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NHTSA — Electrical System: Ignition: Switch Problems

2004 Saturn Ion (Page 1 of 3) Seal Of This Might Hurt 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:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
33,911 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 1 of 3)

problem #43

Jan 162015


  • 72,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while driving at approximately 45 mph, the power steering failed and the vehicle failed to accelerate without warning. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the ignition switch needed to be replaced. The contact mentioned that other unknown repairs were performed. The vehicle was repaired but the failure recurred. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 72,000.... updated 03/19/15

- Los Angelos, CA, USA

problem #42

May 262014


  • miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the key was difficult to remove from the ignition switch. The failure occurred on several occasions. The contact received notification of NHTSA campaign id numbers: 14V047000 (electrical system), 14V171000 (electrical system), and 14V153000 (steering). The contact stated that it had been several months and the parts were still not available to perform the recall repair. The dealer was not able to provide an estimated date for when the parts would become available and placed the contact on a waiting list. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was unknown.

- Alpine, UT, USA

problem #41

Aug 152012


  • miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the key failed to release from the ignition switch even though repeated attempts were made however, only after awaiting a hour until the engine cooled down the key released independently. The failure recurred continuously. The vehicle was repaired under the recall associated with NHTSA campaign id number: 14V171000 (electrical system) however, the failure persisted. The vehicle was taken back to the dealer and the contact was responsible for the repair expense. The manufacturer was notified of the issue. The failure mileage was unavailable.....updated 09-03-14..

- Middletown, NJ, USA

problem #40

Dec 072007


  • 35,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contac stated that the key failed to remove from the ignition on several occasions. The vehicle was not diagnosed no repaired. The contact received notification of NHTSA campaign id number: 14E021000 (electrical) and had not been able to schedule an appointment. The dealer informed the contact that the part for the recall was not available. The manufacturer was also contacted and could not provide an estimated date for when the contact's vehicle would receive the recall repair. The approximate failure mileage was 35,000.

- Hialeah, FL, USA

problem #39

Jun 022014


  • 133,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle was repaired under the NHTSA campaign id number: 14E021000 (ignition switch). The contact stated the repair did not remedy the failure. The contact stated that while driving at approximately 55 mph, the vehicle stalled without warning. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 133,000.

- Pensacola, FL, USA

problem #38

Oct 242013


  • 55,000 miles
I used to own one of the GM vehicles in the news lately regarding the ignition switch issue. I want to make sure people are looking at the ignition switch issue correctly. My vehicle was stopped at a red light when the engine simply shut off. This happened twice in the years I had owned it, but I don't remember the key being moved to the accessory position as is indicated on many of the new reports. I thought it weird, but thought I may have banged something, let the oil go far too long, or needed new spark plugs. Additionally, if you search online you'll find many instances where the car owners of this vehicle frequently have a key switch issue where an attempt to turn on the car randomly will activate the anti-theft system when trying to turn on the car despite having a perfectly valid and well used key. GM probably has an internal note about this and it might relate to the parts that need to be fixed/recalled. Finally, I once did have my key come out of the ignition while the car was still running. I was trying to turn the car off quickly and the key just came out without going all the way to the off position. Perhaps I had a faulty ignition switch, but I want to make sure the investigators see this to ensure the proper fixes are applied for our safety.

- Dublin, CA, USA

problem #37

Dec 142006

Ion 4-cyl

  • 3,918 miles


12/14/2006 - 03/2014 - ignition switch problems off/on - car won't start. First time won't start, wait 15 minutes most of the time will then start if not then wait 30 minutes then will start. There are other times that it will start then "die" then start after parking at a store (grocery, library, etc... not at an over night wait). When change oil at a dealership I have told them that problem but they could not find anything wrong with the car not starting. It happens off and on. Most of the time that happens when weather is cold but has happened in warm weather too just not as much. Again, dealerships never finds the problem because it only happens off and on for the list eight (8) years! so at 60 years old I could be stuck in very cold or very hot weather for 15 - 45 minutes and it may not be safe! now have 39,189 miles on my car with the same 3,918 mile problem!

- Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #36

Sep 292012


  • 150,000 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 Saturn owners completely stranded. This problem occurs at random times, even on warm days. A recall must be approved for this massive safety problem. It's a safety concern because in an emergency the cars shouldn't have to sit for an additional ten minutes or stall out in unsafe areas. The problem seems to correct itself after this ignition switch inside of the steering column has been replaced based on hundreds of testaments. I have replaced my stater and battery before realizing the problem was a faulty ignition switch that numerous other Saturn owners have had the unpleasant experience of dealing with.

- Escondido , CA, USA

problem #35

Feb 062010


  • miles
I have a 2004 Saturn Ion 2. seems to be a problem with the ignition switch in these vehicles. My car will not start when cold and damp outside. I have replaced the switch in my vehicle several times and still get the same problem in time. This is a safety issue because I live in mo where it gets very cold and not always someone to pick me up when the car dies. So I am left stranded in sub zero temperatures. Saturn knows very well about this problem and will not recall this. Please see that a recall takes place. This is an ongoing problem with this car.

- Columbia, MO, USA

problem #34

Dec 232009


  • 76,176 miles
I purchases a 2004 Saturn Ion in 2006. In October of 2007, my vehicle would not start for no apparent reason. After waiting about 15 minutes, my vehicle started and ran normally. This happened again about 3 days later while I was visiting relatives 2 hours from my home which detained me on my trip back home. I took my vehicle to the Saturn dealership in harrisburg, pa to have it checked. I was told that the problem was the ignition switch which needed to be replaced (they replaced it). Two years later in December, 2009 the problem occurred again, this time on my way to work on an extremely cold winter morning. I took the vehicle to the Saturn dealership again and was told that I would need another ignition switch to replace the one they had replaced 2 years earlier. After reading about so many other complaints and dangerous situations that Saturn owners have gotten into because of failing ignition switches, it is clear that there is a defect in these parts. I have read about countless situations where people were unable to turn their cars off! an ignition switch should not go bad every 2 years. This is not a high wear and tear part. A car should be able to turn on and off a large number of times without fail. A car that fails to turn off is an enormous safety issue. If you leave the car unattended and turned on, someone could be hurt or killed. Not being able to start a car is also a dangerous especially when it happens in bitterly cold weather. Saturn/GM is doing nothing to get these unsafe vehicle off the roads to be fixed. They are not taking responsibility for the countless number of ignition switch problems that Saturn owners are experiencing. GM has a history of ignition switch failures and should stand behind their product by offering a recall of the defective part and replacing it.

- Harrisburg, PA, USA

problem #33

Dec 012008


  • 53,000 miles


After owning my 2004 Saturn Ion for 8 months, it developed a random starting problem. Sometimes the car would start normally and others not at all. I replaced the battery, starter, and ignition switch. The dealership where I bought the ignition switch said it is common to need to replace the switch when the weather gets cold. After all of those new parts the problem persisted. I researched on the internet and found a forum where dozens of other Ion owners where having similar problems. The only remedy that seemed to "fix" the problem was to disable the vehicles anti-theft system by cutting the proper wire from the ignition switch while the car is running. This allows the car to start every time, but also gives an error message about the disabled system. This is clearly a common problem that occurs for Ion owners in cold weather.

- Florissant, MO, USA

problem #32

Mar 012008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles
Apparently I am not the only frustrated GM owner out there. This is regarding my 2004 Saturn Ion which is maintained on a regular basis... when turning the key to start nothing happens. No crank, nothing. After viewing several hundreds of complaints regarding the same problem other Saturn owners have been having, I quickly knew it was my ignition. One would think that living in California the weather wouldn't have caused the problem, but almost every day now for the last month my car will not turn on immediately. Sometimes I would wait a couple minutes and it would turn over, sometimes I would wait over 10 minutes for it to turn over as well. I have been late numerous times to work and have had my car towed twice to a mechanic who ultimately cost me hundreds of dollars on parts that had nothing to do with this problem. I am in law enforcement; with that responsibility it is imperative that I be cordial and on time always. I have been reprimanded several times for being late and I've pretty much had it with this car. If Saturn supposedly knew about this problem they could have at least notified their owners and offered some sort of retribution or reconciliation for costs.

