient, the computer will retrigger the MIL. In some cases, hard problem codes will only briefly reset the MIL or not allow the light to be reset at all.

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