Won't Start - Anti Theft Device-Passlock

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:
Average Mileage:
73,850 miles
Total Complaints:
5 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (4 reports)
  2. remote start passlock bypass (1 reports)
2003 Saturn Ion electrical problems

electrical problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #5

Feb 222010

Ion II 2.2L V4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 73,242 miles


My brother had the car before me and had the same problem and told me what I should do. He also told me that this car is not going to be fix able as you are going to stop making them and no more parts will be available . I was to sell this car as fast as I can and get a better car. I got hurt on the job and now I can not work at all, so selling the car is not an option for me. I was told that you can fix this problem. It would be nice to have it done. I also know that you do not want to do this as it cost a lot of money for you to fix your problems. Just think of all the good feeling that people would have for a company that stands behind their word. When would you contact me with an answer about this problem. Soon I hope.

Lauren Grove

- grove_larry, Glendora, CA, US

problem #4

Aug 032012


  • CVT transmission
  • 115,000 miles

Ever since I have owned this car it's been a bitch to start. I have the original key and have had nothing but problems. I even had extra keys made to see if they would work better and it doesn't seem to matter.

I'd have to give myself a few extra minutes, especially in cold weather, to leave my house. I'll sit, endlessly cranking the ignition switch and turning the wheel to see if I can get the thing started. I figured it may have something to do with the metal the ignition is made from expanding and contracting with the temperature. Upon further research, I've determined I just drive a poorly made vehicle.

After owning it a few months though, I did figure out the best way to start it... I usually have to mutter a few expletives or phrases such as 'oh, come on!', and turn the key in a specific way. Regardless, anyone should be able to start my car. Not just me. Due to this other issues, I will be trading this POS in. :)

- Sabrina G., Berea, KY, US

problem #3

Dec 182009

Ion 2.2L

  • Manual transmission
  • 84,000 miles

I'm having the same issues that a lot of ION owners are having. Car will not start when it is cold and the passlock system kicks in. Once this kicks in you have to leave the key in the accessories position for 10 minutes, passlock will then shut off and you can retry.If it does not start you have to wait another 10 minutes to try and start. Supposedly this is because of grease that is in the ignition switch. This grease freezes up when cold. It does seem to help if you warm up the ignition switch with a hair dryer or lighter.I don't know why GM does not recall this. They are passing their screw up onto the consumer. This problem has left many people stranded. It is just a matter of time till some one is in a really bad situation because of this. 'Sorry your having a heart attack maybe I can start the car in another 10 minutes'. I wouldn't be surprised if someone froze to death because of this. At the very least I know people have missed many hours of work. Anyways, I am going to replace the ignition switch to see if this works. I already bought a remote start which bypasses the passlock when remote start but no one will install this on a manual car. If anyone has an automatic I would highly recommend doing this. You will have to get a bypass module with this. Good luck ION owners and thanks GM!! Why would I mind bailing you out!!

- brider77, Hummelstown, PA, US

problem #2

Jan 142009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 50,000 miles

Car has been having trouble with starting since June 2008. Turning the key is like rolling the dice.....not starting? - wait five minutes and it starts...maybe. Taken car to many mechanics and it always starts so no problem is found.

- lars, Highland, IN, US

problem #1

Jan 062009

Ion Level 2 2.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 47,000 miles

GM Passlock. On most GM vehicles after 1996. Being an "unsuspecting young lady who doesn't know s%$# about cars" the Saturn dealership was happy to rip me off. Almost. The car starts when it wants to. It clicks then does nothing. Well, through research, I figured out it's the anti theft device Passlock. Saturn will tell you that you need an ignition switch and starter which would have cost me in the ballpark of $600. I realized that a remote starter with a Passlock bypass module will cost $250 and it will start every time. This is the alternative to being at GM's mercy, and replacing countless starters/switches. Man, no wonder GM is in this situation. They haven't gotten this right in over 12 years of Passlock? What a f-ing joke! If you drive a GM model and have these problems, get a remote starter with the bypass, you won't be sorry!

- laurenh, Lansing, MI, US

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