Huge win for car owners! All TSBs to be made public. The Center for Auto Safety just made the NHTSA (US Government) make public the full text of all TSBs from now on. They are the same organization that has petitioned the NHTSA & filed lawsuits to protect car owners over exploding gas tanks & other major safety issues. Whenever you drive in your car, you are safer thanks in part to a lot of work over the years by this small but very effective consumer advocacy group.

Please take a moment & say thank you by donating $5 or whatever you can to the Center for Auto Safety. Notes: The Saturn Ion was a compact bundle of hurt wrapped up in a cheap, plastic shell. With so many defective components and a safety rating that a bicycle would be ashamed of, it’s a blessing this car only lasted five model years.

The 2003 (and 2004) Ion was cursed with GM’s flawed attempt at a continuously variable transmission, known as the VTi. It had such a high failure rate that a class-action lawsuit was filed against GM, eventually prompting a settlement and a warranty extension. GM discontinued the VTi for the 2005 model year – surprise, surprise.

The 2003 Ion was also part of one of the largest and most controversial recalls of all-time. A defective ignition switch in millions of GM vehicles could accidentally turn the car off and disable important safety components like the power steering and airbags. The problem resulted in at least 13 deaths, but what made it worse was that GM knew about the issue for 10 years before doing anything about it.

So was the transmission warranty extended? Yeah. Was the ignition switch recalled? Eventually. Is this car safe to drive? Not really. Honestly, you’re better off looking elsewhere.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
8 / 3
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
56,368 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Saturn Ion electrical problems

electrical problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments (Page 11 of 11)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #17

Jul 012008


  • 73,000 miles


Car does not want to start in cold weather & recently has not wanted to start a few times in warm weather. I have only had the car since January & on average it does this 5-10 times a month. If you put the key in to start the car, it will either make a clicking noise & wont start or it will start then the ignition dies immediately. Service engine soon scroll light will come on. It usually takes 10-30 minutes to eventually get the car started. One time in extremely cold weather it would not start for 4 days. Took car to dealership where purchased & it failed to act up while they had it. They said there was nothing they could do about it.

- Lagrange, KY, USA

problem #16

Oct 012006


  • 56,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle would not start in cold weather. The vehicle takes over one hour to start and the dealer could not duplicate the failure. The vehicle has not been repaired. The manufacturer stated that her VIN was not included in the GMC ignition module recall (number 03033-03C-06). The VIN was unknown. The failure mileage was 56,000 and current mileage was 98,000.

- Pendleton, NC, USA

problem #15

Mar 182008


  • miles
1) try to start Saturn Ion 2) it failed to start 3) waited 10 min. It starts.

- Clarksville, OH, USA

problem #14

Jan 142008


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


During cold weather, my 2003 Saturn Ion will not start. Replaced the battery 12/07, and a diagnostic check of the starter and alternator was fine. It appears to be an ignition switch item from reading similar complaints online.

- Suffern, NY, USA

problem #13

Nov 302007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles
My complaint is that my car shuts off while I'm driving it. The first time it happened I was leaving work and had just made a right hand turn and as I was accelerating the car completely turned off, I was going about 30 mph when it happened. I was able to pull the car to the side of the road without incident. I took the car to the dealership immediately to have the issue fixed. I was told the problem was the body control module, so it was replaced and I picked up my car. Two weeks later I was on my way to work on a busy highway during rush hour traffic and while I was in the left lane going 65 mph the car completely shut off. I put on my flashers and coasted to a stop, using some brakes, but I couldn't stop too suddenly or I would have been rear-ended. I was in the left lane next to a jersey wall, there was not much of a shoulder so I was partially on it and partially blocking traffic, I am very lucky to not have been hit. It would be a real tragedy for someone to be killed due to this malfunction before notice was taken and these cars recalled completely.

