NHTSA — Electrical System Problems

2003 Saturn Ion (Page 5 of 11)

CarComplaints.com Seal Of This Might Hurt

CarComplaints.com Notes: The Saturn Ion was a compact bundle of hurt wrapped up in a cheap, plastic shell. With so many defective components and a safety rating that a bicycle would be ashamed of, it’s a blessing this car only lasted five model years.

The 2003 (and 2004) Ion was cursed with GM’s flawed attempt at a continuously variable transmission, known as the VTi. It had such a high failure rate that a class-action lawsuit was filed against GM, eventually prompting a settlement and a warranty extension. GM discontinued the VTi for the 2005 model year – surprise, surprise.

The 2003 Ion was also part of one of the largest and most controversial recalls of all-time. A defective ignition switch in millions of GM vehicles could accidentally turn the car off and disable important safety components like the power steering and airbags. The problem resulted in at least 13 deaths, but what made it worse was that GM knew about the issue for 10 years before doing anything about it.

So was the transmission warranty extended? Yeah. Was the ignition switch recalled? Eventually. Is this car safe to drive? Not really. Honestly, you’re better off looking elsewhere.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
8 / 3
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
56,368 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.

2003 Saturn Ion electrical problems

electrical problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments (Page 5 of 11)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #137

Feb 082011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 100,000 miles


The locked and couldn't get it to turn.

- Tallahassee, FL, USA

problem #136

Jan 042014

Ion 4-cyl

  • 80,000 miles
In early January my mother was involved in a serious car accident while driving a 2003 Saturn iron. "I had no control over the car and it all happened so fast" my mother said. She hit a telephone pool then proceeded to roll down over a small hill and flipped, coming to a rest on a concrete divider. When responders arrived her ignition was off and the air bags did not deploy. She was hanging upside down for almost an hour until they were able to cut her out of the car. I have contacted GM and they confirmed that her car is part of the recent ignition switch recall. Please take the recall serious, it could save your L life, and others!

- Yeagertown, PA, USA

problem #135

Dec 032007

Ion 4-cyl

  • 50,000 miles
I can not provide exact dates as this has gone on for years. I bought the car in 2006. It started out, in freezing temps, the car would not start. I would have to try jumping it or wait till 10 minutes had passed and try again. This happened a lot through winter months. I eventually had to change out my starter and ignition switch back in 2012. I also have noticed the key will not turn to off completely sometimes and sometimes the key wont turn at all. This is also after changing out the switch. I am a mother of two young children and after seeing the other problems with the switch I don't feel safe driving my family down the street a block. The recall says to not drive on jarring roads, but I live in a tiny town of nothing but jarring roads. Sigh. I feel the not starting is also a safety issue because it can leave people stranded in bad weather and unable to get to where you need to go in emergencies. All anyone needs to do is search the internet about Saturn's not starting and there is hours of reading on the subject. The company knew all along. Thank you

- Goldfield, NV, USA

problem #134

Aug 152013


  • 1,065 miles


After my car wouldn't start I called carr Chevrolet to ask questions and they were very rude. I call the dealership where I bought the car and was told that there is a recall on that problem. However I bought the car in California but I live in Oregon. The car is still not running and I'm still paying on it. If this is a problem on a recall I need help. [xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Beaverton, OR, USA

problem #133

Jul 142012


  • 128,101 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while parked, the ignition key was removed however, the engine continued to operate. In addition, the ignition switch turned into the off position when the key was jarred. The failure recurred intermittently. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer. There was a recall under NHTSA campaign id number 14V047000 (electrical system) and the VIN was not included. The vehicle had not been repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 128,101.

- Sulphur, LA, USA

problem #132

Sep 182007

Ion 4-cyl

  • 10,000 miles
When driving car shuts off completely. Happened twice in the past and didn't think anything about it. Heard about GM's recall with vehicles shutting off. My car last night shut off on me and again this morning. There's plenty of gas in the tank it just shuts down and won't let me start.

