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: Ahh, the 2004 Saturn Ion: defective transmission, deadly ignition switch, temperamental power steering and a cheap plastic exterior that won’t protect you in a crash. What more could you want?

The 2004 Ion was part of GM’s massive ignition switch recall where it was revealed they waited 10 years – and let 13 people die – before doing anything about it. It also features GM’s now infamous VTi continuously variable transmission. Let me tell you, the only thing the VTi did continuously was fail on its owners. GM scrapped it after only two model years.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
8 / 3
Injuries / Deaths:
6 / 0
Average Mileage:
53,168 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.

2004 Saturn Ion electrical problems

electrical problem

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2004 Saturn Ion Owner Comments (Page 5 of 12)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #145

Jan 142008

Ion 4-cyl

  • 30,000 miles


It turns out Saturn Ion ignition switches came with a flaw from the factory, excessive grease with poor cold weather performance.the passlock issue presents itself as your car suddenly not starting. Suffice it to say if there's no obvious reason for your vehicle to not start, it's probably passlock related. If you've noticed that waiting a few minutes seems to help, that's the clincher. Ten minutes is the magic number, that's when the computer resets. If you were charged for a new battery, starter, ignition switch or a tow I suggest you not let the issue drop, it wasn't your fault or responsibility. GM should take responsibility. Forgetting the unpleasantness of being stranded in 10 minute increments (also, the car fails to start several times in a row, as long as 40 minutes before) this is a safety issue that should be dealt with accordingly. Calling the problem a safety issue might seem like a stretch but let's think for a moment. What if you're trying to flee an emergency situation (stalker, landslide, fire, flood, etc.) and your car fails to start" what if it's -10 outside and your car won't start" you're now stuck in a freezing car for a minimum of 10 extra minutes, going inside isn't always an option! leaving aside the safety examples, think of everyday life, today is big meeting day, you're ready to leave and... car won't start. Safety & reliability are two (2) key items definitely failing in order for driving to and from any destination. I feel GM/Saturn should be held responsible for this defect. As far as I know, there has been no notification from GM/Saturn regarding this defect. With the recent fix, I paid $550 for the repair of the ignition switch, new battery, starter and plugs, which all needed to be changed due to the stress & strain of this "starting" issue. I would appreciate reimbursement of the amount stated. Please reply...[xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Horseheads, NY, USA

problem #144

Dec 312013

Ion 4-cyl

  • 62,720 miles
I was driving into parking lot and electric power steering warning with alarm came on the readout on the dash. At that time it had become nearly impossible to turn the steering wheel in any direction. If anyone had been close enough to me there would have been a collision. I turned the ignition off and then on again and the electric steering returned. I am the original owner of the vehicle and this incident put me in a panic mode because I am physically disabled with disabilities that affect my arms and legs. Trying to turn the steering wheel when the electric steering failed caused me great pain. I fear that if this happens again there could be a serious accident with other vehicles or even serious injuries to pedestrians. There was no way I could control that vehicle without a fully functional electric steering. I consider myself lucky that the vehicle was going at a very slow rate of speed and not on the roadway when this happened.

- Methuen, MA, USA

problem #143

Aug 192013

Ion 4-cyl

  • 122,000 miles
Driving on the freeway, at approximately 65 mph, when a chime went off. Steering immediately became difficult and I noticed that the power steering indicator light was on. I exited the freeway carefully and pulled over, turned off the car, then restarted it and the power steering came back on. Since this initial incident the problem has become more frequent. I am unable to safely drive the car and have been told it will cost over $1,000 to replace a power steering motor in the steering column. Also I have discovered this to be a frequent issue for this model vehicle. With the danger involved shouldn't a recall be in order?

- Visalia, CA, USA

problem #142

Feb 062008


  • 34,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the ignition switch key was engaged repeatedly and the engine would not operate. The failure occurred ten times. The vehicle was towed to the authorized dealer for diagnostic testing which detected a trouble code related to a module. The contact was uncertain of the part that was replaced. The problem continued and the vehicle remained at the dealer for further investigation. The manufacturer was notified of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 34,000.

