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 8 of 12)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #85

Mar 102009


  • 62,591 miles


We purchased our Saturn Ion (used- from a dealership) and within a few weeks it began not starting on the first try we would have to wait for 15-20 minutes to start it. Then when the morning weather turned cold it would not start. At all. In the afternoons when it would warm up some it would start again. We thought it was the battery so replaced the battery. Next morning it wouldn't start. I went online to see if there was a recall. There was none. But, I did find hundreds of posts about the same thing. I even found videos posted to on how it might be fixed. Scary!! also I found posts where people went to the dealerships for fixes and the dealerships fixed the problem only for it to crop up again within a short time. Please can you help? I found you by accident others would make complaints but they don't know you exist to help. Our car is basically useless because we cannot count on it to start when we need it. The date I gave you was a guesstimate of the first time it happened. We have not taken our car to the dealership because of the numerous post where folks took their cars in, had repairs, only to have the trend start over again.

- Middleburg, FL, USA

problem #84

Oct 042009


  • 34,000 miles
Saturn Ion 2004 will not start in cold weather. The symptoms is sporadic and unpredictable and linked to faulty security module (anti-theft) which disables the car in cold weather. This is a well known problem documented in various forums as well as well known to Saturn dealers. Yet GM did not make a recall on this issue for more than 5 years. I have had this problem since 2005 and advised the dealers and Saturn customer service several times with no success.

- Plano, TX, USA

problem #83

Feb 012008


  • 45,000 miles
The 2004 Saturn Ion fails to start in cold weather, after getting it checked it is the ignition switch. After reading reviews it seems this is very common on this year and make. This occurs at least once a week sometimes more. It has made me late for work and even miss classes. If this is so common why isn't this part being recalled!? apparently a "security measure" has the car not starting for 10 mins, sometimes 20. Please help!

- San Francisco, CA, USA

problem #82

Jun 272009


  • 81,000 miles


Ignition lock cylinder broke which made it impossible to start the car. The lock assembly should be fairly easy to remove but the procedure requires that the key be turned to the run position. With a broken lock that cannot be done. I was only able to get the lock out be using brute force and completely breaking the lock mechanism. I am happy that this happened at a store close to home and we able to get a ride home. I guess I should be thankful we were not one of the poor souls who got stuck in an Ion that couldn't be turned off.

- Ellensburg, WA, USA

problem #81

Sep 162008


  • 63,000 miles
On colder days my car will not start. It will roll over a few times and then service vehicle light will appear. The car takes anywhere from 15-30 mins to start leaving me and my family stranded in the winter with no heat in the middle of no where. This occurs on a daily basis in the winter and in the fall 3 times a week. I haven't figured out what the problem is yet, they think it is the ignition switch. There should be a recall on these vehicles there is another person I know with the same car Saturn Ion hers is 2005 mine a 2004 and hers did the same thing hers was the ignition switch.

- White Head Island, 00, USA

problem #80

Apr 142009


  • 50,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. On April 14, 2009, while driving approximately 30 mph, the vehicle shut off without warning and the door lock system failed. The vehicle previously experienced electrical failures and trunk failure. The dealer replaced the trunk stopper. The vehicle was taken to a repair shop for a diagnosis. The current and failure mileages were 50,000.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #79

Apr 132009


  • miles


I have so many things wrong with my 2004 Saturn of course I have the cold start problem which I have had since I purchased the car(with only 7 miles on it). Anytime I drive my car over 30 miles an hour it shakes had that problem fix 2 years ago and now it is doing it again. My driver side window seal leaks when it rains. New problem don't think I've since this one yet the transmission in the windshield wiper goes out nd guess what for only $275 Saturn will replace that for you. This car is such a lemon. Clearly as I read over complaints of the single mothers like myself, the teacher or just someone who want a reliable car. This experience has taught me never by american again and do my research before buying another car. The thing I hate the most is that they seem to have to take no responsibility for this car.

- Dayton, OH, USA

problem #78

Jan 012005


  • 35,000 miles
I purchased my car new in 2004 and I have had an ongoing problem with it starting. It happens at random times and generally after 10 minutes to 30 minutes it will start up. I M not sure if the fact that I can remove my keys from the ignition while im driving down the road has something to do with it or not. It does seem like it does it more in cold/rainy weather than other times. There are still several incidents where it has been warm and sunny and it wont start. I am a single mom with two kids and I hate the thought of being stuck in my car w/ my kids and unable to go anywhere. I have been stuck in parking lots late at night after I get off work and one time it wouldn't start on my way to the hospital. No one seems to know how to fix it and everyone pretty much agrees it has something to do w/ the antitheft device put on the car. So how do we fix it and why wont Saturn do anything about. Today's economy is to bad to be loosing customers and my children are too important to me to be stuck in a car (at any given time) with no way to move. In the future I will be looking for a more dependable safe car.

- Stephen City , VA, USA

problem #77

Jan 032009


  • 50,000 miles
The problem began within the first month of the car's purchase. It was cold outside, and the car wouldn't start. After about 30 minutes, it started right up. After visiting several mechanics, I was advised to replace the alternator. Since then, I cannot count the number of times that I go out to the car and it won't, I am told that it 'may be' a faulty ignition switch. I am a teacher, and cannot be late for class. I have 34 students waiting for me every morning. Now, I have to go out to my car, 30 minutes early, and start it. If it starts, I run out 30 minutes worth of gas for fear that it won't start if I turn it off. If it doesn't start, I waste 20 to 25 minutes in the morning getting it to start. This winter, it has not started no less than 15 times. This car is not dependable.

