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:
2 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
91,203 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 brakes problems

brakes problem

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2004 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #7

Mar 202015


  • 100,000 miles


The Saturn Ion recalled ignition was replaced, but the problem continues to happen. On 3/20/15, I was driving on the freeway in rush hour traffic. The car turned itself off, and the brakes went out. I steered the car to the shoulder, and managed to bring it a stop eventually with the emergency brake and changing gears. I took the car straight to the dealership, per instructions from GM customer service, but haven't been able to get satisfactory information from either the service center at the dealership or GM customer service so far. The new ignition failed, causing the car to turn off while driving and my brakes to fail. This caused a serious safety risk. The recall failed to correct the ignition problem for my vehicle.

- Arlington, TX, USA

problem #6

Aug 112014


  • 80,940 miles
I have a 2004 Ion while driving my car I lost power steering. Thankfully I was able to pull over and restart and only a few miles from home. I always have my daughter with me and suppose I am not as fortunate next time. Something needs to be done to compensate for this and lessen the deaths GM has caused by allowing problems they knew of to remain unfixed. My Ion has a recall for power steering loss which says it can happen at any time or speed. This is very scatter. So here I am with a car I am afraid to put let alone my child. I had an ignition switch recall which was fixed. I am requesting a loaner car until the part is ready to fix mine.

- South Boston, VA, USA

problem #5

Jan 062014


  • 77,362 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while driving 30 mph, she attempted to depress the clutch pedal but noticed that the pedal had raised eight inches from where it normally was, preventing her from shifting gears. The contact mentioned that the vehicle eventually stalled and was towed to an independent mechanic where the technician diagnosed that the clutch pedal was fractured. As a result, the master cylinder, slave cylinder and the clutch pedal needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The vehicle was repaired. The failure mileage was 77,362 and the current mileage was 79,810.

- San Pedro , CA, USA

problem #4

Mar 012011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 140,000 miles


About three years ago is when I had my first problem with speed acceleration with my Saturn. I left work and turned on my car and started to drive an hour to go home all the sudden my car began to accelerate and I wasn't pressing the gas. My vehicle continued to accelerate and I had to keep my foot on the brake to slow the vehicle down and it was still accelerating. I had to pull over on the side of the road and pop my car into neutral going approximately 70mph. I somehow managed to get home but my car continued to accelerate without me pressing on the gas. When I would turn the vehicle on while it was still in park the RPM's would go crazy as if I had my foot on the gas pedal. I immediately contacted my auto shop who indicated that they could not find anything wrong with my vehicle. I have had several incidents since then and ended up crashing earlier this year. My vehicle sped up on a snowy road and I lost complete steering for my vehicle, I nearly rolled my car and crashed head on into a snow bank. My air bags never deployed, after I contacted my insurance company they were surprised with the amount of front end damage I had on my vehicle that my airbags should have deployed but they did not. I know others are having the same issues with the vehicle accelerating with no application of the gas petal and the brake pedal does little or nothing to stop or slow the vehicle down.

- Elkhorn, WI, USA

problem #3

May 142012

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while driving approximately 40 mph, the vehicle wouldn't stop when the brakes were applied and caused the contact to crash into another vehicle. The air bags did not deploy. There were no injuries and a police report was filed. The vehicle was destroyed. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 84,000. Updated 5/20/14 updated 06/17/14

- Hudson, NC, USA

problem #2

Nov 152009

Ion 4-cyl

  • 104,000 miles
We were driving on the highway at 70mph when the car stalled out and we lost power steering ability. We started the car again while it was in motion and it caught but it happened again a few more miles down the road. Since our Saturn dealership was no longer in business, we had a trusted mechanic take care of it not knowing there were issues. I researched three recall notifications from Saturn. One involved the left turn signal which we had to have fixed twice with a harness and bulb replacement in on 2/5/05 and again on 10/24/05. Another was a faulty ignition switch replacement also on 10/24/05. And then the third was the faulty electric power steering which as you know we had repaired on 10/4/12. I contacted GM about a reimbursement and they said no because we were past 10 years or 100,000 miles, and that the reimbursement form must be received by 8/31/11. My question to GM is, how can you put a limit on something that was faulty from the beginning? the new ignition and injectors in March 2010 ($758.94) and the new starter in August 2011 ($324) after having related problems/repairs due to the recall in Oct 2005 show that something just wasn't right in the manufacturing of this model. And the power steering motor replacement ($177) in Oct 2012 should also be reimbursed because GM already admitted it was a problem with the model year so regardless of whether we had 10,000 miles or 160,000 miles, it was faulty. Now we learn that they knew these were problems all along and did not take ownership of them. What really bothers me is that I inquired about all of this with them in December 2012 - this is supposed to be "a new GM" different from the company back in 2001" if they were different why did they refuse to reimburse me the $2,177 we spent in repairs, or admit that there was a recall? is it because we did not die in an accident"

- Manchester, NH, USA

problem #1

Sep 162012

Ion 4-cyl

  • 52,120 miles
Excessive brake chatter in front brakes when wet from a hard rain or rain puddles. Hard to steer car, car shudders.

- San Antonio, TX, USA

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