- Mission Viejo, CA, USA

problem #31

Jan 042008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
It seems that with the Saturn Ions, the ignition switch has a defect wherein about every two years it will fail to start when the temperature drops below freezing (due to the "connection" between it and the cars safety feature). Not a problem if you have a heated garage, or even a garage period, or live somewhere warm. But god forbid you live in an area where there is cold weather. The last estimate I got from the dealer to replace the ignition for this problem was over $200.

- Fairborn, OH, USA

problem #30

Nov 152004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 6,000 miles
Car often will not start. Seems to be ignition switch, and/ or related circuits. Leaves motorist stranded, usually in bad weather. Replaced battery at 18 mos., which was not problem. Required 'rescue' from other family members many times, in lieu of tow service.

- Woodinville, WA, USA

problem #29

Mar 172008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,000 miles
On several occassion while it has been cold out, my vehicle would not start. As a matter of fact the vehicle would not even attempt to roll over. The only way I could seem to resolve the situation was by "jump starting" my Saturn with another vehicle. This has happened so many times in the winter that I finally got sick of it and parked the Saturn and drove a different vehicle. I am so sick of my car that I am ready to sell it. I recently found out about this site. After reading the first 20 some results and seen that everyone was having the same issue I was. I can not believe that there is not a recall on this part. I read other complaints too and am glad that I have not ran into their problem yet. If Saturn does not fix this problem really soon, I will sell my car and I will never buy a Saturn again. They are really making a bad product that they will eventually never sell again. After all these complaints, why has nothing been done to recall the problem. To anyone who reads this, never buy a Saturn. It is not just the Ion. I have heard several other issues with other vehicles.

- Eau Claire, WI, USA

problem #28

Nov 012007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,000 miles
Car began failing to turn over before warranty expired. Continuing to try would eventually succeed. Shortly after warranty expired (excessive mileage) the failure required service. Dealer replaced ignition switch which was 'sticking' and causing a security lockout.

- Beachwood, OH, USA

problem #27

Feb 172008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,800 miles
Several times, after pulling into my driveway, I turned the ignition switch to the off position and the car continues to run! after trying several different things to turn the engine off it finally quits. I am afraid that some day I will not be able to turn the engine off. I understand now that this is happening to others.

- Cortland, NY, USA

problem #26

Jan 312008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 58,000 miles
This is the third time I've had to push this Saturn into the street to get our other drivers off to work. The first time it was only a few months old and was towed to the dealer. They said my floormats were too thick and not genuine Saturn parts and caused it not to start(no kidding, they said this). A few weeks later it once again failed to turn over. Another tow to the dealer and this time they re-coded the key and ignition switch. Several times over the past few years it has failed to start. If I wait 20 minutes, the anti theft module re-sets and it will start. This morning I slipped on ice while pushing it into the street and fell. My back is killing me right now and I'm very angry. This is an obvious problem that Saturn is ignoring. No self respecting thief would steal a Saturn in the first place. I see no need for an anti-theft device on this awful car.

- Tinley Park, IL, USA

problem #25

Jan 312008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,500 miles
Car will not start when the temp. Is very cold. This has caused me to miss work and to have parts replaced that were in working condition. Research has led me to a problem with the switch. After following instructions the car started.

- New Ellenton, SC, USA

problem #24

Jan 202008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles
Car does not start when it is cold outside because of faulty ignition switch. I was stuck out in sub zero temperatures for about 20 minutes until ignition switch warmed up enough to start. I will have the ignition switch fixed, but I am waiting to see if it will be covered under my warranty.

- Grand Rapids, MN, USA

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