- Princeton , WV, USA

problem #76

Feb 042009


  • 66,000 miles
My 2004 Saturn Ion does not start in cold weather. It has a brand new battery and starter, yet it is still having this problem. It will generally start after waiting about 15 minutes to try again. The consequences are being delayed 15-20 minutes each time I want/need to go somewhere.

- Hopkins, MI, USA

problem #75

Mar 232009


  • 48,000 miles


Car will not start at times, after letting it sit for about 10 mins after cranking the key a few times, it will start right up. Seems to be a common issue with this year make and model, something to do with a white wire that is part of a plug containing a bunch of wires that plug in underneath the steering column. The problem seems to be more likely to happen when its damp or raining outside. And will always fix itself if you let the car sit for about 10 mins before trying to crank it again. Car has a new battery, seems to be a lot of posts about this issue on bulletin boards on line. Seems like cutting the white wire seems to fix the issue every time.

- Brandon, FL, USA

problem #74

Oct 232007


  • 66,000 miles
I am having a consistent problem w/ my 2004 Saturn Ion 4 door 3.3 engine. The problem being is no crank with power on. After waiting 10 - 15 minutes the car will crank & start. This happens inthe morning trying to get to work, at the gas station trying to leave after a fill up, at the red light if I pump the ignition just so. After reading several Ion forums there is a very large problem here. A recall should be issued at least investigated. I am taking the vehicle into Saturn Monday the 3.23.09 to have oil change & no crank w/ power evaluated. I will keep you informed.

- Ann Arbor, MI, USA

problem #73

Mar 132009


  • 466,700 miles
I own a 04 Saturn Ion. I have been having a constant problem starting the car. When the temperature is below 40 degrees, the car won't start. All the dash lights are illuminated. So I know the battery isn't the problem. I have to wait 20 minutes before the car starts up. After doing some research. It looks like the problem is the starter switch. The grease hardens up in the cold, then the security system locks out the starter switch. I have read hundreds of complaints on message boards regarding this problem. I know GM and Saturn know of this problem also. They are saying this isn't a safety problem. I think it is. Many people are having to sit in their cars when it's below freezing, waiting twenty minutes to start their Ion's. what about parents with kids" what about if someone is trying to carjack myself" I don't have away to escape by driving off.

- Gresham, OR, USA

problem #72

Jan 262007


  • miles
My 2004 Saturn Ion has been giving me trouble for around 2 years now. It's off and on. I'll drive my car to walmart or where ever and go in the store, come out and it won't start. If I give it 15-20 mins it finally starts. My dad thought it might be my battery, but that was new. We are going to try and get an ignition switch now. Hopefully that will fix it!

- Borger, TX, USA

problem #71

Feb 142009


  • 38,000 miles
We have a 2004 Saturn Ion that when it colds does not start. At first we thought it was the battery, but the battery is fine. Then we noticed that it only happened on cold days. If the temp was below 40 degrees F. and the car sat for several hours (mostly mornings), when you attempted to crank, the car would not start. If seems if you have a dead battery. Most of the time it would start after about 10 to 15 minutes. This is very dangerous, being stranded due to mildly cold weather. Thank god nothing bad has happened while waiting for car to crank. I have talked to several Saturn owners, and they to have the same problem. At least I live in Florida and it does not stay cold long. Saturn needs to fix this problem. Also, was told by a service person at Saturn to take a blow dryer to warm the steering column. This has been happening for a few years now.

- Apopka, FL, USA

problem #70

Dec 182008


  • 85,000 miles
My 2004 Saturn Ion intermittently will not start in cold weather due to a faulty ignition switch that causes the passlock vehicle theft system to engage. I then have to wait for 10 minutes in the cold for the passlock system to reset so that I can try again to start my car. Saturn is aware of this issue and has issued a technical service bulletin for it, but has yet to have issued a recall.

- Sherman Oaks, CA, USA

problem #69

Jan 082009


  • 48,000 miles
On cold days in the winter my Saturn Ion 2 does not start. Turn the key and nothing happens. The check engine light comes on and the car will not start for 10 minutes. I have had the ignition key replaced and that fixes it for a while. I was fixed under warranty, but they replaced the part with the same series part so now not under warranty the problem recurs.

- Verona, IL, USA

problem #68

Feb 012008


  • 33,000 miles
2004 Saturn Ion, in cold weather failing to start, crank or turn over. Battery, starter, and wires all checked all in working order. Find out there was a tsb # 040845005 for it and was never informed of it. Have had the problem for past two years but never took it to the dealer for that but did have it there for other service and was never advised of the issue. Due to expired warranty dealer and GM customer service are unsure if they will cover all or any of the charge to repair it. Cost is $250 first experienced last winter and in the past month this has occurred 4 times.

- Westland, MI, USA

problem #67

Oct 032008


  • 51,000 miles
My 2004 Saturn Ion does not start in the cold weather! it happened at least 8 times since October 2008. Today is March 3, 2009. Brought it to the dealer and they said they could not find anything wrong with it. Already changed the ignition switch which wasn't the problem to begin with!

- Islip, NY, USA

problem #66

Dec 152003


  • 2,000 miles
Purchased a new 2004 Saturn Ion on 9/30/03. Winter of 03-04 car failed to start in cold weather. Saturn put 2 new ignition switches in (warranty) 2004. This winter (08-09) same starting problem. Fails to start in cold temperatures because of poorly engineered ignition switch common in the Saturn Ion.

- Fremont, OH, USA

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