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:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
91,004 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 steering problems

steering problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments (Page 5 of 6)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #30

Jan 012010


  • miles


The power steering on my 2003 Saturn Ion does not always work. When I start the car the power steering will work for a short time and then stop working. Power steering light message displays on the message screen, but error code can be found. The same issue has been recalled on other GM models, but not the 2003 Ion. I have been waiting almost a year for the recall.

- Tampa, FL, USA

problem #29

May 232011

Ion 4-cyl

  • miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated the power steering failed while driving 50 mph when a warning light illuminated and a pinging noise was heard. The vehicle was turned off and back on in order for the steering to reset itself. The dealer was contacted and advised the contact to bring the vehicle in for a diagnostic test at her expense for $90. The contact was also advised that the diagnostic test may or may not confirm or duplicate the failure. The manufacturer stated there are no recalls or warranties and the vehicle should be taken to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 69,000. Updated 07/08/11 updated 08/04/11

- Kittanning, PA, USA

problem #28

Apr 262011


  • 76,889 miles
I was traveling approximately 40 mph when the power steering lamp came on and the power steering failed. After pulling to the side of the road, and turning the vehicle off, I restarted the vehicle and the power steering was restored for about 20 minutes. The days following this, I encountered several power steering failures until I had the power steering box replaced on May 10, 2011. I researched the internet and found many other 2003 Saturn Ion's owners had experienced the same failure. I contacted a GM representative and asked for reimbursement. I was told that there was no recall for the power steering for my year and make of car. I had also complained about my transmission because I had declined repairs on my power steering. Winegarden Pontiac informed me that they would not further check the cause of transmission problems because the power steering failure presented a safety concern. I had the power steering box replaced at a cost of $537.94 minus the $127 diagnosis fee! I strongly feel that a recall should be in place for the power steering failure, and all who had the problem corrected out of pocket, should be reimbursed at GM's expense. The power steering failure has contributed to an accident in houston Texas! I would not like to have human life lost before this problem is given serious consideration! updated 06/08/11

- District Heights, MD, USA

problem #27

Mar 142011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 120,000 miles


I will be driving on the interstate (60 mph or more) and the power steering message will come on the dashboard and the power steering will fail. If you switch off the car it will come back on. This happened once or twice 2 years ago but this week (March 14-March 17 - so far) it has happened at least twice a day, every day. Luckily so far, I have been able to pull of the road and restart the car. I hope that I will not be involved in an accident and would not be able to steer the vehicle. I have called Saturn (service req # [xxx]) but they said there is nothing they can do about it. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Douglasville, GA, USA

problem #26

Mar 022011


  • 83,950 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. While driving approximately 5-10 mph, the contact heard a loud noise outside of the vehicle followed by a loss of power steering. The vehicle was towed to an independent mechanic where they informed her that the steering rack had fractured due to internal damages. The vehicle was repaired. The failure mileage was approximately 83,950.

- Eucuid, OH, USA

problem #25

Jan 012010

Ion 4-cyl

  • 65,000 miles
I need help, I have a 2003 Saturn Ion, the front end is broke. It swerves all over the road. They recalled many and know what the problem is. Mine they will not fix and I can't afford to pay for it. It's very unsafe and they recalled several models for the same problem and won't fix mine. The warranty just expired and I get no response from any Agency. I just bought this car a few years ago and they know its a factory problem and they won't fix my car. Please help, I'm just a hard working guy trying to support his family. My wife is disabled and I struggle to get by and I can't get any help from the car company. Updated 01/28/11

- Coarsegold, CA, USA

problem #24

Nov 242010

Ion 4-cyl

  • miles


Power steering shuts off while driving the car. Notification sound beeps and power steering turned off is noted on dash board. Once car is turned off and re-started, power steering starts working again.

- Englewood, CO, USA

problem #23

Nov 082010

Ion 4-cyl

  • 83,000 miles
Power steering in 2003 Saturn Ion just went! not working at all.

- Merrimac, MA, USA

problem #22

Nov 032010


  • 117,242 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact was driving 10 mph when the power steering light illuminated and the contact had a very difficult time turning the steering wheel. The contact had to use extreme force to pull over and turn the vehicle off. The dealer was not informed of the failure and the vehicle was neither diagnosed nor repaired. The failure recurred twice. The failure mileage was 117,242 and the current mileage was 117,276.

