Occasionally Won't Start

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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
No data
Average Mileage:
99,350 miles
Total Complaints:
6 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (6 reports)
2003 Saturn Ion electrical problems

electrical problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #6

Nov 222014

Ion 2.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 119,191 miles


I sat for 4 long dreadful hours inside a tiny little waiting room at Wheel-WORKS for them to halfway inspect my Saturn Ion 2. They couldn't even get my hood open. Though they did tell me why when I press on my brakes, my car would let out a horrible nasty LOUD, LOUD screeching sound that would make my car FEEL l as if IT WERE GOING TO " LOCK UP ON ME ". The car would stop hard and causing the car to jerk strongly from front to back. ....... BUT ANYWAY back to MY COMPLAINT... after leaving the place and on my way back home i stop for gas, get back in car and what happens???? The " FREAKEN CAR WON'T START, "" !!! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON????? THIS CAR HAS MORE PROBLEMS THAN IT IS WORTH and i am still kickin myself in the ass.

- j.j.california, antioch, CA, US

problem #5

Mar 182014

Ion 3

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,000 miles

Since we got the saturn in 2004. Sometimes it will start and sometimes it will just be dead for about 45 mins. I went on internet and complaint.com and some people said they got a remote starter and this helped, but it did not help our car. It is awful for my husband to be coming home from graveyard shift and if he does not keep car going I have had to go get him or he has to stay at a store for 45 min. I have been going home late and stopped somewhere and it will happen and I have to sit there for 45 mins for the car to be able to start again. This could happen in traffic if you were sitting and it died and would not start for 45 mins. Plus if you are alone somewhere and it does it and you have to sit somewhere in the freezing cold for it to recharge or whatever that starter has to do.

- Lilly S., Blackfoot, ID, US

problem #4

May 082012

Ion L1 2.2L V4

  • Manual transmission
  • 100,000 miles

if its not one thing its another with my saturn ion 2003 l1 2.2. At first, my key kept on getting stuck in the ignition and would not turn. After changing the whole housing and putting in a new battery, i was pissed to be rewarded with yet another ignition system failure. A mechanic has told me that its probably the starter but after reading other complaints am not sure even about that. My car will turn but not start. it will eventually after some time of repeated struggles. Can anybody help?????

- eddze33, Montebello, CA, US

problem #3

Jan 192012

Ion Ion 1 2.2L

  • Manual transmission
  • 171,600 miles


bought the car a few days ago, runs great!!! first day i go to use the car on the next day, it wont start! figured maybe the wife left the dome light on! it really had a hard time taking a jump start, but in time it did start!

day three, same thing went to use the car, won't start! tried jumping it... nothing, switch the battery out of wife's old sunfire.... still won't start. change the starter(which is not a cheap starter @ $171.00 + core) guess what? this morning... it won't start!! do some research on line, i found that the ignition switch seems to act up in cold weather. it's been in the 20's and dipping down into the single digits at night time!! stupid GM electrical systems!!

- Mike W., Dalton, NY, US

problem #2

Nov 112008


  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,235 miles

I have a 2003 Saturn Ion and I have so many problems trying to start it in the winter. I call this my "california car" because it only likes to start in the summer time. Also I had trouble with the wipers.. the motor has blown on both sides of my wipers. I had to replace my driver side then 6 months later it was my passenger side. I have problems with the tranny.. sometimes it feels like it doesn't know what gear to go into (this car is an auto).. I would never buy another Saturn in my life and I am actually looking for a new car cause I am sick of the car and I can not go through another winter not knowing if I will have to walk to work or have my car start!!

- Carrie M., Fort Erie, ON, Canada

problem #1

Apr 022006

Ion 4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

Every few months, randomly, the car won't start. The 'service engine' message appears. Grinding at first then nothing. If I wait 15 minutes (not 14, 15) the car starts right up. Saturn has denied any reports like this but I know two Ion owners who have the same problem.

- lawler, Kent, OH, US

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