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2004 Saturn Ion steering NHTSA complaints: Steering

NHTSA — Steering Problems

CarComplaints.com Seal Of This Might Hurt

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:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
52,296 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

problem #18

Sep 202006


  • 40,000 miles


Electric power steering fails without notice. Driving straight or turning and at different speeds. Makes driving very dangerous.

- Lago Vista, TX, USA

problem #17

Oct 052007


  • 30,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle fails to start on cold mornings. The failure was intermittent. An indicator flashes, which signifies that the past lock system is activated and that the vehicle is being stolen; however, this is not the case. The vehicle usually starts after ten minutes. There is a tsb for this failure and the vehicle is still under warranty. The manufacturer stated that they have never been able to replicate the failure because it only occurs approximately twelve times a year or in cold weather. The VIN was unknown. The failure mileage was 30,000.

- New Orleans , LA, USA

problem #16

Jan 012009


  • 118,000 miles
After 5 years my 2004 Saturn Ion will not start when the temperature is below +10F. There is power ( new battery ) and no fuel issue ( clean fuel system and filter ), but after 10 to 15 minutes and a couple of hesitant engine turns, it starts. No one needs an unreliable vehicle where winter temps last several months. After replacing the anti-sway bar, both headlight assemblies as well as other annoying problems ( instrument lights out, cabin fan noisy ) I will never ever buy another Saturn. I took the problem ( out of warranty of course ) to Saturn of rochester and was told it was a faulty ignition switch, a common problem for this make and model year. Since it is not a safety issue, no recall was issued and I would have to pay at least $275 unless "something else" came up. Being late for work ( public safety and volunteer fireman ) or my wife and children is not an option for me. Please force GM to make the recall on this ignition part for the financially stressed New York consumers. Thank you.

- North Rose, NY, USA

problem #15

Jan 152009


  • 60,000 miles


On at least ten occasions the power steering on my 2004 Saturn Ion has failed. It does so without warning (there is no correlation between weather, time of day, or other such conditions) and it makes the car difficult to steer. One has to slow down to the point of a crawl in order to turn the steering wheel. This is especially dangerous on any freeway exits with a loop. Last Thursday it went out a total of four times over the course of one afternoon. It seemed to correct itself only after turning the car of and restarting. When I took it to the mechanic, he could not duplicate the problem and so advised me to take it to the dealer. After doing an online search it appears that mine is not the only case and that the solution can range from a small inexpensive repair to a rather expensive repair.

- Redlands, CA, USA

problem #14

Mar 012006


  • 40,000 miles
The power steering on my 2004 Saturn Ion has been going out at least three times a day for the past two years. In order to reset it I need to turn my car off and restart it. I have taken it to a mechanic and he fixed the problem temporarily but said to fix it permanently I need to go to the dealership. I research over 20 cases of people that have the same problem with the same car on this site and carstats.com. There needs to be a recall on this issue. It is a safety issue because when you can't turn the while quickly you can't avoid accidents. It causes strain in the muscles of my shoulder and back.

- North Hollywood, CA, USA

problem #13

Dec 052008


  • 8,000 miles
Power steering unit failed with only 8,000 miles.

- Buffalo, NY, USA

problem #12

Jul 152008


  • 24,000 miles


Steering problem with my Saturn Ion 3 - while sitting in traffic waiting to make a left turn the power steering ceased. The dash board starts dinging and the words power steering start to flash. It is then impossible to turn the steering wheel to make the turn without turning the wheel forcefully. This has posed a serious condition because you are usually trying to make a turn in traffic. It also happened to my daughter and she got very frightened and did not know what to do. The steering wheel is even harder to turn than when cars did not actually have power steering. It has happened several times and I have not had it looked at yet. The car has to be shut off and restarted to correct the problem. The mileage on my Saturn is only 25,000 miles.

- Hasbrouck Heights, NJ, USA

problem #11

Apr 132008


  • 80,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. While driving less than 5 mph and attempting to parallel park, the steering wheel became difficult to turn. The failure was intermittent and became so bad that the contact would have to use both hands to make a normal turn. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic and the cost to replace the entire electrical assist system was estimated between $600-$800. The failure mileage was 80,000 and current mileage was 101,000.

- Baltimore , MD, USA

problem #10

Dec 032008


  • 40,000 miles
This has been a rare, sporadically, occurring problem that has plagued the car for over two years. On average about every three months the electric power steering fails while the car is running. In the last four months the incidence has increased to as much as three times per day and about four days per week. The failure occurs at any/all speeds. This obviously results in a sudden, extreme drag on the steering mechanism requiring greatly increased driver effort to turn the steering wheel. Quick maneuvers or sharper turns are nearly impossible when the power steering fails. Turning the car off and restarting restores the power steering. If this is attempted while the car is being driven, the steering lock could be engaged, resulting in an extremely dangerous condition. The dealer acknowledges no familiarity with this problem or of any bulletins regarding this issue, despite evidence from numerous internet postings by owners with similar complaints. Upon my further discussions with service personnel at Saturn dealers, they speculate that a roughly $1000 replacement of the steering column assembly, which contains sensors, electronics, and the power steering electric assist motor may solve the problem. To date such replacement has not been pursued due to inconclusive diagnosis and possible high costs. The vehicle in question is a 2004 Saturn Ion II, purchased new.

