NHTSA — Electrical System Problems

2004 Saturn Ion (Page 9 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 9 of 12)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #65

Dec 012008


  • miles


The date below is the date the issue began. I own a 2004 Saturn Ion, that began with cold start issues this winter. After looking up the issue online, I noticed it is a well known issue with these cars, yet there has been no recall. When attempting to start the car on a cold morning (or midday), the car will not turn over. It often takes 10-20 minutes of trying to get the car to engage. I called Saturn, and they offered no remedy, as my car is out of warranty (only a 4.5 year old car!) - and I cannot afford the $250 repair for the ignition switch. On December 26, 2008, I was stranded for nearly an hour and a half, and suffered frost bite and mild hypothermia.

- Rochester, NY, USA

problem #64

Feb 222009


  • 72,000 miles
I own a 2004 Saturn Ion quad coupe and like others, it has the cold weather fail to start problem when the temperature is below freezing. I stopped by the local Saturn garage to see what type of repair is recommend for this problem. They are quite aware of the problem with no warranty replacement. Their suggestion, if I didn't want to spend the bundle of money to have the ignition switch replaced was to carry bic lighter to warm the key. The service writer said that Saturn engineering speced the wrong temperature grease to lube the switch. Now, I the customer, have to deal with the another GM generated engineering design problem. This is a very annoying problem because I can not rely on an otherwise perfectly good running car and can't count on it for an emergency.

- Endicott, NY, USA

problem #63

Feb 172009


  • 45,800 miles
Car refuses to start when turning key in ignition. Passlock icon flashes on dashboard and "service vehicle" comes up on message panel. This is a cold weather starting problem due to the intermittent malfunction of the passlock circuit in the ignition (key) switch. Passlock module has been replace 3 times by dealer. Last time 2006. Saturn has a complaint file under my name, VIN, and phone number. This is an ongoing problem that happens every winter when the temperature drops below freezing. It is also a known problem, yet GM refuses to recall the cars affected. Out of warranty dealer repair runs over $ 500. Recent failure to start has happened at least 10 times since December of 2008.

- Dearborn, MI, USA

problem #62

Nov 012008


  • 100,000 miles


I have a 04 Saturn Ion, it does not start in the cold, it gives me so many headaches, there is over 30 pages of complaints on website with people with the same car and same problems. It seems to be a white wire in the steering column, I don't understand if so many people have the same issues why it cant be fixed. It has caused me to be late for work, college classes, and to be stuck out on a cold night by myself due to my car not starting. You have to try to start it and then leave it alone for about 15 minutes and it usually starts right up. It happens pretty much all the time but it is so random you never know when you will be stranded. I have spent money replacing batteries and everything else when none of this caused the problem.

- London, KY, USA

problem #61

Feb 062009


  • 45,000 miles
2004 Saturn Ion intermittently will not start. Happened one time last winter, but has progressed this winter. If you allow the car to sit for 10-12 minutes it starts right up. I called Saturn and made an appointment to leave the car with them while I visited family in Florida. I since went online and discovered that hundreds (maybe thousands) of Saturn owners have this same problem. I called Saturn service and told them what I had discovered. They made no comment but said they had replaced the ignition switch. I called a toll free number that a Saturn owner had left on an online forum and filed a formal complaint with Saturn of America. She was very polite and assured me she would call Saturn and "see what she could do for me." The next day she said they could only give me 10% off the cost of the ignition switch which amounts to $12. I called the service manager to tell him that I expected more because this is such a common problem and should actually have been a recall. I could never reach him. He was never available (as they said--gone for the day). I then emailed Saturn of charleston/huntington wv and explained. A sale person acknowledged my email and assured me she would give the email complaint to service and someone is services would contact me. Two days later and they still have not contacted me. I told the sales person that it sadden me that $240 was more important than my future business. Why should Saturn owner pay for a common problem that they have known exist" and from what I've read a new ignition is not the solution. Often it works for a year and then same problem comes back. It has been mentioned that it could be a passlock system problem or gel inside the ignition switch that ages and loses conductivity over time. Who knows" any help would be appreciated.

