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.

NHTSA — Electrical System: Ignition: Anti-Theft Controller Problems

CarComplaints.com Seal Of This Might Hurt

CarComplaints.com 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.

10.0

really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
23,485 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

problem #19

Nov 112008

Ion

  • 63,720 miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

My Saturn Ion 03 will not start up in early morning cold temperature. The ignition sends no signal to the anti-theft system that shuts off fuel to the car. It takes, on average, twenty minutes for the car to actually start. I noticed the problem one year ago during the winter months. At first, I speculated it was the battery, coolant/anti-freeze fluid, low gas but all checked out fine. After researching recalls and Saturn Ion problems I found that it was the anti-theft system that was triggering the problem.

- Greensboro, NC, USA

problem #18

Nov 052008

Ion

  • 55,000 miles
Car will not start, due to pass-lock being initiated.

- Cheyenne, WY, USA

problem #17

Mar 242008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles
Ignition problem - engine won't start, passlock prevents ignition. I live in Texas and it's rarely that cold in the mornings, every time this has happened to me it has been a cold wet blustery day but not freezing. Car acts like the battery is dead, but frequent manipulation of the passlock remote will eventually clear the problem. This has left me stranded several times, and if Saturn knows about the problem, and hasn't done anything about it in the 5 years that it has been occurring, then they should be held criminally negligent. They should be made to correct the problem with the ignition and the passlock system, and replace or repair the control module at no cost. My door locks no longer work, and in speaking to other owners I can expect a downward spiral of electrical failures in the coming months.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #16

Mar 102008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

My Saturn Ion 2003 does not start when the temperature drops and especially when it is coupled with it getting a bit humid. If I have an emergency on a cold, wet morning I will have to call a taxi. Something is clearly wrong in the design of the car itself -- in the security system interfacing with the starter/ignition is a guess. Saturn will not admit to their design flaw and/or shoddy workmanship! my car is not reliable at all!! I have brought it to two mechanics and the dealer. The dealer, after throwing it on the computer, said that there was absolutely nothing wrong with this car and charged me $70 for absolutely no help. Please help. Saturn needs to recall this model and fix their design problem. My first two Saturn were gems that drove and drove - needing little care. This one is simply one big design mistake... and my last Saturn. It simply will not start.

- Harahan, LA, USA

problem #15

Mar 072008

Ion 4-cyl

  • miles
Our 2003 Saturn Ion has a permanent default, in that it will not start in cold weather. And the term "cold" is relative. Saturn told us the ignition switch is faulty. Thus, we paid an excess of $200 to rectify the problem. However, this "solution" lasted only a little over one year. Now, Saturn tells us that though we have the updated ignition switch, it still causes the same no-start problem, and we need a $575 (plus tax) body control module. We had to pay $104.54 for Saturn to tell us this. Obviously, this is a problem caused by the manufacturer, which is leaving many people stranded morning, noon, and night in various locations around the country. The problem should be immediately rectified through a recall.

- Everett, WA, USA

problem #14

Jan 142008

Ion

  • 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

Jan 122008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

My 2003 Saturn Ion would not start after being out in cold weather. This has happened before and I am tired of it. Based on research I have done on the net, it appears Saturn is aware of this and doesn't seem to care.

- Spanish Fork, UT, USA

problem #12

Jan 032008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
2003 Saturn Ion. This car will not start in the cold weather. If the temperature is below 32 degrees F for an extended period of time, the car will stall. This will be a recall item once we get together and sue Saturn for this obvious negligent behavior. This problem is well known and is continual. Perhaps when some unfortunate soul is stranded in the wilderness and dies, then the manufacturer will pay attention to this cold weather start problem. The public is well aware of the problem and so is Saturn. It would be well worth it for the corporate office to crunch the numbers and decide to recall the vehicle for this problem. I have read that the difficultly may have to do with a type of lubricant on the starter, which hardens in the cold weather. The car stalls as a result, and then the pass-lock kicks in. After 8 minutes, the car may start, or one may have to wait an additional 8 minutes (or more) for the ignition switch to loosen up enough to start the engine. However, the car may stall yet again---and set off the passlock system yet again. Saturn is negligent at the very least--and criminally negligent if they know of this problem---the potential dangers of it---and do nothing. Service bulletin:040845005 NHTSA item number:10007431 mfg bulletin date: 20060301 component: Electrical system:ignition:switch bulletin summary: No crank, no start when ambient temperatures is cold - diagnostic trouble codes (dtcs) B2960 and or B3033 are set.

