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 9 of 11)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #57

Feb 152009


  • 1 miles


I would like to know why Saturn has not been forced to do a recall with all of the problems with the ignition on Ions not working at certain times. I have researched this on the internet and it is clearly a design issue. I am often stranded because the car will not start.

- Belcamp, MD, USA

problem #56

Feb 162009


  • 63,000 miles
Starting this fall, my 2003 Saturn Ion has had a problem with not starting sometimes. It starts fine in the morning no matter how cold, but sometimes after I drive a little while and engine is warmer, it will not start back up if I run into the store or whatever for a few minutes. It turns over a few strokes and dies completely. If I try immediately after that absolutely nothing happens. I will normally wait 15 minutes (or so) and it starts perfectly fine with plenty of power.

- Springfield, MO, USA

problem #55

Jun 012007


  • 60,000 miles
Car fails to start intermittently. Wait 10 min, car turns over then dies. Wait 5 min car will start (high RPM's at first) w/O problem.

- O Fallon, MO, USA

problem #54

Feb 102006


  • miles


The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. At temperatures of 30 degrees and below, the vehicle failed to start. The contact had to make several attempts before the engine would turn over. The dealer performed a diagnostic and discovered that the ignition switch was faulty. The ignition switch was replaced under warranty; however, the failures continued to occur. The dealer performed another diagnostic and found that the ignition switch needed to be replaced yet again at the contact's expense. The VIN that was provided was not accepted by the system. The failure mileage was unknown and the current mileage was less than 65,000.

- Clifton Heights, PA, USA

problem #53

Jan 272009


  • miles
I have a 2003 Saturn that will not start when it gets cold, this has happen since I have had the car. This can be very frustrating and costly when I miss hours from work or trying to get my child to school. I have seen several complaints regarding this issue. Is there anyone willing to do anything. Why should we continue to suffer for trusting a product with your name on it for reliable transportation. Karen

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #52

Feb 032009


  • 37,000 miles
I have a 2003 Saturn Ion. I have had it in 3 times to be worked on. Some days it will start some days it will not. I have had a fuse replaced, my started, and a connection to the starter. I know 2 other people who have had the same issue with the same car. Now I read this online blog and a ton of people having the same issue. My car is no longer under warranty so I will have to pay for all of these repairs.

- Tonawanda, NY, USA

problem #51

Jan 302009


  • 60,000 miles


Car will not start in cold weather (approximately 30 degrees or lower). Initial attempt at starting puts car into anti-theft mode, and you must wait about 10 minutes to try again with no guarantee the same thing won't happen again.

- Fairless Hills, PA, USA

problem #50

Dec 222008


  • 68,000 miles
I have had numerous incident during the last 14 months regarding my Saturn Ion III not wanting to start in cold weather & the ignition switch not allowing me to release the key. This has caused me to take my vehicle to a mechanic to try to diagnose, new battery, towing etc.

- Hutto, TX, USA

problem #49

Jan 232009


  • 102,000 miles
Saturn will not start in cold weather. Starts fine in the warmth of my garage. Barely turns over then dies. Have to wait several minutes or have it jumped. Battery is fully charged and alternator is good. Starter problem or ignition problem. Same as many others:

- Oakdale, MN, USA

problem #48

Jan 182009


  • 74,000 miles
Car has problems starting up in cold weather, but it's sporadic - sometimes it will start, sometime it won't. believe it has something to do with a "white" wire that is in the steering column and connected to the ignition switch.

- Cornelius, NC, USA

problem #47

Jan 142009


  • 86,000 miles


Car has starting problems. Intermittent starting in cold weather and now stalls while driving. Dealer installed new ignition switch one week ago for $230, but stalling is once again a problem. This is a safety issue when you are stuck in a car in the middle of traffic!

- Highland, IN, USA

problem #46

Jan 202009


  • 70,000 miles
My 2003 Saturn Ion refuses to start sporadically on cold mornings. This has been going on since early fall. My car repair shop assures me that the battery in my car is fully charged and capable of starting. They tell me that they have seen 5-6 of these issues with Saturn Ions in the past month, and that I must take it to the Saturn dealership because it is a known ignition switch issue. I live in a fairly small town, the fact that my shop has seen this many issues with Saturn is astounding. I have small children and the temps in Indiana have been below zero. I fear that I will have them out somewhere and be unable to start my car in sub-zero temperatures, or that I will be unable to pick them up from school because I cannot get my car started. I have read on the web this morning, that I am not alone in my issues with my Saturn Ion. I realize that no one has died or been injured in my particular situation, but if small children are stranded in my car in sub-zero temps because my car won't start, it seems that, at the very least we have a potential safety issue here.

