NHTSA — Exterior Lighting: Turn Signal 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:
25,656 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

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #13

Jun 012015


  • 167,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. While the vehicle was being inspected at the dealer, the mechanic discovered that the turn signals failed. The dealer stated that the vehicle was previously repaired according to NHTSA campaign number: 04V547000 (exterior lighting), but the failure recurred. The manufacturer was not notified. The failure mileage was 167,000.

- Carthage, MO, USA

problem #12

Jan 182009


  • 92,200 miles
Failure of GM to notify me of 3 recalls on 2003 Saturn Ion. It is possible that this work has already been done, but I cannot tell at this time and would like this problem investigated. Recalls are: NHTSA campaign id number: 04V547000 NHTSA campaign id number: 04V003000

- South Hadley, MA, USA

problem #11

Oct 082007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
When it rains or snows, my driver seat and floor gets wet. There are no water stains around the sun roof nor is there any water damage on the drivers' door. In new england, the car is non-functional in the winter and spring because of this problem. I have taken it to the local Saturn dealership and they have refused to fix it. 2) I have had to replace my front turn signals 3 times in 1.5 years. I am almost convinced it is a socket problem and not a lightbulb problem. 3) I have had to replace the brakes and rotors twice within a 12 month period. In that time. I have only driven 17,000 miles. Once is understandable. Twice is expensive and ridiculous.

- Dorchester, MA, USA

problem #10

Nov 072004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 0 miles


Front right turn signal bulb 'bright' / 'high' elment burned out. Bulb was oem wagner 5702ka. Bulb base was blacked, had signs of overheating. Both left and front headlight assembly outer lenses have changed from clear to translucent imediately above turn signal bulbs, perhaps due to overheateing. Dealer said a problem was discovered and fixed in the later 2003 Ions. Dealer offered to diagnose and install a 'resistor and harness' kit at my expence. This is obviously a design error and should be fixed at Saturn's expence. May be a potential fire hazard.

- River Falls, WI, USA

problem #9

Nov 152003

Ion 4WD 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 32,981 miles
The turn signals working intermittently. The vehicle has been to the dealer on four occasions and the problem keep recurring.

- Carrollton, GA, USA

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problem #8

Sep 232004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 14,100 miles
Apparent electrical problem has led to failure of left front turn signal on four separate occasions. Manufacturer's authorized dealerships have been unsuccessful in repeated attempts to repair.

- Princeton, NJ, USA

problem #7

Aug 092004


  • Automatic transmission
  • 22,000 miles


Vehicle was serviced 8 times for passenger front service turn signal light. The bulb was replaced, manufacturer sent a representative to inspect the vehicle and nothing was found.

- Monmouth Junction, NJ, USA

problem #6

Feb 192004

(reported on)


  • miles
Right turn signal operates intermittently leaving consumer vulnerable to accident. Dealer was notified.

- Vienna, VA, USA

problem #5

Feb 282003


  • miles
Turn signal failed and was repaired 4 times within first 7,000 miles of usage.

- Long Beach, CA, USA

problem #4

Apr 292004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 1,000 miles
My 2003 Saturn Ion 2 sedan has had at least eight front turn signal or daytime running light bulbs fail since the car was delivered in February 2003. The bulbs in question are manufactured by wagner, and are type 5702. Failure of front turn signal lamps creates the potential for an accident, since oncoming traffic has no indication of my intent to turn. The local dealership has examined the car on three or four occasions, and has found no objective reason for the failure. Replacing the bulb corrects the problem, typically for several months but in several instances for less than a week. The bulbs in question are not available from national parts chains such as Napa, advance auto parts, autozone, and pep boys; the only source is a Saturn dealership, which charges approximately $8 for a replacement lamp. I have since experimented with using a sylvania 3157nall, which is apparently identical and is rated for use in daytime running light applications. It functions identically to the oem part, except that it appears to last much longer (it has yet to fail after several months), and is readily available from any automotive parts store for about a quarter of the cost.

- Syracuse, NY, USA

problem #3

Sep 292003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 4,248 miles


I have had repeated problems with the exterior front lighting on my new 2003 Saturn Ion which is a safety hazard. On 5/15/03 I took the vehicle to the albuquerque Saturn dealership to fix the front driver side running light and left turn signal. They replaced the bulbs, but I had to take it to the dealership again on 7/18/03 after having driven it less than 100 miles for the same problem. This time they replaced the entire headlamp assembly. Then again on 9/29/03 I took it back to the dealership to have the passenger side front running light and turn signal replaced. I talked with the sales manager ben vigil and the service manager justin greenberg. I complained that I've spent more time at the dealership for unscheduled maintenance than routine maintenance, and I was concerned I had bought a lemon. I told them that if my turn signals aren't working properly, that is a safety issue. Mr. Greenberg told me that he probably gets two customers a day with the same problem (which shocked me). He said Saturn has sent out new bulbs to the dealerships which they claim will solve the problem. We'll see.

- Albuquerque, NM, USA

problem #2

Jul 132003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles
Electrical; door seals loose; car returned up to 3 times since purchase on 7/13/03. Saturn Ion 3 coupe--turn signals burned out w/in one week of each other; requested check of electrical system. July 26, 2003 electrical system checked. Complained about door seal at same time & service dept did not check it out until they replaced the fuse box on July 31. Requested to return vehicle and was told "it would be fixed to my satisfaction". door seal was not installed properly & I have to take the car back for a fourth time to get this repaired approximately one week from today.

- Jacksonville, FL, USA

problem #1

Jun 052003


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
My turn signals do not work in the front of my car due to a shortage or something and also my car shakes and looses power when I have my air conditioner on.

- Archbald, PA, USA

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