- Fort Worth, TX, USA

problem #11

Dec 172007

Ion

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I have had several occurrences of ignition trouble with my Saturn Ion. It seems in cold weather (from 60 degrees F and below) that if the engine does not start right away, the passlock security system switches on and will not allow my car to be started for 8-10 minutes. This has caused me several times to be stuck, in the middle of the night, alone, in <30 deg weather with a car that will not start. This places me in a very dangerous situation.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #10

Jan 012005

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,000 miles
When it is too cold, my ignition switch locks my security system and I have to wait a long time before my car starts. Saturn has issued a technical advisory (# 04-08-45-005D) about this issue but will not issue a recall (even though it is obvious that this is a defect in their product). Many others have similar problems: www.carsurvey.org/viewcomments_review_97727.html

- Calumet, MI, USA

problem #9

Apr 142007

Ion

  • Manual transmission
  • miles

A D V E R T I S E M E N T S

Saturn 2003 Ion the car will not start, passlock light and check engine message displayed. Car will start after approximately 10 minutes. Happens in humid cool weather (rain, 30-40's F). A voltage signal is sent through the passlock resistor in the ignition switch. The passlock system interprets it as a failure and the starting circuit is disabled. This a potentially dangerous situation in cases where the car needs to be moved quickly to avoid a hazard.

- Manchester, PA, USA

problem #8

Feb 202007

Ion 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. After inserting the key into the ignition, it was difficult to turn the key and the engine didn┐T start. On the third attempt within two hours, the vehicle started. The mechanic on two occasions stated that the ignition switch/anti-theft systemwas reading that someone wastrying to break into the vehicle. The current and failure mileage was 74,000.

- Lujunta, CO, USA

problem #7

Feb 062007

Ion

  • Automatic transmission
  • 23,000 miles
When my 2003 Saturn Ion is in weather that is 32 degrees or under, the grease in the ignition freezes thus triggering the security system to lock the car down for a period of 15 minutes. This has happened more than one time during this winter season. Had I been with a small child or elderly adult this could have been a serious event. Saturn is more than aware of this situation claiming the fix dozens of cars a week at 200+ a pop. This is a documented problem with Saturn at the dealership and at the corporate level. Their corporate office said the only way they would do a recall on this part is if people would file the claim on this site.

- Centerville, OH, USA

problem #6

Jan 192007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles
I have a 2003 Saturn Ion which I purchased new from the dealer. When it gets cold outside (usually at or below 32 degrees) the car intermittently fails to start. The passlock system activates, preventing the car from starting, because the ignition switch fails to recognize that the proper key is in the ignition. GM has issued a technical advisory (# 04-08-45-005D) dated 15 Mar 2006 identifying the ignition switch as the cause of this problem. The Saturn dealership confirmed that the ignition switch was the cause of the passlock malfunction on my car and informed me that it would cost $250 to replace the ignition switch. In performance of my duties as a federal officer I rely on my vehicle to start when I need it to. I am often dispatched to remote areas in inclement weather to assist the public. Having a vehicle that will not start because of a recognized defective ignition switch is unacceptable; being told that I have to pay for repairs because of a manufacturing defect is insulting. The faulty ignition switch is not only a safety concern of mine, it impacts the safety and security of the american public that I have sworn to protect. Finally it is a safety concern for every Saturn Ion owner who depends on their car to start in 30 degree weather when there is no other warm environment available.