- Huntington, WV, USA

problem #60

Jan 262009


  • 65,000 miles
I have had by Ion for 4.5 years. I just had to replace the ignition switch for the 2nd time. The first time was about 3 years ago. I have about 65000 miles. It seems like this is a manufacturer defect that I should not have to keep paying to have fixed. There were no warning signs, just one morning it would not start. It would then start sporadically until I fixed the problem.

- Vancouver, WA, USA

problem #59

Oct 052007


  • 30,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle fails to start on cold mornings. The failure was intermittent. An indicator flashes, which signifies that the past lock system is activated and that the vehicle is being stolen; however, this is not the case. The vehicle usually starts after ten minutes. There is a tsb for this failure and the vehicle is still under warranty. The manufacturer stated that they have never been able to replicate the failure because it only occurs approximately twelve times a year or in cold weather. The VIN was unknown. The failure mileage was 30,000.

- New Orleans , LA, USA

problem #58

Feb 042009


  • miles
2004 Saturn Ion will not start in cold weather. Fighting same problem for the last two winters.(have read many others with same recurring problem).

- Micaville, NC, USA

problem #57

Dec 032008


  • 30,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. Approximately a month and a half after the vehicle was purchased in October of 2008, the vehicle failed to start. The vehicle finally started after approximately four attempts. The failure has occurred intermittently since the first incident. Also, in cold weather conditions, the vehicle would not start. The vehicle was driven to a vocational school repair shop for diagnostic testing. It was determined that the ignition switch was defective. The manufacturer stated that there was no recall relating to the failure; therefore, they were not liable for the repairs. The current mileage was 32,000 and failure mileage was 30,000.

- Keansburg, NJ, USA

problem #56

Feb 032009


  • miles
2004 Saturn Ion will not start when cold out. It wouldn't even start at 20 degrees F. this has happened numerous times now.

- Channahon, IL, USA

problem #55

Feb 012009


  • 0 miles


I have a 2004 Saturn Ion. In cold weather the dielectric lubrication freezes and interferes with the security system - making the vehicle unable to start. This problem occurs approximately 50% of the time when the temperature drops below freezing - more frequently with even colder temperatures. The problem is often remedied by waiting for 10 - 30 minutes until the security system resets itself and then trying to start the vehicle again. I found a lot of complaints by consumers with the same issue by searching google. I also spoke with a Saturn dealership service department. The person I spoke with at the Saturn service department said he was very familiar with the problem and verified the diagnosis I listed above (dielectric lubrication freezing resulting the security system lockdown) but said there were no related recalls. I know three people with Saturn Ions and they all have the exact same problem. Two of the owners I know took the vehicle in to Saturn dealerships for repair and they replaced the starter, a three-hundred dollar procedure which did not fix the problem. I hope you can look into issuing a recall on this issue because based on personal sources, a Saturn dealer, and google searches, it seems to be a very common problem. Also, living in Minnesota the temperatures can get dangerously low - where being left stranded outside for 30 minutes without a heat source can result in frostbite, hypothermia, and even death. Thank you.

- St. Paul, MN, USA

problem #54

Sep 152006


  • miles
My 2004 Saturn Ion will not start consistently during cold weather. I have replaced the battery already which ended up not being the problem. Then I found information all over the internet about thousands of other people who are having the same issue I am having. I should not have to spend my hard earned money on problem that was defective from the factory. I have been waiting for Saturn/GM to have some integrity on this issue, do the right thing and issue their own recall, but so for that hasn't happened yet. I have been experiencing this problem since I bought the car in 2006.

