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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
107,813 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2004 Saturn Ion Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #22

Aug 222016


  • 190,710 miles


Was guaranteed that nothing was wrong with it. I originally got a 2007 Ford escape by trading in my vehicle and 500 cash. They wanted me to put down an additional 900 down which I ended up not being able to do. So they offered to put me in another vehicle that was cheaper and I would not have to put any more money on. The 2004 Saturn Ion I received on 08/23/2016 not only had clutch issues which I said I would fix, but the battery light kept coming on and they assured me that nothing was wrong with the car mechanically. We did not even make it down the road before the vehicle broke down and had to have it towed. So now the car sits in my yard and I am out my original vehicle and the 500 cash I used originally plus towing charges and a vehicle I have to pay on that I cannot drive. I want them to come get the car and give back the 500 I wasted on two junk vehicles. I also had issues with the 2007 Ford escape. I was pretty much stuck taking this vehicle since I live two hours away and had no other way home.

- Dalton, GA, USA

problem #21

Jul 072014


  • miles
Car went for recall 7/7/14 about 3 times after the first recall I contact general motor to ask what have happend why tyhe car need to go back in again for the second recall Chevrolet sayd that they did not perfom the job right once again I contact general motor in deceber they send me a letter telling me and comes back with the same problems driving the car in the freeway car stop could not get out because car lock me inside the key did not want to come out after the recalls the car still have problems with the ignition

- Reseda, CA, USA

problem #20

May 292015


  • 180,000 miles
While driving home from work my car died in the middle of an intersection. The A/C went off first then everything went off. I put car in park and after several tries the car started again. My ignition also gets stuck in the acc position(even after two ignition recalls) on a regular basis so glad I wasn't fighting that at that problem at the same time. Called GM dealer they said there is no recall but bring it in, they won't provide a loaner car but will give me a ride home because I live within 10 miles.

- Lincoln, CA, USA

problem #19

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 #18

Jan 132015


  • 151,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start and the check engine warning light illuminated. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 151,000.

- Fontana, CA, USA

problem #17

Jun 022014


  • 133,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle was repaired under the NHTSA campaign id number: 14E021000 (ignition switch). The contact stated the repair did not remedy the failure. The contact stated that while driving at approximately 55 mph, the vehicle stalled without warning. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 133,000.

- Pensacola, FL, USA

problem #16

Aug 122013

Ion 4-cyl

  • 115,000 miles


Turned vehicle on after sitting for about 8 hours in parking lot, the car revved up to about 4,000rpm which is unusually high. I waited for the car to calm down and when it did, I put the car into gear to drive. My car lunged forward and without pushing the gas pedal, my car accelerated and eventually made it to 40mpg through the parking lot before I had to hit my brake to avoid a collision. This as occurred intermittently over the past year; approximately 3 or 4 times a month.

- Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #15

May 062014

Ion 4-cyl

  • 111,000 miles
Driving on the Florida turnpike northbound on my way to work on May 6, 2014, going about 55 mph, when the car turned off while in the center lane. I had followed all the procedures that GM instructed for recall #14V-047 using the key without ring our additional keys. I have been dealing with this issue since the day of purchase back in 2007. I have presented this issue to the dealer numerous times. Fortunately, I was able to stop the car safely, remove the key, placed it back in the ignition and the car started.

- Miami, FL, USA

problem #14

May 032014

Ion 4-cyl

  • 82,000 miles
I have taken this car in several times for the same reason... idle sticks then it shuts down completely or it will just cut off while I'm driving it. The Saturn repair shop couldn't find anything wrong. I paid for this 3 times and gave up. I've also had my ignition repaired already so this recall does me no good. I've already paid for it. Now my timing chain broke and I have a cracked seal in my engine. There was a recall for this too but the year of my car was not included in that recall.... I spoke with GM and they're telling me that my 100,000 mile or 10 yr warr. Stopped November 2013. I bought this may, 2004 so I think 10 years would be may of 2014. Is there anyway to get my money back and them pay for the timing chain? signed: Angry consumer.

- Omaha, NE, USA

problem #13

Nov 052013


  • 94,127 miles
TL-the contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that in the mornings the vehicle will not start. The vehicle will start after many attempts. This failure has occurred every day over a period of four months. The contact received the recall notification related to nthsa campaign id number 14V047000 (air bags, electrical system), however parts are not available. The vehicle was taken to independent mechanic who could not diagnosed the vehicle. Vehicle has not been repaired. The manufacturer has been notified of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 94,127.