- Midlothian, VA, USA

problem #12

May 172007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,500 miles
This happened three times now. First time the daughter was driving and the vehicle service engine display came on and all electrical power went out. Immediately pulled to the side of the road. Turned off the key, checked under the hood for smoke, and called dad because the car was stuck in park with the key stuck in the ignition, and the windows locked in the down position. Called roadside assistance, the extended warranty - no problem, they will tow it to the nearest Saturn dealer, 180+ miles away through a rain storm. Several days later had to drive round trip to retrieve car from Saturn dealer, who has replaced 7.5 amp body control module fuse, but didn't know why it blew out. Got back home, 180+ miles and no problems. Daughter entered the car, went 8 miles, bang same thing. To replace fuse called Saturn to make an appointment. Drove car back to Saturn 180+ miles to get fuse to blow 3 times on way back by adjusting the LH rv mirror. They kept the car for one week and replaced LH mirror switch. Picked up car from Saturn. Dealer no problems for about a month. Today she was heading to work, adjusted LH rv mirror and BCM fuse blew out, everything went dead. Called Saturn why do I have to pay to have them fix what I just paid to have fixed, $50 deductible, and what was the real root of the problem" when was this going to happen again? checked this site for other similar problems. Found ODI #10152158 noticed that the vins were very similar - 9th digit was different. Mine was 0, and theirs was X. did not know if that was significant. It happened twice 13 months apart. We have been able to duplicate. 1 original failure, 3 duplicated by myself, and now another failure. Don't think it was the mirror switch. It was the BCM" owner loved Saturn. He owned 3. 2006 vue, 2006 Ion quad coupe, and 2003 Ion sedan. This was a lemon. Saturns were not lemons. This was a little elctronic glitch is., and a safety hazard that could get someone killed.

- Missoula, MT, USA

problem #11

Jan 102007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 34,000 miles


For the past two winters I've had difficulty starting my car on 5 separate occasions. When I went out to start it each time it wouldn't start. I would wait about 10-15 minutes to restart it, and luckily it started. This has caused me to be late on every occasion, all the while braving the freezing cold.

- Overland Park, KS, USA

problem #10

Feb 162007


  • miles
I have a 2003 Saturn Ion. I just purchased this car from the dealership earlier in 2006. It worked great until the cold winter came. Ever since the weather has become cold I have had issues starting my car almost daily. I will get in the car and try to start the engine. Most times nothing noise at all. Other times it will sound like it's turning over but will then stop. I will have to wait about 10 minutes and then the car starts fine. I will drive to my location and shut the car off. If I get back in again within a short period of time I have to go through the same process again. I have searched the internet message boards and have found hundreds of people with the same issue...but still no recall by Saturn. If this problem persists without a recall I will no longer purchase Saturn vehicles.

- Westland, MI, USA

problem #9

Apr 102006

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I have been having some issues with clunking and grinding noises when going over bumps or potholes or while making turns. I took my 2003 Ion 2 to have this checked and I found out that the problems was both of my control arm bushings. My car is 2 months out of warranty and has only 38,000 miles on it, so at first I thought that this could be untrue. But, after internet research it seems that many 2003 Ion drivers have had this problem. I called my Saturn dealer and they acted like they had never heard of this problem and could do nothing to help me or fix it. My other problem with the car, which also seems to be a common problem, is that the service engine soon light comes on intermittently. One day it will be on, and the next it will be fine.

- Olathe, KS, USA

problem #8

Mar 032006

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,470 miles
This has happened twice in exactly thirteen months the first time was on February 3, 2005. I adjusted my power drivers side mirror while driving home at night on highway 61 and heard a pop and all my lights including headlights and dash lights went out. My four way safety flashers also would not work I was driving in complete darkness while traveling approximately 67 mph this incident occurred almost identically last year while driving in town approximately 25 mph adjusted mirror heard a pop and all lights went out. Luckily in both incidents no one hit me from behind due to the fact they couldn't see me until it was too late. No one was killed or injured but that was just pure luck.. last years incident I had my car towed to Saturn and they determined that the BCM fuse was bad they replaced fuse. Obviously they did not get to the root of the problem you would think you can adjust your power mirror without having all lights shut off including dash lights.. once you put the vehicle into park you cannot turn it off completely the key will only go as far as the accessory position and cannot be removed. The engine will run you just can't move the vehicle. Somehow I do not think they corrected the problem entirely when they replaced the fuse. It seems to me you should not blow a BCM fuse every thirteen months exactly to the day. It is such a potentially fatal problem the consequences are terrifying. My 2003 Saturn Ion-3 can not be the only car out there with this happening especially twice in thirteen months.