- Wichita, KS, USA

problem #53

Jan 152009


  • 75,000 miles
My vehicle on cold days will not reliably start. Turn key, all lights and indicators work but start function is electronically terminated within 1 second of engagement. The car will start after waiting for ten to twenty minutes as if nothing was wrong. After many trips to the mechanic (dealer and non) I have found many such reports on-line indicating a faulty ignition switch which fails in cold weather. The time delay in starting appears to be some type of interaction with the theft deterrent system. I will now pay to have this part replaced but suspect, as many have reported, that this will correct the issue for one or two years before it occurs again (as many others have also reported).

- Camano Island, WA, USA

problem #52

Jan 012009


  • 118,000 miles
After 5 years my 2004 Saturn Ion will not start when the temperature is below +10F. There is power ( new battery ) and no fuel issue ( clean fuel system and filter ), but after 10 to 15 minutes and a couple of hesitant engine turns, it starts. No one needs an unreliable vehicle where winter temps last several months. After replacing the anti-sway bar, both headlight assemblies as well as other annoying problems ( instrument lights out, cabin fan noisy ) I will never ever buy another Saturn. I took the problem ( out of warranty of course ) to Saturn of rochester and was told it was a faulty ignition switch, a common problem for this make and model year. Since it is not a safety issue, no recall was issued and I would have to pay at least $275 unless "something else" came up. Being late for work ( public safety and volunteer fireman ) or my wife and children is not an option for me. Please force GM to make the recall on this ignition part for the financially stressed New York consumers. Thank you.

- North Rose, NY, USA

problem #51

Jan 142009


  • 99,000 miles
1. there were no problems, until it got cold out. 2. if there is anytime the weather stoops below 10 degrees F, the car will not start. It will click and click and click, then nothing. Every once and a while it will start for all of a second, then quit. Then it does nothing when I try to start it again. 3. I have done nothing yet, but after reading forums where many people complain about the same problem, I'm going to try changing the ignition module, and possibly get a remote starter.

- Dresser, WI, USA

problem #50

Jan 242009


  • 70,000 miles
The vehicle in question does not start on cold mornings and many mornings missed at work, and other appointments. Money has been spent on starters and batteries but many owners of this similar vehicle have had the same problem, but Saturn is refusing to fix the problem. This could be a potential safety hazard when the car does not start in extreme cold temperatures and the vehicle has young children and elderly.

- Uxbridge, 00, USA

problem #49

Jan 122008


  • 46,000 miles
In trying to start my car in the mornings, especially when it is cold outside, it fails to start and my security system light will flash. I have been told that this is related to the passlock system, but it is not under warranty. I occurs 5 out of 7 days a week. I was told that there was nothing to be done unless I disable my security system.

- Corner Brook, 00, USA

problem #48

Jan 222009


  • 500 miles
Hi, I have a 2004 Saturn Ion, with only 22,000 miles on it. It seems to have a problem starting in cold weather. I had to take my moms 1988 Buick to work yesterday because my car wouldn't start in the cold! it happened about two weeks ago, and I waited about 10 minutes and it started right up. About a month ago it happened when I was going out to lunch, same thing after ten minutes it started right up. I can't keep being late for work and missing appointments and when I take my wife's car she has to walk 15 blocks with the kids to school and if it's too cold for this car to start I don't really want my kids to walk. I called Saturn today and was told they're not aware of any problems, yet when you search the internet there's thousands of people complaining about this. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance for your help in this matter.

- Bayonne, NJ, USA

problem #47

Dec 012008


  • miles
It won't start when it is cold. I need to wait 10-15 min and try again. I see a lot of Saturn owners' are having the same problem.

- Viroqua, WI, USA

problem #46

Jan 072009


  • 50,000 miles
I own a 2004 Saturn Ion, within the past 2 weeks the car will intermittently not start in the mornings. I purchased a new battery from the Saturn dealer and still have the same issue. The vehicle was placed on a diagnostic machine and the check came back with every thing being ok but the vehicle does not start. When I called Saturn their customer service rep stated there is no recall but tried to sell me an extended warranty. Can you please help me.

- Monroe, NY, USA

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