NHTSA — Engine And Engine Cooling: Exhaust System 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.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
31,007 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 exhaust system problems

exhaust system problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #3

Dec 082009


  • 93,000 miles


I have a 2003 Saturn Ion 1 that I have never had any problems with. Suddenly on the first cold day of the winter it had trouble starting. After that the catalytic converter starting glowing. I have spent over $350 replacing the catalytic converter, spark plugs and wires and the air filter. I have found a recall for the Saturn L series for an ignition control module. I'm still not sure if this is the problem but if it is it will cost $650 to fix it. I may not have an L series car but they were made with the same engine. I don't understand how a catalytic converter can be destroyed so quickly (under 100,000 miles) without something being wrong. Please help!!!

- Fort Collins, CO, USA

problem #2

Sep 122004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
The area in my trunk above the muffler has started getting extremely hot. Items stored in the trunk are hot to the touch and the metal in the trunk is too hot to lay a hand on. I took the car to the dealership and was told this is normal. I have never dropped items while removing them from the trunk because they were too hot to touch and I've had the car since February 2003. I have had constant problems with this car and it is in the shop every month to month and a half being repaired. I have had problems with the driver's side turn signal (4 times), radio, interior fan, transmission, gear shift, brakes, tires, hood latch, windshield, etc.

- Clawson, MI, USA

problem #1

Nov 252003

(reported on)


  • 21 miles
There was an egg smell within the cabin and on the outside of the vehicle. The smell was worse when the heat was on. The smell made the occupants nauseous and sick. The dealership was unable to identify what caused the smell but has given a lot of scenarios.

- La Crosse, WI, USA

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