NHTSA — Electrical System: Ignition: Switch Problems

2003 Saturn Ion (Page 2 of 4)

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.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
36,241 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 2 of 4)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #45

Dec 012006


  • miles


I have a 2003 Saturn Ion that won't start in cold weather here in eastern Oregon, had the battery checked, and everything else looked at, but everyone says that my car is okay. So I do some research and find out that alot of people have this problem and yet there is no recall on this problem considering Saturn knows about the problem" also, there is not easy suggestions by Saturn"

- Pendleton, OR, USA

problem #44

Jan 222008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 40,000 miles
When it is below freezing outside, my 2003 Saturn Ion has issues starting up. I have read many posts (www.carsurvey.org/viewmorecomments_review_97727_1.html is on such spot) where owners are having the same issues with various results from their dealers. It is apparently a know issue that has not been communicated to the customers, potentially leaving them out in the cold!

- Hiawatha, KS, USA

problem #43

Dec 282007


  • miles
I have been having a problem with my car not starting. The first issue began when I started my car and the passlock symbol was flashing all the way home from the store. When I got home and turned the car off and tried restarting it, it wouldn't start. After looking at my owners manual and reading about passlock I went outside and tried starting it and it started right up. A little less than a week later I was out running an errand and made a quick stop for maybe 5 minutes, when I got back to the car it would not start. I tried a few more times and was starting to panic when it started again. I took it to a mechanic and he couldn't get the car to replicate the problem but recommended finding my other key for the car and start using that. The car was fine for another week and while I was picking up my kids from school the passlock light came on again and blinked all the way home. Once again, I tried to start after we got home and nothing, I went out about 10 minutes later and it was fine. Yesterday I needed to run an errand and sure enough I went outside to leave and the stupid car wouldn't start again. I went inside and waited 10 minutes, came back outside and it started right up. I am a mother with 3 kids and I have a husband who does not drive. I have only one car and I cannot have it be unreliable. I get nervous every time I have to go somewhere. This is unacceptable and it seems like there are many Saturn owners who are just as frustrated as me and something needs to be done about it, at no cost to the owners. This is not wear and tear!!!

- Laguna Hills, CA, USA

problem #42

Dec 252007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 91,500 miles


I bought a 2003 Saturn Ion about 6 months ago, and as soon as it became cold here in Colorado my car started having a problem starting. I was stranded in the middle of no where with no cell phone coverage in the freezing cold. I have now come to find out that this is a problem with all 2003 Saturn and that they refuse to recall them and fix the problem because it is not a safety issue. The ignition switch and the grease needs to be replaced. This is a safety issue! I was stranded in the middle of no where in the freezing cold with my young daughter. I want this problem to be addressed and fixed by Saturn. There is no reason for them to not recall this problem.

- Thornton, CO, USA

problem #41

Jan 032008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 12,000 miles
Wont start in sub freezing weather for at least 15 minutes.

- Springfield, VA, USA

problem #40

Dec 222007


  • miles
This is an ongoing problem with my Saturn Ion 2003. It won't start when it's cold and it has left me stranded on several occasions. By the multiple complaints that I see from other people online, this is a big problem. It has something to do with the passlock security system and the ignition switch. It gets very cold here in Colorado and I just don't want to be stranded again. www.carsurvey.org/viewcomments_review_97727.html some of these people have "fixed" the problem and it is still occurring. It would be nice to see some kind of recall on this problem. This is not the only problem I've had with this car. I will not be buying a Saturn again.

- Aurora, CO, USA

problem #39

Dec 142007


  • miles


My car has failed to start several times in the last week. It seems to be related to the ignition switch and the type of lubricant used in it and it's reaction in cold weather. After doing a ton of research, I have found thousands of people that have complained of the exact same issue. This seems to be a recurring problem that needs to be a recall.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #38

Dec 112007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 86,000 miles
Saturn Ion 2003 problem with starting the car around/below 32`F, this is second cold season I am having occasional problem with start the engine process, after extensive online research I am finding "the big family" of Saturn owners with the same problem related to ignition switch/passlock sensor.

- Salem, CT, USA

problem #37

Dec 112007


  • miles
On Tuesday, December 11, I stopped at a blockbuster to drop off some movies. When I returned to my car, it would not start. The engine would not even try to turn over. I heard a clicking noise, and called a friend to come and give me a jump. I tried to jump it, and that did not work. I immediately called a Saturn dealership that is nearby where I live. I told them what was going on so I could bring it in and have it looked at. I said that my car wouldn't start, when I tried to jump it that didn't work, and that my key is now stuck in the ignition and won't come out. His response to me was, "I bet it's the ignition switch. We have been having a lot of trouble with those now that the weather is cold. Did you say you jumped it? you shouldn't have done that. That can cause the battery to have a shortage". today, I had my car towed to the dealership and they diagnosed my car with an ignition switch problem and a dead battery. I had them replace both, and I also kept both of my old parts.

- Dallas, TX, USA

problem #36

Dec 052007

Ion 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,254 miles
Saturn 2003 Ion will not start in the winter, when temperature is 32 degree's or lower.