- St Joseph, MO, USA

problem #131

Feb 222013

Ion 4-cyl

  • 125,000 miles


To formally add this incident to your records, on 2/22/13, at about 9am, I was starting to brake upon approaching a traffic light on a highway near my home in icy conditions, only to find that I apparently had no braking capability, (at least all efforts short of standing on the brake, which would lock up the wheels), and the dash lights seemed to indicate the engine had stopped. After sliding into the pick-up truck ahead of me at the light, the collision was at a high enough speed to enough to crumple the front half of the engine compartment, but the air bag did not deploy, (I thought my speed at point of impact was about 25mph, but the trooper taking the accident report felt that it had to be faster than that). I was wearing my seat belt, and have suffered only bruising and pulled muscles. Only after reading last week of the expansion of the recall regarding GM cars, including my Saturn, did I connect the pieces regarding why my car behaved as it did.

- Chanhassen, MN, USA

problem #130

Dec 242007

Ion 4-cyl

  • 37,233 miles
My wife was having problems with her Saturn just before the date of 12/24/07, the car would shut off for no reason or she would have a hard time starting it. We made an appointment with, at the time, Saturn of eatontown, NJ, and they told us that the ignition switch would have to be replaced. It cost $324.30 to replace the part. There was a recent delayed recall about the ignition switch from GM, 13 people were killed due to this defect, I feel GM should refund this money to me since they knew there was a problem with it back then. I have the receipt for this repair if you need copy.

- Keyport, NJ, USA

problem #129

Dec 302013


  • 77,000 miles
While driving noticed increase of speed. Checked accelerator pedal, not stuck. Tapped accelerator with no change. Depressed the brake and slowed down and stopped. Shut vehicle off and verified the throttle body was in idle position. Restarted car and vehicle RPM went up to 4000 and starved for air and surged up and down at that level. Shut vehicle off again and contacted GM. Same vehicle also has passlock problems.

- Brooten , MN, USA

problem #128

May 012012

Ion 4-cyl

  • miles
My car wouldn't shut off. The key was stuck and it would not turn. I took it to a local mechanic to fix and they had to replace it. I've had a total of 3 new ones done since then. I just found out that GM are recalling some cars because of the ignition problem. I have not heard a thing about it and they knew about this for years. I've had my car for 11 years now and had to pay for all the repairs myself, but I didn't know how dangerous this could be since I've learned about 7 people have died because the air bag didn't deploy because of this malfunction. So I'm very upset that I had this car for all this time and I didn't know how dangerous my car really is.

- Ferndale, WA, USA

problem #127

Jan 022014


  • 133,000 miles


On multiple occasions this vehicle has accelerated without pushing the gas pedal, with no cruise control option, it's unsolved by multiple mechanics. Sometimes the brake works while it's happening, sometimes it doesn't, the most recent time I pulled into a parking lot where I had to hold the brake down to shut the car off, I could smell the transmission, I turned vehicle off, turned it back on and it went to over 5 RPM still, turned back off, sat and waited, it was 2am so I couldn't call anyone. After 10 minutes it finally went back to normal. That was the most severe, it's had slightly similar issues at least 4 times. First mechanic said it was a cruise control issue, then I told him I was leaving since the vehicle doesn't have cruise control at all. Don't want him working on it. 2nd one ran computer check, no issue found. Hopefully GM recalls this before it kills someone. This car has had many issues me and my father could fix, ignition switch, wiper blade transmission, coolant light but this one isn't easy.

- Reinholds, PA, USA

problem #126

Dec 152005

Ion 4-cyl

  • 12,000 miles
Key gets stuck in ignition and vehicle will not shut off. Have had to replace ignition switch twice first in 2005 with approx 12,000 miles and again in 2010 with approx 52,000 miles. Now vehicle has 73,000 miles and is having same issue, which drains down battery. No other keys are on key ring. This needs to be fixed immediately and included in GM recall as my VIN is not showing as affected, and this should not be an out of pocket expense to me again as it is a known issue.