- Clearwaer, FL, USA

problem #141

Mar 152011


  • 80,000 miles
The ignition would not engage could not start the car and replaced the entire system at $400 cost. Less than a year later, the key now will not come out of the ignition and the car will not turn off. I disconnected the battery and it still would not turn off. After more than 30 minutes, and the engine overheating we were able to pull enough fuses to shut the engine off. They say I have to replace the same system again. I have heard that this is a recurring problem with this car and I can't get any answers from GM. I can not afford to replace this system again at a cost of $400 please help me with.

- Milton, WI, USA

problem #140

Nov 042011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 110,000 miles
Our car, 2004, Saturn ion3, caught on fire in the driveway on it's own about 2 hours after it was driven home on 4 Nov 2011. No driver - no key in the vehicle when it caught fire. I submitted an initial request for review to GM claims along with all documentation that we had via emails and our claim was denied.

- Newport News, VA, USA

problem #139

May 012012

Ion 4-cyl

  • 145,000 miles


When I turn my car on the parking lights and front turn signals starting blinking really quick like strobing. I can turn my left turn signal on and it will blink inside hearing the normal ticking. If I turn my right turn signal on it the arrow on the inside blinks slower and makes no ticking sound.if I push on my brake the light work probably and the ticking sound on the right turn signal inside starts. If I put my emergency brake on it works properly. The strobing of the front outside parking lights stop. If I turn my parking light on and drive with them on everything works properly. I know this has something to do with the recall. It is effecting my car so bad that my radio display light blinks also. So it is getting feedback from this problem before I have a wreck. I am a single mother with 2 children.

- Saint Joseph, MO, USA

problem #138

Aug 262012


  • 155,300 miles
For the second time the ignition lock cylinder broke. Today we unable to turn off the engine. We had to remove fuses to kill the engine and disconnect the battery. The first time it happened we were stuck in the grocery store parking lot because the key would not turn to start. In both cases we had to break the ignition lock in order to remove the lock cylinder. With the cylinder removed we can use a screw driver to start the car. The screw is much more reliable.

- Ellensburg, WA, USA

problem #137

Aug 112012


  • 94,500 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact was driving 20 mph when she began to smell burning rubber and plastic. The contact stopped the vehicle and at discovered that the power windows and power locks had become inoperable. The fuse was replaced for the windows and they began to function properly. A personal mechanic advised the contact that the new fuse would need to be removed to ensure that no electrical fires occurred. The vehicle had not been repaired. The failure and current mileages were 94,500.

- Taylor, MI, USA

problem #136

Dec 142011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 85,487 miles
Multiple failures of electrical system. Gauges drop to zero, the engine may or may not stop running, then the dash warning lights ( ie oil warning light, ect ) come on, and then dash returns to normal. If the car is moving the engine starts running again. One steering warning message during a left hand turn. The car was difficult to steer into and out of the corner. I am willing to turn my car over to have the steering and electrical system checked out. Saturn has been unable to repair the electrical system since the car was new. The factory extended warranty was used to check this issue out as well.

- Plain City, OH, USA

problem #135

Nov 092011


  • 98,000 miles


When starting the Saturn on a cold morning, the ignition fails to start the car. I get a service message. After waiting about 10 minutes the car will start as if the security was resetting itself. I've read several complaints of this problem on the internet. GM will not own up to a faulty product that leaves 100S of people stranded. As time goes by this problem occurs at random times, even on warm days. I would like a recall approved for this massive safety problem. It's a safety concern because in an emergency our cars shouldn't have to sit for an additional ten minutes or stall us in a potentially bad neighborhood. The problem seems to correct itself after this ignition switch inside of the steering column has been replaced based on hundreds of testaments. I want to add that my Saturn when it was new had other recall issues like the automatic light sensor. Also, another safety issue.

