NHTSA — Electrical System Problems

2004 Saturn Ion (Page 10 of 12)

CarComplaints.com Seal Of This Might Hurt

CarComplaints.com 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:
8 / 3
Injuries / Deaths:
6 / 0
Average Mileage:
53,168 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 electrical problems

electrical problem

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2004 Saturn Ion Owner Comments (Page 10 of 12)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #45

Dec 012006


  • miles


Car will sporadically not start in cold weather. Starts fine in warm season. Waiting 10 minutes after initial try will usually remedy this. This usually happens 5 times a week and normally in the morning. This has been a problem since the purchase of the vehicle. The starter and batter has been replaced with no positive results. I have done internet research and found hundreds of others with the same problem. People seem to believe it is a problem with the pass-lock system being temperamental. The electrical system is sensitive to temperature and condensation. The cold start triggers an approximate 10 minute wait time before the system is reset and the car will not turn over until after that period. I have read where people have disabled the pass lock system to remedy this with good results. I am not comfortable with paying a mechanic to disengage the system or doing this myself and feel that Saturn should fix the problem. Since this is such a sporadic and temperamental problem it would be difficult for a mechanic to diagnose.... hence the dozens of accounts of people replacing starters and batteries with no lasting results. I have, with mixed results, that heating the ignition key before the initial start will cause a better connection. I am going to try this method. Overall this is just a ridiculous issue and I'm tired of being late for work and starting my car 10 to 20 minutes before leaving my car unattended while getting ready. I am hoping this complaint will help fix the problem for me and the others experiencing such strong dissatisfaction with their Saturn vehicles.

- Franklin, TN, USA

problem #44

Sep 062005


  • 69,000 miles
I have a 2004 Saturn Ion. It won't start when it gets cold and the chat room says its a common thing.it's the ignition switch and they know all about it but keep right on charging us to replace something they should be doing.as its been going on since 2003 Ion and still is on the 2007 Ion.. there should be a recall on all Saturn Ions GM knows but don't care. And they want us to buy GM that's a joke.

- Pottstown, PA, USA

problem #43

Jan 102009


  • 59,300 miles
2004 Saturn Ion passlock failure when the temperature is below about 25 degrees the vehicle will not start. Lights come on, radio works so there is power, even with another car trying to jump start the Saturn it will not start. You have to wait at least 10 minutes for it to start. This can happen anywhere at anytime, home, gas station, etc. Here is a list of other people who have had this failure. www.carsurvey.org/viewmorecomments_review_97661_4.html.

- Coatesville, PA, USA

problem #42

Jan 162009


  • 32,000 miles


Car will not start when it is cold outside. The car uses the GM passlock system. Often after several instances of waiting 10 minutes, and trying again, the car will start.

- Holliston, MA, USA

problem #41

Jan 122009


  • 52,000 miles
Wont start due to passlock/ignition problems in cold weather. Have not replaced any parts yet as funds are limited.

- Oshkosh, WI, USA

problem #40

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 #39

Jan 152009


  • 38,000 miles


My 2004 Saturn Ion will not start when it is cold. This first happened last year, and I thought that the gas lines were freezing. I have put several bottles of dry gas in my tank thinking that this resolves the problem. Apparently it is a passlock security issue and my efforts of dry gas did nothing. I have been stranded countless times due to the error. This problems renders the car useless. The most recent occurrence was yesterday, but this happens way too often.

- Fairport, NY, USA

problem #38

Jan 152009


  • miles
During the colder days my passlock system deny my car to start. I or my wife will have to sit in the car for 10 minutes to be able to try it again. If it doesn't start ate the 10 minute mark we have to wait another 10 minutes. We have waited a 1/2 an hour for it to start before. I have no trust it will start at any point. We need to wait the 10 minutes nearly everytime from end of Nov to Feb.

- Skokie, IL, USA

problem #37

Jan 152009


  • 126,000 miles
I own a 2004 Saturn Ion. It does not start in the cold weather (around 36 degrees F and below). I have replaced the starter and two months ago I bought a new battery. My mechanic assured me the battery is top of the line and guaranteed to start in cold weather. However, it did not start yesterday in 30 degree weather. All lights turn on but car does not crank. Does not even make noise. I have researched this through various discussion boards and most of them agree that there is a faulty switch in the ignition that leaks lubricant. When the lubricant freezes, the passlock anti theft alarm does not get it's electrical signal so it activates and prohibits fuel from being used so the car does not start. I take very good care of my car, but I have spent a lot of time and money trying to figure out what is wrong in this situation. If this is the case of a faulty switch, Saturn / GM should be held liable and forced to do a recall with an updated switch design. For the amount that cars cost today manufacturers should not be allowed to put out junk parts and expect consumers to sit back and take it.

- Rocky Mount, NC, USA

problem #36

Jan 162009


  • miles
I have a 2004 Saturn Ion which this morning would not start after I left a convenience store. It was a little hesitant in starting about a week ago. Both times were extremely cold compared to normal this time of year. This morning I figured it was a battery problem. Well after some internet research it would seem that these vehicles have problems starting in the cold and everyone else's description online describes what happened me to me perfectly. Wouldn't start, walked the mile home, called for a tow truck, got back, started right up with not problems.

- Laurel, MD, USA

problem #35

Aug 252005


  • miles


My Saturn 2004 Ion has been breaking down since I purchased it used in 2005. They have put in 2-3 transmissions and everytime it is cold it won't start. A couple times the would start but not shift into gear! the tech's could not figure out what was wrong so my dad (who does not work on cars ) figured out it was a loose wire! they have replaced the stabilizer bar bushings at least 3 times! the cars heat and radio would just shut off and turn back on they also fixed that a couple times. My car will be paid off shortly but I will not be able to know what it is like to not have a car payment because at any moments notice my 2004 Saturn Ion might fall apart!!!!!

