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CarComplaints.com 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:
7 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
4 / 0
Average Mileage:
80,030 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 steering problems

steering problem

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2004 Saturn Ion Owner Comments (Page 1 of 13)

problem #250

Jan 062014


  • 110,000 miles


Shortly after starting on a very cold winter day, at low speed and with the battery likely low from starting the car the power steering warning chimed and the car became very difficult to control. The problem has not reoccurred since then (even a few hours later with the car warmed up and battery fully charged), but the temperature has been significantly higher and I replaced the battery with a better one. The battery had tested good at the last oil change/service/inspection, but was near the end of its life expectancy.

- Verona, WI, USA

problem #249

Jan 122009


  • 65,000 miles
I was driving on dry roads during the daytime below the speed limit, when the power steering light came on. The wheel locked, and I was unable to steer the car. I pulled to the side of the road and turned the car off and back on. It restarted without incident. 3 years later, the same event occurred without causing an accident.

- St. Petersburg, FL, USA

problem #248

Jan 012014


  • 135,000 miles
TL- the contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while turing at approximately 15 mph, the vehicle became difficult to steer. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was contacted and informed the contact that the vehicle was not included in NHTSA campaign number 14V153000 (steering). The failure mileage was approximately 135,000.

- Xenia, OH, USA

problem #247

Mar 012011


  • 140,000 miles


About three years ago is when I had my first problem with speed acceleration with my Saturn. I left work and turned on my car and started to drive an hour to go home all the sudden my car began to accelerate and I wasnt pressing the gas. My vehicle continued to accelerate and I had to keep my foot on the brake to slow the vehicle down and it was still accelerating. I had to pull over on the side of the road and pop my car into neutral going approximately 70mph. I somehow managed to get home but my car continued to accelerate without me pressing on the gas. When I would turn the vehicle on while it was still in park the RPM's would go crazy as if I had my foot on the gas petal. I immediately contacted my auto shop who indicated that they could not find anything wrong with my vehicle. I have had several incidents since then and ended up crashing earlier this year. My vehicle sped up on a snowy road and I lost complete steering for my vehicle, I nearly rolled my car and crashed head on into a snow bank. My air bags never deployed, after I contacted my insurance company they were surprised with the amount of front end damage I had on my vehicle that my airbags should have deployed but they did not. I know others are having the same issues with the vehicle accelerating with no application of the gas petal and the brake petal does little or nothing to stop or slow the vehicle down.

- Elkhorn, WI, USA

problem #246

Apr 012014

Ion 4-cyl

  • miles
2004 Saturn Ion. Consumer writes in regards to ignition switch recall notice issues, air bag malfunction and several other vehicle problems. The consumer stated her daughter was involved in 3 accidents. Her daughter lost power and the vehicle stalled. When her daughter hit the other vehicle, the air bags did not deploy. Her daughter was injured. Also, the consumer had difficulty steering the vehicle.

- Rochester, MN, USA

problem #245

Feb 122008


  • miles
My husband was driving our 2004 Saturn Ion down a hill and the power steering went out on the car. He could not stop and had extreme difficult steering the vehicle. We crashed into a telephone pole. I fractured my C-2 and my shoulder and also dislocated my shoulder.

- Miamisburg, OH, USA

problem #244

Apr 112011


  • 150,000 miles


While driving my Saturn Ion 2004 my power steering kept turning off periodically, my car is standard so I actually turned off the car while driving pressing my clutch in and restarted my car. I drove like this for about 5 miles. I took my car to the dealership where I was told thet due to the fact I was over 150000 miles it voided my warranty for the defect to my steering motor. I spent over 500 dollars to repair my vehicle, now knowing that it was an existing defect known by the manufacturer.

- South Gate, CA, USA

problem #243

Mar 252014


  • 117,065 miles
Power steering temporarily locked in right turn position, during right hand turn, but was able to force back in time before hitting other car. Steering is still acting up during normal driving conditions (especially cold), when trying to return wheel back to straight position, wheel tightens up and needs to be forced back.

- Metuchen, NJ, USA

problem #242

Jul 102010


  • 38,000 miles
The power steering assist suddenly failed while driving the vehicle, making the effort of steering the vehicle increase greatly. Upon turning the vehicle off, the problem temporarily went away, but has continued to happen at an ever-increasing frequency until this date. For the past year, the power steering has failed within driving the first 200 feet every single time I have operated the vehicle. I know this has been a common occurrence with Saturn Ions and related GM vehicles, causing several accidents, and that GM is well aware of the issue. I believe a recall is in order due to the extreme physical exertion required to steer these vehicles after the power steering assist fails.

- Kuna, ID, USA

problem #241

Jan 102014


  • miles
As I was driving on a straight-away, all of the sudden I heard 3 dings in my car - so I checked the dashboard (I was expecting to see fuel or maybe oil life), it read pwr str. Then I noticed that it was extremely difficult to steer my car...I had lost my power steering completely. The amount of strength it took just to turn the wheel was immense. This took more effort than driving an older car that does not have power steering. Luckily, I was just arriving at my destination. Also luckily, the issue goes away once I turn the car off and re-start it. This has happened 3 times since the first time - once while on a highway, once while parking my car, and another while driving through town.

- Dover Plains, NY, USA

problem #240

Mar 212014


  • 201,755 miles


The car would not turn over, I called road side in hopes that the battery just needed a jump, but when they arrived I found out that the car was not turning over because of another reason. My friends came over and we popped the clutch and drove it to a car repair shop to have them take a look, I was thinking either the starter or the alternator. He called me last night to tell me to contact GM about the recall on the ignition. The ignition is bad and will not turn the car over.