- Lindenhurst, IL, USA

problem #9

Oct 032005


  • 111,899 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that when the vehicle and weather are too cold, the vehicle takes longer to start or will not start at all. The dealer stated that the oil that enters the engine does not heat up normally. The repair would cost $2,000. In addition, the power steering fails while the vehicle is in motion. The steering becomes very difficult to turn and must be done manually. The dealer stated that they would have to go into the steering column to repair the failure. The failure began a year after the vehicle was purchased and has become worse over the years. The failure mileage was 111,899.

- Knoxville, TN, USA

problem #8

May 092008


  • 59,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. While driving various speeds or while driving forward or turning, the steering fails intermittently. As a result, the vehicle becomes very difficult to steer. The vehicle has to be shut off and restarted in order for the steering to work properly. The vehicle has been taken to a dealer twice for this issue and they stated that the power steering motor is failing and needs to be replaced. Therefore, the entire steering column would be replaced as well. The current mileage was 64,337 and failure mileage was 59,000.

- Valrico, FL, USA

problem #7

Aug 162008


  • 36,000 miles
While driving around a curve on a rural highway the power steering light came on and I lost my power steering. I was able to keep the car in the right lane and pulled over on the road and shut the car off. When I turned the car back on it was fine. Power steering worked. One week later the same thing happened. I took the car to the Saturn dealer and was told that the entire steering column had to be replaced at the tune of $900. This car is 3 1/2 years old and had 36,000 miles on it!! I complained to Saturn and am awaiting to hear from their "district specialist". luckily I was able to keep the car under control and nobody was hurt but how can this not be considered a safety issue. Try going around a curve or turning a corner when your power steering goes out.

- Allentown, PA, USA

problem #6

Jan 152008


  • 50,000 miles
The power steering will randomly go out on the car while at speeds above 40 mph causing the car to be tough to maneuver. Once the car is turned off, the power steering is reset and will work for some amount of time. This makes the handling of the car unpredictable.

- Cross Plains, TN, USA

problem #5

Jul 102008


  • 36,200 miles
Saturn Ion 2 the electric power steering will stop functioning while driving creating a dangerous situation, the steering will get hard and almost impossible to steer. When the veh is turned off then on, it works ok then while driving a message comes on (power steering) then the pump disengages and it get hard to steer. This is happening on my Saturn 2004 Ion 2 with 36000 miles. I searched in the internet and there are hundreds of clients with the same problem where the electric power steering fails. Please look into this matter. Thank you.

- Homestead, FL, USA

problem #4

May 172008


  • 21,000 miles
My mother owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. She complained that the power steering went out on her a couple of times and that she took it to the dealer. They didn't see anything wrong. I drove the car from Virginia to New Jersey and the power steering went out approx every 50 miles. When I turned the car off and back on it was fine for another 50 miles or less. We called the dealer - they asked if we were making a lot of turns - we weren't. it was a straight drive down 95. When we returned home, the car was again taken to the dealer. Because my mom had an automatic starter put in, they said it was the way the 3rd party hooked it up that was interfering with the steering. They said the fixed the problem. 2 weeks later the power steering went out again.

- Newfield, NJ, USA

problem #3

Dec 082007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,120 miles
My 16 year old daughter was driving when all of a sudden the power steering went out. She had to pull over because she could not turn the steering wheel. This is a serious safety problem and should be addresses immediately by the manufacturer.

- Chino Hills, CA, USA

problem #2

Nov 072007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 76,780 miles
Intermittently power steering warning light would appear on dash and power steering would stop working. This happened once one day and twice the second day when I called for an appointment with the service department of the dealer. The car is 4 years old and is no longer under warranty. The dealer replaced the electric power steering assembly at a cost of approximately $1200. When I was told that this just "sometimes happens" by the dealership, I could not understand why it was not considered a serious defect and recalled. I decided to look on the internet and found that it happens to Saturn Ions as well as other General Motors vehicles. In my opinion, a 4 year old car should not just suddenly lose power steering. This could have resulted in tragedy. Suppose a driver has to swerve to avoid an obstacle and the power steering fails at that moment. This is something which I believe GM is aware of and is choosing not to warn people about. I intend to make my voice heard in as many forums as possible. This is a very serious problem and I sincerely hope it can be addressed before even one person loses their life.

- Mandeville, LA, USA

problem #1

Apr 232007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,326 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion 2. while driving 25 mph, the contact attempted to turn the wheel and it locked. The brakes failed and the vehicle crashed into a pole. The air bag deployed, but the driver was injured. Saturn stated that the vehicle is not a defect. The vehicle was destroyed. The current and failure mileages were 45,326.

- Lumberport, WV, USA

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