NHTSA — Electrical System: Ignition: Module Problems

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.


fairly significant
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
15,000 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

problem #4

Mar 242008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles


Ignition problem - engine won't start, passlock prevents ignition. I live in Texas and it's rarely that cold in the mornings, every time this has happened to me it has been a cold wet blustery day but not freezing. Car acts like the battery is dead, but frequent manipulation of the passlock remote will eventually clear the problem. This has left me stranded several times, and if Saturn knows about the problem, and hasn't done anything about it in the 5 years that it has been occurring, then they should be held criminally negligent. They should be made to correct the problem with the ignition and the passlock system, and replace or repair the control module at no cost. My door locks no longer work, and in speaking to other owners I can expect a downward spiral of electrical failures in the coming months.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #3

Mar 072008

Ion 4-cyl

  • miles
Our 2003 Saturn Ion has a permanent default, in that it will not start in cold weather. And the term "cold" is relative. Saturn told us the ignition switch is faulty. Thus, we paid an excess of $200 to rectify the problem. However, this "solution" lasted only a little over one year. Now, Saturn tells us that though we have the updated ignition switch, it still causes the same no-start problem, and we need a $575 (plus tax) body control module. We had to pay $104.54 for Saturn to tell us this. Obviously, this is a problem caused by the manufacturer, which is leaving many people stranded morning, noon, and night in various locations around the country. The problem should be immediately rectified through a recall.

- Everett, WA, USA

problem #2

Dec 302006

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
If the weather becomes cold, the car will not for about 45 minutes of sitting in the car and trying to start it over and over. It has been to the shop twice, but at the time, the car worked properly. Both times, I was told that I need a new battery. I am now saving the money to have the ignition module replaced. Saturn just keeps telling me to replace my battery. How many do I need?

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #1

Dec 292003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I own a 2003 Saturn Ion. The battery went dead today because my wife left the lights on by accident. When the battery in this model car becomes discharged two undesireable problems arise. I feel that both of them introduce safety concerns. First, the key won't come out of the ignition switch through normal means. Second, the car can't be moved! the gear shift lever remains in the park position. I feel that a car designed such that these two problems occur when the battery fails is a poor design. The instruction manual provided with the car makes no mention of these problems occuring with a dead battery. In order to jump a dead battery in a car it is often necessary to move the car I N order to jump the battery from another car. I feel having an intentional design in a car that prevents it from being moved by the owner creates a safety concern. Regarding the key situation, my wife left her entire set of keys in the car when they got stuck in the ignition switch. Many important keys were left in the car unattended. It could have made a bad situation much worse. It turns out that the instruction manual in the car discusses how to get stuck keys out of the ignition switch, but no mention is made in the book that keys will get stuck in the ignition switch when the battery goes dead. I spoke to the consumer complaint department at Saturn regarding this concern, but it is not Saturn's policy to respond to this type of customer complaint. Since I feel these two problems do have a safety impact, I decided to register this complaint with the NHTSA.

- Beacon, NY, USA

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