- Waterford, MI, USA

problem #239

Aug 012013


  • 125,000 miles
Power steering shuts off without warning. Once it happens you cannot turn the vehicle. Must power down the car and turn it back on to get the power steering to work. It can happen 2-3 times in a 5 miles streach, inconsistant. Warning - happens when turning the vehicle - I almost crashed. Had to stop auto in the middle of a busy intersection - very dangerous

- Mililani, HI, USA

problem #238

Jan 082004


  • 175 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle had multiple failures. The steering was rough and the transmission was causing the vehicle to make loud noises when the wheels were turned left or right. The contact was included in NHTSA campaign id number:14V047000 (air bags, electrical system) however the dealer stated that the parts would become available mid April. The manufacturer was also contacted and could not provide an estimated date for when the contact's vehicle would receive the recall repairs. An authorized dealer will inspect the transmission and steering failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 175. The mileage of 175 was reaffirmed by the contact.

- Dearborne, MI, USA

problem #237

Mar 192014


  • 49,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while driving approximately 35 mph, there was an unexpected loss of power steering with the illumination of the warning indicator. The contact continued to drive with force being applied to the steering wheel. The vehicle had not been diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 49,000.

- Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #236

May 192011


  • 180,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while driving 30 mph, the power steering light illuminated and the steering failed. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for inspection and they stated that the power steering motor needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 180,000.

- Charlotte , NC, USA

problem #235

Mar 172014


  • 169,000 miles
As I was driving home on the freeway on a clear day. I noticed that the steering wheel was hard to turn when I try to change lane. I then decided to pull over at the first exit. When I slowed the vehicle down, it was clear that I had no power steering. There was no warning on the dash console and no audio alarm. Finally, I turned off the engine and restarted the car. The power steering came back and I managed to drive the car home.

- Daly City, CA, USA

problem #234

Nov 152009


  • 104,000 miles
We were driving on the highway at 70mph when the car stalled out and we lost power steering ability. We started the car again while it was in motion and it caught but it happened again a few more miles down the road. Since our Saturn dealership was no longer in business, we had a trusted mechanic take care of it not knowing there were issues. I researched three recall notifications from Saturn. One involved the left turn signal which we had to have fixed twice with a harness and bulb replacement in on 2/5/05 and again on 10/24/05. Another was a faulty ignition switch replacement also on 10/24/05. And then the third was the faulty electric power steering which as you know we had repaired on 10/4/12. I contacted GM about a reimbursement and they said no because we were past 10 years or 100,000 miles, and that the reimbursement form must be received by 8/31/11. My question to GM is, how can you put a limit on something that was faulty from the beginning? the new ignition and injectors in March 2010 ($758.94) and the new starter in August 2011 ($324) after having related problems/repairs due to the recall in Oct 2005 show that something just wasn't right in the manufacturing of this model. And the power steering motor replacement ($177) in Oct 2012 should also be reimbursed because GM already admitted it was a problem with the model year so regardless of whether we had 10,000 miles or 160,000 miles, it was faulty. Now we learn that they knew these were problems all along and did not take ownership of them. What really bothers me is that I inquired about all of this with them in December 2012 - this is supposed to be "a new GM" different from the company back in 2001" if they were different why did they refuse to reimburse me the $2,177 we spent in repairs, or admit that there was a recall? is it because we did not die in an accident"

- Manchester, NH, USA

problem #233

Mar 092013


  • 89,000 miles
While driving this 04 Saturn Ion I lost power steering while going around a curve. I almost hit the guard rail. If the car is shut off then restarted the problem goes away until it happens again. When this happens the "power steering" warning light appears on the dash. Some times this can happen several times a day and there are times when it does not happen for weeks. It can happen in any weather or temp. It kind of takes you by surprise, one second its working fine then all of a sudden the power steering is gone.

- West Pittston, PA, USA

problem #232

Dec 012008


  • 50,000 miles
TL- the contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle will not start upon placing the key in the ignition. The vehicle makes a clicking noise, the service engine soon light illuminates and the vehicle shuts off. The contact has to wait a moment to restart the vehicle. The vehicle also stalls without warning on multiple occasions. The vehicle was diagnosed by an authorized dealer and an independent mechanic multiple times and the failures still recurr. The diagnosis was to replace the power steering magnets and replace the power pack. The repairs were made and the vehicle is still not safe to drive. The power steering shorts out at random. The instrument panel shows an error light for the power steering. After the vehicle was repaired multiple times the failures still recurr. The vehicle was taken to independent mechanics and authorized dealers. The power steering failure was not able to be diagnosed. The contact was also included in NHTSA campaign id number: 14V047000 (air bags, electrical system) and stated that the parts were not available. The dealer advised that part was not available to complete the required repairs. The manufacturer was contacted and provided an unreasonable estimated date for when the contacts vehiclewould receive the recalled repairs. The vehicle has not been repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 50000 and the current mileage was 63000. Dyd

- Davenport, IA, USA

problem #231

Feb 282014


  • 137,000 miles
As I was coming up to a traffic circle, my gears locked up and power steering went out, resulting in a crash into the traffic circle median, totaling the front of my vehicle. Vehicle is still in the shop awaiting maintenance.

- Cheverly, MD, USA

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