NHTSA — Engine And Engine Cooling Problems

2003 Saturn Ion (Page 2 of 2)

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 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
37,315 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments (Page 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #13

Nov 282007


  • miles


The timing belt broke on my 2003 Saturn Ion on 11-28-07. The car only has 67,000 miles on it. Unfortunately with the belt breaking it messed up the valves, head gasket and fuel pump. Which is costing me almost $3000. The belt shouldn't have broken with that few of miles on it. Now I am down to one car and it has become a huge hassle. I am never going to buy a Saturn again. In my opinion the warranty is awful and the customer service is non-existent. The warranty is only on the first 30,000 miles and or 3 years. The customer service can not help me in the situation.

- Lenexa, KS, USA

problem #12

May 012007


  • miles
2003 Saturn Ion with cracked cylinder head customer states that the problem comes from a defective casting of cylinder head* the consumer stated she experienced a cracked cylinder head in may of 2007 but the corporation denies any responsibility in the matter. The consumer stated Saturn states not want to take responsibility for the insurance warranty nor the defect of the vehicle.

- Merrick, NY, USA

problem #11

Dec 012004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,000 miles
: the contact stated the vehicle had problems starting in cold weather. The engine would start after a few attempts or not start at all on different occasions. The non service dealer could not duplicate the issue to fix it.

- West Lafayette, IN, USA

problem #10

Dec 022006

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 45,000 miles


I have a 2003 Saturn Ion-3 and it will not start below 40 degrees, this is a ridiculous problem. There is a thread about this problem at : www.autosite.com/content/research/forums/index.cfm/action/posts/fid/5610 there are many people with this problem and so far nothing has been done, I am just hoping I can sell this car asap because it has been quite a problem.

- Grapevine, TX, USA

problem #9

Apr 102006

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I have been having some issues with clunking and grinding noises when going over bumps or potholes or while making turns. I took my 2003 Ion 2 to have this checked and I found out that the problems was both of my control arm bushings. My car is 2 months out of warranty and has only 38,000 miles on it, so at first I thought that this could be untrue. But, after internet research it seems that many 2003 Ion drivers have had this problem. I called my Saturn dealer and they acted like they had never heard of this problem and could do nothing to help me or fix it. My other problem with the car, which also seems to be a common problem, is that the service engine soon light comes on intermittently. One day it will be on, and the next it will be fine.

- Olathe, KS, USA

problem #8

Jul 152005

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 24,000 miles
My 2003 Saturn Ion consistently idles at between 1200 and 2000 RPM. Car drives itself when I take my foot off the brake. Car will drive 5-10 mph with foot off the case. I have complained at each service but the dealer states there is nothing wrong. The idle is determined by software. Etc.

- Olympia, WA, USA

problem #7

Sep 122003


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


2003 Saturn Ion-3, purchased June 2003. Repeated problems with engine revving, car almost drives itself; I have almost created an accident because I was unable to stop. More serious problems with car stalling out and turning off in the middle of driving, both at lower speeds on surface streets and higher speeds on interstates. Extremely unsafe, I have almost gotten into accidents several times because of vehicle malfunctions. Have taken to several dealers and repair shops throughout Georgia and Michigan. No one is able to determine the correct problem, Saturn service stated, because the vehicle is not showing problems at this time, we are unable to correct the issue at hand.

- Conyers, GA, USA

problem #6

Aug 182004


  • 22,000 miles
When a turn was made, the vehicle stalled.

- Teaneck, NJ, USA

problem #5

Jul 142004


  • 29,000 miles
While driving vehicle stalled. Dealership was notified, but did not resolve the problem.

- Roxboro, NC, USA

problem #4

Jul 132004


  • Automatic transmission
  • 14,000 miles
Drove through water about 5 to 6 inches deep during rain, car stopped would not restart, engine had to be replaced due to water damage, the car was just one year old.

- Middleburg, FL, USA

problem #3

Oct 062003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,000 miles


Our 2003 Saturn Ion II has stalled on numerous occasions. This problem started occuring a month after we purchased the vehicle and have continued since. We have taken our car in for service for this particular problem on these dates: 10/3/03, 11/5/03, 5/24/04. We are also taking it in 6/28/04 for service for the same reason. The Saturn has stalled while slowing down at a stoplight, while turning through an intersection, while driving, while accelerating from a stop sign, and while entering a toll station. We were very close to being struck by other vehicles in several of these occasions, but fortunately were not. With my wife expecting our first child, we are very hesitant to drive this vehicle. We do not feel safety for ourselves and for others when in this car. 10/3/03 - Saturn service dept. Checked the battery and it checked out ok 11/5/03 - Saturn service dept. Checked for codes and found P1599 stall code in history. Checked wiring and connectors and found junction block loose under hood. They tightened under hood junction block connector screws. 2/19/04 - Saturn service dept. Replaced fuel filter (recall - 03068) 5/24/04 - Saturn service dept. Test drove car and could not duplicate the concern. Looked for codes in system or tsb's, but none were found. We feel nothing has been done to resolve this issue we are continuously having, and are extremely dissatisfied with the service we have received. We would like the problem to be solved or some action to be taken.

- Clinton, IA, USA

problem #2

Jun 152003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1,984 miles
I bought a 2003 Saturn Ion 3 March 17, 2003. Within 2 weeks the car had a cracked cylinder with coolant leaking into the engine. Saturn Corp. Recalled the car. The purchase of [xxx] was canceled 4/17/03 and I purchased a 2nd 2003 Saturn Ion 3, [xxx], on 4/17/03. The 2nd car from the beginning had transmission problems shifting between gears, jerking up and down from 30 mph to 70 mph, kicks when started, rattles loudly in reverse, and steering problems coming out of turns. The car has been in service 4 times (bumper to bumper warranty. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Davie, FL, USA

problem #1

Jun 192003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
March 22, 2003 I purchased an Saturn Ion 3. within the 1st the week there was problems starting the car. The car was in for service 2 times in 2 weeks. Finally the engine light started flashing (3rd time). Supposedly the car was fixed. 3 days later the dealer's service department called me at Saturn Corp.'s request to immediately return the car as the engine could blow up. The engine had a cracked cylinder which caused coolant to leak into the engine with about 650 miles. Also, another Saturn Ion with 2500 miles was sitting in the dealer's lot with a cracked cylinder in the engine. I was released from the sale on April 17, 2003. I took a 2nd Saturn Ion 3 on April 17, 2003. This car has jerky steering problems coming out of turns and sever transmission problems. The car kicks when turning on the ignition, engine gets racketing when put into reverse, when changing gears - kicks, slides, and will surge, and bounce through gears between 30 mph to above 70 mph. The service manager said, "all the Ions drive this way. There's nothing wrong with the car". this car has been in for service 4 times. Each time the car is returned worse than the time before.

- Davie, FL, USA

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