- Oconomowoc, WI, USA

problem #134

Dec 092011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 140,838 miles
I was on the highway at 65 mph when the indicator light for the steering lit up and my power steering went out. I stopped and restarted my car and the power steering worked for about 5 minutes. The indicator light came on again and the steering failed. The following day my vehicle was checked out by a mechanic who diagnosed the issue as a failed eps (electronic power steering). The estimated cost of just the part is $1200. I did not ask about the cost of labor. I have started the vehicle several times since the initial incident and sometimes the indicator light is not on and the power steering works for a few minutes. Ultimately the light comes on and the steering fails again within 5 minutes. At other times I have started the vehicle and the indicator light is on and there is no power I am the original owner of this vehicle, this is very upsetting.

- Jarrell, TX, USA

problem #133

Aug 012011


  • miles
The power steering is failing nearly every time the car is used. It fails within minutes after the car is started. Making turns requires a lot of effort in turning the steering wheel. The car can still be driven without the power steering, but one would hardly call it safe.

- Middletown, NJ, USA

problem #132

Dec 012003

Ion 4-cyl

  • 1,000 miles
The litany of problems with this unsafe and unreliable vehicle is long and varied. Multiple transmission problems, electrical issues, losing power while driving, etc.. GM and Saturn knew of these issues, especially the ones concerning the vti transmission, yet they chose to continue to put the public at risk by denying their responsibilities to correct these problems. The only real way, in my opinion, to make this right is to fully recall and replace these vehicles. This car has been nothing but a nightmare since I bought it brand new in late 2003 and continues to be a hazard. Please force GM to do the right thing and get these cars off the road before someone gets killed.

- Mantua, NJ, USA

problem #131

Sep 132011


  • 96,000 miles
Key stuck in the ignition. Car would not start. A new key had to be cut.

- Penacook, NH, USA

problem #130

Sep 012011


  • 145,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while driving 40 mph, the steering wheel seized. The vehicle was carefully maneuvered to the shoulder and shut off. Upon restart, the vehicle operated as normal. The failure had since recurred on an intermittent basis. The vehicle was not taken to have the failure diagnosed or repaired and the manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The contact also stated that the vehicle would intermittently experience a failure in which it would not start. Whenever the failure occurred, the contact would have to wait approximately ten minutes before the vehicle would successfully start. The failure mileage was 145,000.

- Barstow, CA, USA

problem #129

Aug 042011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 54,302 miles
The key of my Saturn Ion will not come out when the vehicle is shut down. When the vehicle is stopped and in park, the key turns back to off but will not come out. This is the second ignition switch we've had put in this car, and there are literally thousands of people that this is happening to.

- Everett, WA, USA

problem #128

Jun 052011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 45,000 miles
I have had same problem with 2004 Saturn since day when I bought it. Take to dealer and they don't know what the problem is. Bought new battery cause that is what a mech said to do need larger size. Last month every time never failed you get in vehicle turn key on. Sounds like it wants to start, but no you have to wait 10 min then turn key and it starts. Cold or warm weather didn't seem to matter. I was told maybe starter! so I took it to a new mechanic that I had a dealing with on another issue different vehicle. He did testing and replaced the pass lock key. Something to do with the alarming system. So knock on wood.. this last week starts everytime its working. Total cost for part is $250 plus you need to have new key made and coded.

- Santa Rosa, CA, USA

problem #127

Dec 282007


  • miles
I have a 2004 Saturn Ion. I bought in the winter of 2007. It immediately presented with the problem of not starting in really cold weather. I took it to the dealership it was bought from and they told me they couldn't find a problem. I have been told by another mechanic that he couldn't find the problem either. I sometimes have to wait up to 30 minutes for my car to start in freezing cold weather. About 6 or 8 months ago the key wouldn't turn when it was inserted into the ignition. I have to jiggle it back and forth, sometimes the key almost coming out totally before it will turn over. Today it took 15 minutes to finally get it unlocked and turned over to start.

- Troy, MO, USA

problem #126

Jan 012011


  • 88,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that during cold weather the vehicle intermittently failed to start. During the failure, the engine rpms would momentarily increase and the security warning light would illuminate. The contact stated that the security light indicated that the vehicle did not recognize the key. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer where the contact was told that the failure may be due to a wiring issue. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 88,000.

- Havertown, PA, USA

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