Notes: Ahh, the 2004 Saturn Ion: defective transmission, deadly ignition switch, temperamental power steering and a cheap plastic exterior that won’t protect you in a crash. What more could you want?

The 2004 Ion was part of GM’s massive ignition switch recall where it was revealed they waited 10 years – and let 13 people die – before doing anything about it. It also features GM’s now infamous VTi continuously variable transmission. Let me tell you, the only thing the VTi did continuously was fail on its owners. GM scrapped it after only two model years.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
36,406 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.

2004 Saturn Ion accessories - interior problems

accessories - interior problem

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2004 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #6

Dec 282007


  • miles


I have a 2004 Saturn Ion. I bought in the winter of 2007. It immediately presented with the problem of not starting in really cold weather. I took it to the dealership it was bought from and they told me they couldn't find a problem. I have been told by another mechanic that he couldn't find the problem either. I sometimes have to wait up to 30 minutes for my car to start in freezing cold weather. About 6 or 8 months ago the key wouldn't turn when it was inserted into the ignition. I have to jiggle it back and forth, sometimes the key almost coming out totally before it will turn over. Today it took 15 minutes to finally get it unlocked and turned over to start.

- Troy, MO, USA

problem #5

Dec 012004


  • 9,000 miles
After only 9 months of owning my Ion I have experienced problems with shifting the car in and out of gear. It is a random occurrence and can happen 8 times in a week then not at all for months. However when it does happen it is a life threatening experience as I am usually driving on a major highway. The car will be "locked" into 4th for example and when I try to shift to 5th I can not get it out of 4th. I have taken the car to the Saturn dealership a minimum of 20 times for this problem, only to be told that they could not do anything. I then took it to a different dealership where the tech took the car home for 1 week, experienced the problem for himself, and told me all he could do was replace a wire and hope it helped because Saturn would not let him investigate any more options. It did absolutely nothing to help my car. And since the last time my car has been at the Saturn dealership my power steering now goes in and out. Apparently they busted a seal and failed to mention that to me, so not only do I have to worry about not being able to shift, but also losing my power steering. They only solution I can come up with is to try my best to get the car to a safe spot and turn it off and let it sit. This car has had more problems than anyone should have to deal with: Reverse switch going out, airconditioning going out, power windows no longer work, power steering, and not being able to shift. I have to drive this everyday with my children in the car with me at most times. This should have all been taken care under the orig. Warranty, as it all happened within the first 6-12 months of owning the car. Lol that's what I get for buying a GM product.

- Barnhart, MO, USA

problem #4

Jan 172009


  • 70,000 miles
Bought the car under warranty, no crank/no start because of faulty passlock system. Saturn "rebooted the computer" (Saturn words). This was in may of 06. Strangely, the car has "died" in at least 3 driveways as though the battery was dead. I have taken the car to a garage and had the battery tested and it was fine. Recently, when the weather is cold, the car will no crank/no start and throw the passlock code. On the dash, sometimes it says service engine it may or may not reset after 10 minutes. The vehicle has become unreliable as I am never sure if I am going to get to work on time or not. I called Saturn last week. Apparently Saturn is aware of the problem, but since they are going to inconvenience me to drive 200 miles to the dealership and then charge me $100 to walk through the door land then another $1000 on top of that to "fix" the car' they know they are making money off their faulty equipment. I refuse to pay for it, but in the meantime my car continues to not start if it is zero degrees.

- Berlin, NH, USA

problem #3

Nov 191981


  • 79,500 miles


The ignition switch in the 2004 Saturn Ion has a malfunction. The car is only four years old and will not start in cold weather. Upon calling the local Saturn dealership in springfield, pa the service receptionist was able to tell me exactly what was wrong with the car and that I had to wait 15 minutes to half an hour and then try to start the car again to see if it will start. GM and Saturn know that the ignition switch is faulty which is proven by the fact that the receptionist knew how to start my car but they have not done anything about it. The first instance of this occurring for me was on November 19th when I talked the receptionist and it has continued to occur. On December 6, 2008 the car was able to brought in to be fixed and was charged to the owner of the car even though they know this is a default of the car.

- Lansdowne, PA, USA

problem #2

Jan 312008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 58,000 miles
This is the third time I've had to push this Saturn into the street to get our other drivers off to work. The first time it was only a few months old and was towed to the dealer. They said my floormats were too thick and not genuine Saturn parts and caused it not to start(no kidding, they said this). A few weeks later it once again failed to turn over. Another tow to the dealer and this time they re-coded the key and ignition switch. Several times over the past few years it has failed to start. If I wait 20 minutes, the anti theft module re-sets and it will start. This morning I slipped on ice while pushing it into the street and fell. My back is killing me right now and I'm very angry. This is an obvious problem that Saturn is ignoring. No self respecting thief would steal a Saturn in the first place. I see no need for an anti-theft device on this awful car.

- Tinley Park, IL, USA

problem #1

Jan 102004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1,936 miles
Brakes failure

- Appleton, WI, USA

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