- Middleburg Hts., OH, USA

problem #34

Jan 152009


  • miles
My Saturn Ion 2004, bought Sept. 2007 from carmax, frequently does not start when it is cold outside. For example, it was about 33 degrees this morning and even when I jumped it, the car would not start. I had the same problem last winter- my first winter having this car. When the weather is warm, I do not have any problems with my car starting. I have had the battery checked and there was nothing wrong with it but I am going to get the starter checked today. I have been reading about this particular problem on various online forums. Apparently there are many other people who have the same problem but there has been no recall. As an educator, I cannot afford to pay for repairs that are not going to fix the problem, as I have read people online have already done. I cannot afford to buy a new car, and most importantly, as a teacher, I cannot afford to be late to school whenever it is cold. I am very hopeful that my efforts in making this complaint will result in a recall for the cause for this problem. Reading the online forums, it seems like the problem is with the ignition/starter. Thank you for your time and patience. Have a wonderful day!

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #33

Jan 142009


  • 62,987 miles
Saturn Ion will not start. Sporadically the vehicle will not start. Problem is caused by issue with ignition switch passlock system. After waiting a period of time (10 minutes?) system will start vehicle. Has been an on going issue since purchasing vehicle.

- Rochester, NH, USA

problem #32

Dec 102008


  • miles
Car has not started 8 times. Saturn Ion 2004. 40,000 miles. Bought it used 5 months ago. Runs fine in warm weather. Bought new battery, still wouldn't start. Bought new alternator. Still wouldn't start. Jump start it, it will start sometimes. Called Saturn recall; 2nd time, they said it was a faulty wire but no one has recalled the wire. The problem: White wire in ignition switch. When it gets too cold outside, not enough volts go through white wire and car thinks someone is breaking in and will not start. Found this out on carspace.com. Other people with my same car have same problem. You have to clip the white wire then your car will run with no problem. Newer model Saturn are having the same problem. Next I was going to get a new starter, but other have gotten that and starter goes out within a year. It stressful to get into a fairly new car and it not start. All lights come on but engine will not. Now I know to wait 15 minutes and then try starting car again. Why hasn't this been recalled" so here I am again leaving work tonight in the cold and seeing if it will start and if it doesn't sitting around for 15 minutes and then trying it again. It is soooo aggravating!! so again why hasn't this been recalled"

- Decatur, AL, USA

problem #31

Jan 122009


  • 22,000 miles
My 2004 Saturn Ion intermittently won't start. This began about a week ago. I took it to a local car repair shop, and they advised me that there are 2 service bulletins for my car that pertain to this problem: One is for reprogramming the body control module (BCM) and the other is for an ignition system repair. They told me to bring the car to a Saturn dealer to be repaired. I plan to do so tonight. I learned that this is a very frequent problem that Saturn is well aware of, but that Saturn won't make this a recall because then Saturn would have to pay for the diagnosis and repair. Please have GM/Saturn change the 2 service bulletins (listed above) to recalls!

- Succasunna, NJ, USA

problem #30

Dec 172007


  • miles
2004 Saturn Ion - won't start when cold. This looks to be a very common issue, please see www.carsurvey.org/viewcomments_review_73169.html or search it is all over the internet. It's a shame that this is such a prevalent problem and yet Saturn does not acknowledge it as a defect that would warrant a recall. Certainly this could be considered a safety problem if someone's car would fail to start. I was stuck in my car for over an hour in negative temps and became ill afterwards.

- Thornton, CO, USA

problem #29

Dec 092008


  • 38,000 miles
I own a 2004 Saturn Ion 2. on cold mornings the car will not start leaving me stranded. This has occurred numerous time. Upon taking the car to a mechanic, the ignition switch was replaced. I've read hundreds of complaints from other Saturn owners. This is an obvious safety issue Saturn needs to address.

- Oshkosh, WI, USA

problem #28

Jan 012009


  • 76,000 miles
This has occurred several times before, usually when its colder out. I go to start my car and nothing happens, then a security feature lights up. My car thinks I'm stealing it, apparently. Sometimes my key won't come out of the ignition when this happens either, and I've had to get it towed and repaired. Usually after sitting there and trying to start it for a period of ten to thirty minutes, the car starts as if nothing happened, but is a huge inconvenience seeing as I've been out of town a couple of times when this has happened and it also makes me late for work. I've talked to other Saturn owners and they've said they've also had this happen. I'd say that this happens about twice a month.

- Saginaw, MI, USA

problem #27

Jul 052006


  • 40,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. On several occasions, the vehicle failed to start unless she waited 15 to 20 minutes. The dealer determined that the ignition switch failed and replaced it. One year later, when trying to start the vehicle it would not start unless she waited 15 minutes after the first attempt. On December 12, 2008, the vehicle failed to start and the check engine light was illuminated. A local mechanic inspected the vehicle and stated no failure was found. The manufacturer stated that they are aware of the failure and there was no recall. The contact was later informed that the ignition switch would have to be replaced again with no guarantee that the dealer would assume the cost. The VIN was unavailable. The failure mileage was 40,000 and the current mileage was 82,000.

- Iselin, NJ, USA

problem #26

Nov 012008


  • 53,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. In 20 degree temperature or below, the vehicle fails to start. The contact stated that it takes 20 minutes for the vehicle to start. She notified the dealer and manufacturer and they stated that the ignition switch can be replaced, but it would not correct the issue. The contact feels that the failure is unsafe and an inconvenience because she works at night while the weather is cold. The VIN was unknown. The current and failure mileages were 53,000.

- Loveland, CO, USA

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