NHTSA — Exterior Lighting: Headlights 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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
18,000 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 lights problems

lights problem

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2003 Saturn Ion:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #5

Dec 312007

Ion 4-cyl

  • miles


I was drove my car home one night and the headlights were working fine. I went in the house changed and got ready to leave again when I turned on my headlights they did not come on. Thought maybe it was the bulbs that went out but the bright lights worked. Had the bulbs check they were fine, I also checked the fuses to make sure that was burnt out. After a week the lights still were not working took it to a car mechanic and the analysis showed some sensor. He replaced the sensor and it did not fix the problem my low beam headlights are still not working.

- Norfolk, NE, USA

problem #4

May 302004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 38,000 miles
Headlights do not project a beam as far as when vehicle was new. Nightime driving on rural roads during deer season is hazardous. Saturn dealer has installed updated wiring harness to correct repeated premature daytime running light failures and coincidently or not, the headlights have performed poorly since then. Discussed this with Saturn dealer and service manager said he has lots of complaints about poor headlight performance from the Ion. I know my Saturn Ion headlights performed satisfactorily at first, but have degraded. The electrical system and my vision are both fine. The supension has not been altered and the vehicle has not been involved in an accident. I replaced factory halogen bulbs with sylvania silverstar 9007 bulbs and illuminated field is brighter, but still does not extend down the road much farther. At speeds over 55mph, on a dark rural highway, I can overdive my headlights. Emailed Saturn and they have never heard of my problem and did not offer a solution, but will listen to determine if this is a "trend". I'm afraid to drive this vehicle at night.

- Grantsburg, IL, USA

problem #3

Mar 072004


  • 49,000 miles
Throttle froze during the winter months. Consumer contacted manufacturer, and was told that because warranty expired they will not make any repairs without consumer first paying for it. Also, headlight covers were covered with a film that made visibility difficult. On 3-7-04 the vehicle was involved in an accident. When the consumer took her foot off the gas but the vehicle did not slow down. The vehicle began to slide then rolled over. The driver sustain double whiplash and left shoulder muscle spasms. The vehicle was not totaled. On 6-16-04 the front passenger side wheel bearing was replaced.

- Mio, MI, USA

problem #2

Jun 012003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles
Daytime running lights have shorted out 3 times since purchasing the vehicle in May 2003.

- Heathsville, VA, USA

problem #1

May 012003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 3,000 miles
Headligh movement, distracting to dirver as light beams hit object the beam appears to be gittering. Distracting also to vehicles in front of you as drivers continue to look in mirror. Saturn dealership stated they do not have a fix, that is is this way by design. Headlight mounts to mounting panel with (2) pins going through upper ear in mounting panel and then upper and lower ears on headlight assy. And into lower ear of mounting panel. Appears to much play in the pin to mount area, this will worsen over time as metal pin in plastic ears will become larger from the shaking. This occurs even of smooth road beds.

- Fredericksburg, VA, USA

Not what you are looking for?