- Pottstown, PA, USA

problem #35

Nov 212007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 49,021 miles


Key sticks forward when trying to start. Car will not start when it gets cold outside. Had it towed in. Replacement part # 10392423 ignition switch.

- Browns Summit, NC, USA

problem #34

Dec 042007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 42,000 miles
I have a 2003 Saturn Ion. My car will not start when it is cold outside. I read through message boards and found many people have the same problem. I also read some peoples car actually stall while driving, which sounds related to me. Loss of power steering and brakes were also popular complaints. These cars are obviously riddled with electrical problems and are rolling death traps. I personally experienced power steering loss once, but it never happened again so I thought it was a fluke until reading others posts. I have taken the car to several mechanics and have found no resolution. I found a tsb stating that a faulty ignition is the cause of the cold starting problem, so I will likely replace it.

- Greensburg, PA, USA

problem #33

Nov 292007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 0 miles
Hood latch broken, ignition switch sparks and the car doesn't start, loud clanking noise in front end, transmission is quirky while shifting(automatic) do not have any of the parts.

- Owosso, MI, USA

problem #32

Nov 232007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
When the temperature is 32 degrees or less and the engine is not running I attempt to start my car and it will not start. The ignition switch clicks and then the car stalls. The security system kicks in and the security light comes on and then the odometer screen reads "service vehicle soon". the car will not start for about 8 to 10 minutes. After 8 to 10 minutes the light stops blinking and the service vehicle goes off and then the car starts. This has happened several times since then and it occurs all different times of the days. As I read on the internet there have been several people with the same problems. This is going to cost me approximately $200 to fix.

- Louisville, KY, USA

problem #31

Nov 272007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 62,000 miles
Failure to start in cold weather combined with security system lockout. The problem arises as follows: A.the Saturn vehicle is exposed to temperatures at or approaching 32 degrees F for several hours when the engine is not running (usually 6-10 hours.) B.an operator attempts to start the vehicle, the ignition switch clicks and the car stalls. C.the security system kicks in. The security light blinks and the odometer screen reads: "service engine soon.? fuel will not be sent to the engine. D.the vehicle will now not start for about 8-10 minutes as the security system resets. E.after 8-10 minutes, the security light will stop blinking and then go out. ?the service engine soon? scroll light will stop and also go out. F.now the operator may attempt to start the vehicle again. G.however, if the ignition switch grease has not adequately warmed, then the process will begin again. H.a signal that the vehicle will likely start after the present ?lock-out" will be when the ignition seems to crank a bit more than just a click, before locking out again.

- St. Paul, MN, USA

problem #30

Nov 192007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 81,798 miles
Vehicle will not turn over when outside temperatures get colder then 32 F.

- Langenburg, 00, USA

problem #29

Nov 022007


  • miles
I am writing to note that my 2003 Saturn Ion 3 does not start up in the cold, even though the battery and alternator are in good condition. It happened once in 2005, and then I was lucky enough for the rest of that winter and the next. At the time, I was told by a Saturn mechanic in 2005 over the phone that this problem does occur with Ions in cold weather. The problem recurred this past Monday and this morning. This afternoon I went online to seek out guidance in taking care of the problem. I came across the following online resource: www.carsurvey.org/viewcomments_review_97727.html. the issue is obviously a recurrent one that Saturn has chosen not to address. This seems like a clear-cut case for a component recall, but Saturn will not take responsibility. I ask that the NHTSA direct its resources toward Saturn to seek a determination about the need for a recall for this defective vehicle.* have forwarded a copy of this explanation to my member of congress, representative jim moran.

- Falls Church, VA, USA

problem #28

Oct 012007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 71,670 miles
Whenever it is damp or cold outside the vehicle will refuse to start. Once the vehicle has refused to start I must wait a minimum of 10 mins before starting the vehicle. On certain occasions this process repeats and I may have to wait upwards of 20 mins to start my vehicle and drive. This issue has been traced back to a faulty ignition switch and implementation of gms passlock vehicle protection system. The manufacturer refuses to acknowledge fault and replace the ignition switch without the consumer incurring substantial costs.

- Saint Peters, MO, USA

problem #27

Nov 092005


  • miles
Car will not start in cold weather. Faulty iginition switch.

- Bedford, PA, USA

problem #26

Mar 172007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles
I own a 2003 Saturn Ion and have experienced starting problems the past two winters. I've had a mechanic check the battery, fuel, and clutch button, but due to the intermittent happenings, nothing was found to be wrong. My battery was rechecked and cords were cleaned, fuel line was cleaned, etc. The problem would go away and then happen again. I finally noticed the pattern of not starting when it was cold. I also noticed that it would restart about ten minutes after. I had a mechanic check during my inspection this year but again he was not able to help due to it not actually happening. On 3/15/07 I did a search on the internet and found numerous other Saturn customers who have this same problem. I made an appointment with my dealership to fix it, but being that my car is no longer under warranty, I was told I would have to pay. I do not think I should pay for a problem I did not have control over. (except that I trusted Saturn when I purchased my 2 car from them). Saturn should pay for the repairs and show they are responsible and can be trusted to fix their mistake.

- North Versailles, PA, USA

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