- Delview, VA, USA

problem #21

Oct 302010

Ion 4-cyl

  • 53,000 miles
2003 Saturn Ion. Over the past 3 weeks, power steering fails at least once during each trip. One such occasion, it occurred within 100 yards of a wide bend almost resulting in crash/injury. This is the second complaint I have filed for this issue.

- Mckeesport, PA, USA

problem #20

Aug 032010


  • 24,350 miles


Power steering light came on and immediately the power steering failed on 2003 Saturn Ion. Car was almost impossible to steer. It only has 23,000 miles on it and should be under recall with the cobalt. It is under recall for same thing but later models. All year models should be included.

- Sarasota, FL, USA

problem #19

Aug 012010


  • 52,000 miles
2003 Saturn Ion power steering stopped working while vehicle was in use. One the engine was turned off and restarted the power steering reset. The incident caused momentary loss of control of the vehicle.

- Mckeesport, PA, USA

problem #18

Jul 232010


  • 67,907 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. While driving 30 mph, the power steering light illuminated and it became extremely difficult to turn the steering wheel and control the vehicle. The dealer was not notified. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileages were 67,907.

- Columbus, OH, USA

problem #17

Jul 092010


  • 62,001 miles
I was driving my Saturn Ion when all of a sudden the "power steering" light came on and my steering wheel locked up. I managed to pull over to a safe place, turned off the car, turned it back on and the problem went away for 20 seconds. I had to drive really slow and barely made it home. My car is only at 62,000 miles. This should not be happening. Nothing was done to correct the failure. GM doesn't recognize this as a problem. They told me that I would be notified in case of a recall. I have read this will cost me $1000 to fix.

- Deer Park, TX, USA

problem #16

Jan 012009


  • 55,000 miles
Power steering failure. Sporadic lurching left or right at any given time. Unsafe condition.

- Coarsegold, CA, USA

problem #15

May 212010


  • 130,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. While driving at any speed, the contact noticed that the steering wheel became difficult to turn in any direction. The vehicle had not been inspected at the time of the complaint. The current and failure mileages were approximately 130,000.

- Staon Island, NY, USA

problem #14

Apr 252010


  • 102,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact was driving approximately 35 mph when the power steering light illuminated and the power steering failed and the steering wheel became difficult to turn. The contact drove the vehicle home, turned it off and restarted it; the power steering seemed to reset and function properly. The dealer stated that there were no recalls or warranties that would cover the failure; however, they offered to perform a diagnostic test for a fee. The contact had not spoken with the manufacturer when the complaint was filed. The current and failure mileages were approximately 102,000.

- Albrightsville, PA, USA

problem #13

Sep 082009

Ion 4-cyl

  • 80,000 miles
2003 Saturn Ion. September 09. Drove car. Parked. Could not get key out of ignition. Waited 10 minutes. Key came out. Had ignition switch replaced at Saturn dealer. Next week the same thing happened. Had ignition switch replaced again.(at my expense). Key continues to intermittently stick in the ignition. I can not get out of my car until I get the key out. Look at the website and read all the complaints about this problem. no wonder GM closed out the Saturn line. Just as bad as Toyota. The mechanics at the Saturn dealership knew about this problem, but they offered no permanent fix. This is why I don't trust american made cars.

- Park City, KS, USA

problem #12

Mar 152010


  • 42,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The power steering fails intermittently while driving various speeds. The power steering light would illuminate during and sometimes after the failure occurred. The contact would shut off the vehicle for a few minutes for the power steering to reset itself to normal. The dealer advised having a diagnostic performed on the vehicle before repairs. The vehicle had not yet been repaired. The VIN was not available. The failure mileage was 42,000 and the current mileage was 43,225. Updated 05/19/10.

- Waianae, HI, USA

problem #11

Mar 252008

Ion 4-cyl

  • 61,000 miles
I have been driving a 2003 Saturn Ion for a few months now. I started here a popping noise in my steering wheel a few weeks back and when I took it to get looked at I was told it is most likely the power steering motor. After doing some research it was found that there was a huge recall by General Motors for this part, but my car was not part of the recall.

- Silver Spring, MD, USA

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