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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
58,142 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 windows / windshield problems

windows / windshield problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #12

Feb 062012

Ion 4-cyl

  • 79,501 miles


. I was driving South on I-15 between cedar city and St. George Utah.around 4:00 pm when I drove into a very heavy rain storm, I turned on the windshield wipers to clear the windshield. At which point the wipers went up and then quite. The driver side wiper went all the way to the left side of the windshield and stopped. The passenger side worked for a few minutes and then quite I had to pull over stop and water for the rain storm to pass over. Upon later inspection I found that the plastic housing that holds the wiper mounts to the main assembly had broken away from both sides causing the wipers to quit working. Since the car was out of warranty I went down to stephen wade Chevrolet and purchased a new wiper motor module assembly. Which cost me $196,00. While I was replacing this wiper module assembly I noticed that the new wiper motor module assembly has no plastic parts.the unit was solid metal. Which should have been done in the first place to avoid this very serious safety issue. I did write Saturn a letter and sent pictures as well showing them the problem this problem happens over a long period of time as hot and cold weather causes the plastic to get brittle and then brake. I am very concerned about the publics safety and advised Saturn that I felt they should seriously consider issuing a recall and replace any of these vehicles which may have these plastic part installed on them. I have been driving for many years. As experienced driver I knew what to do. But for a younger or elder driver I really think this situation could have turned out very bad. Let's get something done before someone gets hurt or even worse killed. I just don't feel that Saturn will do anything more about this safety issue. So I hope you will. Thanks for taking the time to read this letter and for your consideration, cooporation and concerns.

- St George, UT, USA

problem #11

Jul 202011


  • 52,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the while driving in incliment weather, he noticed that the windshield wipers would not operate. The vehicle was inspected by an independent mechanic, who was unable to diagnose the failure. The manufacturer was notified and stated that there were no recalls addressing the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was approximately 52,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Cocoa, FL, USA

problem #10

May 112010

Ion 4-cyl

  • miles
I am the owner of a 2003 Saturn Ion and was driving down the highway when it started raining. I have very poor visibility because the drivers side wiper blade flew off the side of the windshield. I called Saturn about this concern, was told I have to replace it. It shows the connective joint on the wiper broke loose and after reading several hundred complaints online about this same problem, it is apparent that Saturn knows of this defective product, but charges hundreds of dollars to repair the problem. Many injuries and possibly death could result from this defect and I am very unhappy with Saturn's lack of concern for public safety. I can only drive my car when it is not raining because I cannot afford $481 to fix what should not have broken in the first place. The plastic molding on the windshield cavity is not sufficient or safe for any vehicle. Please attend to this matter before someone is killed.

- Lexington, NC, USA

problem #9

Mar 302011


  • 114,000 miles


2003 Saturn Ion wiper failure: The wiper linkage aka wiper transmission broke while driving down the highway at 70mph in a rain storm. There was not any ice and the wipers were in good shape. The wiper proceeded to go outside of the windshield and not return to the off position. Very dangerous and others have had the same problem. Again there was not any ice involved.

- Mishwaka, IN, USA

problem #8

Mar 042010

Ion 4-cyl

  • 73,000 miles
Saturn have a recall on the 2003 Saturn Ion L series and I experienced a very dangerous situation involving the wiper motor. While traveling on an expressway doing about 60mph, the windshield wiper completely flew off the range of the window. Upon safely getting off, I pulled into a mechanic shop and was told the wiper motor just failed. I contacted Saturn to tell them about the recall on the L series and that this car demonstrates the same problem. They offered not assistance or even cared about the fact the I could have been killed because it was raining hard and the motor went out. Someone should investigate this problem before lives are lost.

- Lexington, NC, USA

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problem #7

Oct 302004


  • 34,200 miles
Power-operated window, ." the power windows are inoperable after the ignition has been turned to the "off" position and the front passenger door is opened the reverse lights do not work!!! have been replaced many many times

- Daleville, AL, USA

problem #6

Feb 082009


  • 80,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the duct port, where air travels through the vehicle, fails to Transport correctly and becomes stuck. The insulation between the vent loosens and stops switching between heat and defrost. The failure began at 36,000 miles. The failure has not been repaired. The contact feels that this is a safety issue because the windows could fog up and reduce visibility. The failure occurs in rainy weather conditions. The VIN was unknown. The current and failure mileages were 80,000.

- Greeley, CO, USA

problem #5

Nov 132008


  • 88,000 miles
My 18 yr old daughter was driving to school this morning during a heavy rain downpour and almost had a wreck due to the sudden malfunction of the driver's side windshield wiper assembly. The wiper arm sudden became "possessed" were it was moving erratically causing practically zero visibility on a busy two-lane highway. She barely pulled off the road as a school bus rounded the curve. Needless to say everyone was lucky. A good samaritan mechanic stopped and quickly assessed that a plastic support had broken on the wiper motor assembly. We had to leave the car in a stranger's driveway until we can make arrangements to move it during safer conditions. I got on the computer and found where others had suffered the same issue!! I know parts wear out, but this is a major safety issue that gives no warning. My daughter was lucky not have wrecked or injured the school children that were standing on the side of the road, awaiting the bus. Angry mother

- Patterson, NC, USA

problem #4

Sep 032008


  • 36,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. While driving approximately 55 mph on normal road conditions, the windshield wipers were activated to clean the windshield. The driver's side windshield wipers failed to operate. The failure occurred without warning. The vehicle was taken to an independent repair shop and they stated that the failure was related to the windshield wiper transmission. The vehicle was repaired. The contact was concerned of the safety risk involved. She is in the process of notifying the manufacturer. The failure mileage was 36,000 and current mileage was 37,000.

- Lemont, IL, USA

problem #3

Oct 152006


  • 54,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. Sporadically, while driving various speeds, the vehicle would stall without warning. The contact would also experience a no start condition. He took the vehicle to the dealer and they replaced the ignition switch at the cost of several hundred dollars. Two years later, the failure recurred, but the dealer would not assume any responsibility. Lastly, the windshield wipers would repeatedly hop around the windshield. On one occasion, the wiper fractured and had to be replaced. The failure mileage was 54,000 and current mileage was 99,000.

- Danville, PA, USA

problem #2

Sep 152006


  • 38,000 miles
Temperature control knobs don't rotate and it restricts the air flow preventing the car from defogging front windshield, drivers side and passenger side windows restricting visibility making the continue operation of the vehicle unsafe.

- Royal Oak, MI, USA

problem #1

Feb 102008

Ion 4-cyl

  • 49,000 miles
The windshield wiper arm component on my 2003 Saturn Ion (which connects the right and left wipers) has plastic parts that will snap in cold weather, rendering at least the left windshield wiper inoperative. This could have created an extremely hazardous condition, especially during a snow or ice storm. The repair shop told us that the component arm had to be on back order, and it would take two weeks to get a replacement. It actually took four weeks, which leads me to believe that the problem is not an isolated one. The replacement, which cost $162 without labor, also has plastic components. The windshield wipers sit below the part on the windshield where the defroster vents are aimed, causing the wipers to stay frozen on the windshield even after the defroster is turned on. When the wipers are turned on, the strain on the arm component (caused when the frozen wiper blades stay stuck on the windshield) causes the plastic part to snap, rendering at least the left wiper inoperative.

- Jackson, MI, USA

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