This happens to me every time I plug the car battery back in. What you have to do is take apart the dash and move the needle by hand.
Step 1) Tools, all you need is a star screwdriver step 2) unscrew the two screws that attached to the underside of the dash near your gauges. Step 3) carefully start pulling the dash cover back. There are two wires connected to this. The interior light dimmer dial, and the hazard lights. You will need to disconnect those by unsnapping them. The whole dash piece should come off all the way to the 'Malibu' sign on the far right. Step 4) remove that clear plastic cover to your gauges. Now I bought my Malibu used, so there was no screws on this part, but it looks like there are places for these screws to hold this in. Two at the top, two at the bottom. Getting this piece out is tricky. Try moving the steering wheel down to help. Once this is off, just use your finger to move the needle back. The needle should drop to the pin showing no gas, unless the car is on. Step 5) reassemply, putting the clear plastic cover back on is harder I find, you might have to use more force and try to bend the plastic to fit in a little easier. Make sure that you tripometer button goes through the plastic hole before using any force though. Then if you had 4 screws, rescrew them back in Step 6) Reconnected the wire to the interior light dimmer dial and the hazard lights. Step 7) Snap in the dash and screw in the two screws.
Very simple to fix you need a small electric wire like telephone line (only the copper part).Using the wire try to flip the needle using the small hole arround the mileage reset button, hope it helps.It took about 30 seconds to do this. it really works.
I used a coat hanger and stuck it through the odometer hole and wiggled it up there
I used I fine wire through the hole in the odometer reset post and placed the end of the wire close to the base of the needle and guided the needle COUNTER CLOCKWISE. I had to move the fuel guage needle past the temperature gauage needle by moving the temp guage needle out of the way a bit. It took a few tries. I accomplished this in about 2 minutes.
I can only agree with the previous three answers - much easier to use a wire (I used a paperclip that i straightened out - that worked really well) it is really easy to do - took about 30 seconds to move it back into place and is much easier than trying to disassemble the dash.
I use two strong magnets because the gauges are made out of metal. By using the attract and repel method, it works! Once you get accustomed to manipulating the magnets the method is fairly quick.
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