- Dewitt, IA, USA

problem #7

Aug 312005

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 8,890 miles


(1) highway driving (2) found out the windshield wipers no longer worked on any setting after some water splashed up on my windshield. Nearly had an accident from inability to see. Found out after I stopped that the trunk release also no longer worked. (3) contacted Saturn via email. Action is pending.

- Fairfax, VA, USA

problem #6

Jul 152005

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 34,000 miles
Unresolve problem (7/2004 - 7/2005) vehicle is unsafe. Suddenly stalls and stops while on highway creating hazard for traffic following at 65 mph. Returned to dealer several times. They can not isolate the problem and can not repair.

- Olive Branch, MS, USA

problem #5

Nov 202004

Ion 4-cyl

  • 15,165 miles
While driving. Upon stopping the vehicle. The consumer got out to take the child out of the vehicle with the ignition running. The doors locked, and the consumer could not get her child out of the vehicle. Consumer contacted the dealer. However, the problem still exist. Doors locked automatically upon exiting driver's side. Additional service include, the A/C and heater funtion failed due to faulty connection from switch to resistor card, collapse of horn cover causing loss of airbag. Ignition switch failed. The signal and running lamps were inoperative.

- Leola, PA, USA

problem #4

Oct 012003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 6,692 miles
To date, vehicle has has multiple problems which dealer/service department has been unable to resolve. 10 service visits in less than 6 months and no end in sight. Problems include: Daytime running lights/blinker lights inopperable (repaired 6 times); outside temperature guage malfunctioning (repaired 3+ times); air conditioning inopperable and compass malfunctioning.

- Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #3

Oct 172003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,100 miles
I bought a Saturn Ion in early August of 2003. I have had 5 separate occasions where the vehicle has stalled out on me and had no control of the car what so ever! the latest time was at the interstate at 65 miles per hour with an eight wheeler truck right behind me. Had I not thought quick and put the car in neutral and restarted the car or else I would have been hit it the rear by a several ton vehicle. I could have been killed! the entire power to the car dies !! the steering column locks up and you the entire car "shuts down" and you are stuck in front of another car w/ only the prayer of restarting your Saturn Ion so that you are not killed! the first person I spoke with in the service department told me that he had heard of this in a "couple of other cars" the service manager claimed he had no knowledge of what the "first service technician was talking about." I am outraged that Saturn said they would try to get the car to "duplicate" this problem for them. I have told them that it is not something that happens everyday or even every week. Their response was "we can't fix what we do not know is broken" I am going to ask that the car be returned to gmac which is the lean holder! I do not think this is a safe vehicle for myself and my small children. "I strongly discourage others from purchasing the Saturn Ion !!!! I feel as if I have been riding in a death trap!! outraged unfortunate Saturn owner of winston-salem.

- Kernersville, NC, USA

problem #2

Mar 172003

Ion 4-cyl

  • miles
The front and rear turn signal light bulbs blew out 11 times. First the dealer told me the bulbs were bad, then too many amps for the turn signal circuit. They did some "conversion" 8 months ago and the bulbs blew out less frequent but still occurring. The driver front bulbs blew 3 weeks ago. The turn signal also malfunction whenever I plug the cell phone charger into the power outlet. I had many near accidents because of the turn signal.

- Burnsville, MN, USA

problem #1

May 052003


  • miles
When the consumer plugged devices into the cigarette lighter the turn signal would not work.

- Corpus Christi, TX, USA

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