- Davenport, IA, USA

problem #125

Sep 062012

Ion 4-cyl

  • 152,392 miles
Wife and children riding down road when car turns itself off and looses all power. She was luckily enough to merge across 2 lanes at a coast with no brakes or power steering to bring the car to a stop. Then it took up to 30 min of sitting on the side of very busy I-16 till the security light stopped flashing and she could continue her way home with my 2 and 8 year old kids in the car. Now all the car will do is flash that passlock light after I have replaced the ignition switch, starter, battery, alternator and many fuses also following the relearn procedure each time.

- Savannah, GA, USA

problem #124

Nov 082008


  • 15,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start until after numerous attempts. The failure would only recur during colder weather. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer for inspection where the ignition switch assembly was replaced and the anti-theft security system was re-wired. The failure continued after the repairs were performed. The manufacturer was notified of the defect. The approximate failure mileage was 15,000.

- Sarah, MS, USA

problem #123

Jul 112013


  • 142,710 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated when the key was placed in the ignition the theft system activated and the engine failed to start. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The manufacturer stated that the vehicle was not included in NHTSA campaign number 03V231000 (electrical system). The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 142,710.

- Coupeville, WA, USA

problem #122

May 072012

Ion 4-cyl

  • 64,000 miles
Saturn Ion 2 model year 2003 was serviced for 2004 turn signal recall back in 2005; in the past 16 months I have had the driver side turn signal bulb changed 4 times because it stops working, and have changed it 2 more times before the most recent series of incidents. As of today I changed it a 5th time and it still does not work. This is a hazardous condition particularly since it fails repeatedly. Now I have been told that the body control module might have a problem may need to be replaced. This is an issue for hundreds of Saturn owners; the recall should have fixed the re-occurence of the original problem but has not.

- White Plains, NY, USA

problem #121

Jan 072013


  • 65,000 miles
My switch will not turn back to release my keys. At times trying to start the car the switch will not turn, as well. Eventually it will turn, for now.

- Virginia Beach, VA, USA

problem #120

Oct 222011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 85,000 miles
The electric power steering went out luckily in a parking lot at a shopping center in October 2012 the motors were replaced previously before Saturn went defunct back in approximately 2006 and at approximately 40,000 miles. These are exactly the same motors that a recall was proposed on the Chevy cruz and GM says they are not covered or no covered under the Saturn program. Now over the past 6 months the ignition switch which GM knows has problems has shut the engine off while driving and now it's to the point where it locks intermittently not allowing the disengaging of the engine transmission when attempting to turn off and park. Again GM says there is no recall but they have recalls on other GM vehicles. I have spent upwards of $700 dollars for repairs and batteries and enough is enough. I've read of the many nightmare on the internet and wonder if your bureau can do anything to remedy the situations. Thanks.

- Streetsboro, OH, USA

problem #119

Jun 112008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion L3. The contact stated that the vehicle would not start. The contact placed the key into the ignition and the engine did not start, but the service vehicle light illuminated on the instrument. The contact stated that they had to wait several minutes to get the vehicle to start. The contact stated that the key also became stuck in the ignition. The contact spoke with the manufacturer in regard to the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 42,000 and the current mileage was 55,000. Updated 4/24/13 the consumer stated the vehicle needs a new wire harness for the alarm system and a new ignition lock tumbler with the dielectric grease in it. This failure across more often when cold. Upon making short errands, the vehicle must be left running in order to avoid sitting for 10 minutes. Updated 06/3/2013

- Centralia, WA, USA

problem #118

Oct 102012

Ion 4-cyl

  • miles
2003 Saturn Ion. Consumer writes in regards to malfunction of the air bag light and door locks. The consumer stated all of a sudden the doors un-locked, the flasher started to flash and the air light illuminated. She immediately pulled into a nearby garage and asked for assistance. The solution at that time was to turn off the engine and then re-start it. The second incident occurred on November 16th. The consumer was informed the part required was a sensor diagnostic module, at a cost of $ $399.99. However, the part was no longer available. It was recommended by the mechanic, that a part try to be located at a junk yard.

- Deland, FL, USA

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