- Ashburn, VA, USA

problem #5

Jan 182007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles
I have a 2003 Saturn Ion which I purchased new from the dealer. When it gets cold outside (usually at or below 32 degrees) the car intermittently fails to start. The passlock system activates, preventing the car from starting, because the ignition switch fails to recognize that the proper key is in the ignition. GM has issued a technical advisory (# 04-08-45-005D) dated 15 Mar 2006 identifying the ignition switch as the cause of this problem. The Saturn dealership confirmed that the ignition switch was the cause of the passlock malfunction on my car and informed me that it would cost $250 to replace the ignition switch. In performance of my duties as a federal officer I rely on my vehicle to start when I need it to. I am often dispatched to remote areas in inclement weather to assist the public. Having a vehicle that will not start because of a recognized defective ignition switch is unacceptable; being told that I have to pay for repairs because of a manufacturing defect is insulting. The faulty ignition switch is not only a safety concern of mine, it impacts the safety and security of the american public that I have sworn to protect. Finally it is a safety concern for every Saturn Ion owner who depends on their car to start in 30 degree weather when there is no other warm environment available.

- Ashburn, VA, USA

problem #4

Dec 292006

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 35,500 miles
My Saturn Ion 3 had 4 occurrences of service vehicle's message in the last 24 hours since Dec 29, 2006. When I turn the key, the engine doesn't turn over. The message windows shows "service vehicle" and the "security"/pass lock symbol on the dash keeps flashing. I kept trying turning the ignition, nothing happnened. The after approx. 10 minutes, the car started and ran great as if nothing happened.

- Grand Blanc, MI, USA

problem #3

Nov 252006

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 10,000 miles
When it is cold out and the car has sat, it will not crank. I have seen information that it may be related to the body control module $590 fix, or the ignition switch $200 fix. The problem appears to be tied to the theft deterrent system. If the car does nothing, and I lock and then unlock the car it will crank for 1/2 a second then stop. It wont crank again until I lock and unlock the car again. Eventually after doing this numerous times it will start. I know that there is a tsb on this problem but believe that it should be a recall item for either the BCM, the ignition switch, or both.

- Orono, ME, USA

problem #2

Dec 172004

Ion 3-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 53,000 miles
When weather turns cold car will not start, after 20 - 30 minutes car starts. After first visit to dealer we were told there was no problem found, a year later as winter returns so does the problem and now we are told that the body control module and the passlock sensor both need to be replaced. We have also been told that this is not covered under warranty or even the extended warranty we purchased. I have held off on repairing as we have another vehicle we can use and did some research on the internet. Although we have not experienced all the symptoms described by others, one disturbing symptom is that some GM vehicles experience sudden loss of power and or stalling. Nothing has been done to correct this problem yet.

- Stafford Springs, CT, USA

problem #1

Jun 162005

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 27,000 miles
At the time my Saturn was involved in an accident it was under 30,000 miles and still under warrenty. I was driving on a busy highway and my accelerator got stuck. At the time I could not see what was holding down my accelerator. It was a piece of panel that came off partially that was holding the accelerator really hard and it was stuck making my pedal stuck almost all the way to the floor. I tried to slow the car down with both feet on the breaks and the emergency break to no avail. I didn't turn the ignition off because I had cars on all sides of me going 50-70 mph. It was when I came to a red light that I realized my car wasn't going to stop and I had no other choice but to hit an SUV and my car kept trying to accelerate and push the SUV out of the way. That is when I turned off the ignition. I had to turn off the ignition before another accident occurred. The SUV was damaged. My car was damaged. I haven't been able to get my car fixed because I am waiting for Saturn to acknowledge the manufacturing defect which caused the accident, so that they could lend me a rent-A-car while it is in the shop. But, I cannot get them to give me a call to make an appointment to get my car in the shop or supply a rent-A-car. A forensic investigator inspected my car on Friday and agrees that I didn't cause the accident. He supplied the information to Saturn and still three days later I can't even get a courtesy call. The accident was on June 16, 2005. I couldn't get them to call me to speak about what my options were until the week of July 1, 2005. Then an investigator July 8, 2005. They have not made one effort to work with me about getting the car into the shop. They have not given me the time of day to make an appointment with a Saturn shop location to get my car fixed and so that they could supply a rent-A-car.

- Silver Spring, MD, USA

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