- Greenfield, IN, USA

problem #45

Jan 142009


  • 66,000 miles
My Saturn Ion has been having intermittent problems starting in cooler weather. I have replaced the battery and found out online that the ignition switch either goes bad or the wrong switch was installed at the factory. The problem has to do with a key code and voltage. This has occur at least once a week for a month now.

- Pinckney, MI, USA

problem #44

Jan 182009


  • miles
The problem has existed since I purchased the car. My car does not cold start in temperatures under 30 degrees. Many Saturn owners with same problem. Car is no longer under warranty but when it was I brought it in many times for diagnostic tests and service. Dealer replaced ignition switch twice and starter once. Problem has never been fixed. Its worse now then ever before in these cold dayton Ohio winters. Now they say they need to replace the mother board for my car after doing another diagnostics test for a total of @ $500. I feel Saturn is not only giving me the run around but will gladly still take my hard earned money. Please help. Im about to be a father and don't want to be stranded in the cold with my child by a company that just got millions loaned to them by our government. Not fair, please help hold them accountable for their wrongdoings.

- Kettering, OH, USA

problem #43

Jan 172009


  • 62,000 miles
Car will not start when all components are good. Faulty anti theft device.

- Pottstown, PA, USA

problem #42

Jan 152009


  • miles
The temperatures in fort wayne have been below freezing lately (wind-chill was -35 today), and my 2003 Saturn Ion has had a lot of trouble starting. When I turn my key in the ignition, it turns over but won't start. After letting it sit for a minute, I try to start it again, only now it won't even turn over; it just clicks. I thought my battery needed to be replaced, but I haven't had much help today in dealing with it. I searched the internet for advice, and I came across a car review website with several reviews and comments complaining about the same 2003 Saturn Ion problem I'm having. From the reviews and comments, I figured our problems are one in the same- the cars have faulty ignition switches. I tried to get my car fixed when I first bought it last year, and the dealer told me it was an ignition problem. I'm just now discovering that it's a problem with all 2003 Ions- not just mine. As far as I know, Saturn is doing nothing to help its customers in their greatest time of need. Thank god my car died in the parking lot at work and not in some location where I would be stranded in the frigid temperatures.

- Fort Wayne, IN, USA

problem #41

Dec 132007


  • 36,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. In cold weather conditions, the vehicle would not start. Usually after repeated attempts of turning the key in the ignition, the vehicle will start. The vehicle has not been taken to the dealer for inspection to determine the cause of the failure. The failure mileage was 36,000 and current mileage was 48,000.

- Omaha, NE, USA

problem #40

Dec 252008


  • 60,000 miles
I drive a 2003 Saturn Ion 3 - and every winter I go through the same issue. The car will randomly not start. After about 10-20 minutes of attempting to start the vehicle will finally turn over and start just fine. I began to research this issue last winter and found this: this website has pages and pages of people owning the same car and having the same problem. The problem happens only when it's cold out and it started off happening once in a great while...up until this winter. I live in Wisconsin and it's cold for a good 4 or 5 months. This week my car has not started 5 times resulting in me being late for work and late for scheduled events....5 times. I work for a highly respected company and am an office manager. I am expected to be on time to open the office and get things going in the morning. I'm hoping that with the millions of Saturn customers who are not satisfied that a recall will be issued and I can have this problem fixed. I can not justify paying for a problem that a multi million dollar car company is aware of and is choosing to do nothing about.

- Kaukauna , WI, USA

problem #39

Mar 012008


  • 60,000 miles
Only when it's cold outside, my car won't start. I've replaced the starter and found out that it was not the problem. After researching my issue on the internet, I found that thousands of other people have the exact same problem as me. Since the problem is the ignition switch, and everyone that replaces it says the problem persists, I'm not going to waste money on an issue that can't be resolved unless your organization puts a recall on that part. I'm sure you've received numerous of emails regarding this problem, so the only solution would be to recall that item. Since we have given you business by purchasing your vehicles, the only thing to do is to help out your loyal customers.

- Binbrook, 00, USA

problem #38

Aug 252007


  • 40,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact was able to remove the key from the ignition while the vehicle was in any gear, including drive or reverse. She took the vehicle to the dealer at least twice and each time they stated that there was a different failure. The dealer wants to replace the steering column all the way through the engine to determine the cause of the failure. The key would not turn all the way back to the acc position unless the vehicle had been idling for at least 3-5 minutes. The contact found NHTSA campaign id number 97V055000 (electrical system:ignition:switch) for the same make, but a different model and the previous year. The contact feels that the recall should be expanded for her year, make, and model vehicle. She found hundreds of complaints online regarding this failure. The failure began within a week of purchasing the vehicle. The failure mileage was 40,000 and current mileage was 41,000.

- Casselberry, FL, USA

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