- Garfield, OH, USA

problem #12

Oct 242013


  • 55,000 miles


I used to own one of the GM vehicles in the news lately regarding the ignition switch issue. I want to make sure people are looking at the ignition switch issue correctly. My vehicle was stopped at a red light when the engine simply shut off. This happened twice in the years I had owned it, but I don't remember the key being moved to the accessory position as is indicated on many of the new reports. I thought it weird, but thought I may have banged something, let the oil go far too long, or needed new spark plugs. Additionally, if you search online you'll find many instances where the car owners of this vehicle frequently have a key switch issue where an attempt to turn on the car randomly will activate the anti-theft system when trying to turn on the car despite having a perfectly valid and well used key. GM probably has an internal note about this and it might relate to the parts that need to be fixed/recalled. Finally, I once did have my key come out of the ignition while the car was still running. I was trying to turn the car off quickly and the key just came out without going all the way to the off position. Perhaps I had a faulty ignition switch, but I want to make sure the investigators see this to ensure the proper fixes are applied for our safety.

- Dublin, CA, USA

problem #11

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 #10

Dec 012008


  • 50,000 miles
TL- the contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle will not start upon placing the key in the ignition. The vehicle makes a clicking noise, the service engine soon light illuminates and the vehicle shuts off. The contact has to wait a moment to restart the vehicle. The vehicle also stalls without warning on multiple occasions. The vehicle was diagnosed by an authorized dealer and an independent mechanic multiple times and the failures still recurr. The diagnosis was to replace the power steering magnets and replace the power pack. The repairs were made and the vehicle is still not safe to drive. The power steering shorts out at random. The instrument panel shows an error light for the power steering. After the vehicle was repaired multiple times the failures still recurr. The vehicle was taken to independent mechanics and authorized dealers. The power steering failure was not able to be diagnosed. The contact was also included in NHTSA campaign id number: 14V047000 (air bags, electrical system) and stated that the parts were not available. The dealer advised that part was not available to complete the required repairs. The manufacturer was contacted and provided an unreasonable estimated date for when the contacts vehiclewould receive the recalled repairs. The vehicle has not been repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 50000 and the current mileage was 63000. Dyd

- Davenport, IA, USA

problem #9

Aug 192009

Ion 4-cyl

  • 79,000 miles
This issue has been a long ongoing problem for me, with this car. I do not know the actual dates of the occurrences but it has been frequent enough that I have developed a method for starting my car that if I do not feel rushed, I can get the car to start most every time. If the key is inserted into the ignition and immediately turned to the full on positing in an attempt to start the car, it will, on occasion, turn over once and then go completely dead. If the attempt is repeated, the auxiliary lights will come on but the engine will not turn over. I had my car towed to a garage and replaced the battery, two different times before reading about a potential passlock issue with Saturn. When I do have the problem now, I have found that waiting roughly 8 minutes(10 minutes to be safe), for the car to reset itself, which is an incredibly long wait, will generally allow you to start the car without further ignition difficulty. I have also discovered more recently that if I put the key in the ignition and turn it to the auxiliary mode, pause in this position for about 5 seconds(until the indicator light in the shape of a padlock turns off), then attempt to start the vehicle, it will start without issue every time.

- Seattle, WA, USA

problem #8

Jan 182012

Ion 4-cyl

  • 100,000 miles
Traveling up a steep hill in a residential area, the power cut out. All dials dropped to zero. Warning light indicators flashed and then turned off. Power steering cut out. I had enough forward momentum too get the car to the side of the street and out of traffic. After turning the key to the full off position I restarted the car and continued to work. I have not had that exact problem repeat itself since.

- Seattle, WA, USA

problem #7

Nov 152007


  • 42,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while attempting to start the vehicle, the vehicle stalled without warning on several occasions. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for diagnosis but they were unable to duplicate the problem. The vehicle was not repaired and the manufacturer was notified. The VIN was not available. The approximate failure mileage was 42,000.

- Zinsville, IN, USA

problem #6

Apr 042013


  • 141,000 miles
This car will not start on cold days. When you try to start it starter engages and quits. Then you have to wait 10 to 30 mins for the car to start. I found out that Saturn has faulty ignition switches and they have no recalls on this why? this is a safety hazard. Please make this a priority to have these switches recalled.

- Port Washington, WI, USA

problem #5

Sep 292012


  • 150,000 miles
When starting the Saturn on a cold morning, the ignition fails to start the car. I get a service message. After waiting about 10 minutes the car will start as if the security was resetting itself. I've read several complaints of this problem on the internet. GM will not own up to a faulty product that leaves Saturn owners completely stranded. This problem occurs at random times, even on warm days. A recall must be approved for this massive safety problem. It's a safety concern because in an emergency the cars shouldn't have to sit for an additional ten minutes or stall out in unsafe areas. The problem seems to correct itself after this ignition switch inside of the steering column has been replaced based on hundreds of testaments. I have replaced my stater and battery before realizing the problem was a faulty ignition switch that numerous other Saturn owners have had the unpleasant experience of dealing with.

- Escondido , CA, USA

problem #4

Sep 152012


  • 89,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while driving approximately 30 mph the vehicle stalled without any warning. The vehicle was unable to restart and was later towed to an independent mechanic. There has not been any diagnosis. The manufacturer was not contacted. The failure and current mileage was approximately 89,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Los Angelos, CA, USA

problem #3

Aug 262012


  • 155,300 miles
For the second time the ignition lock cylinder broke. Today we unable to turn off the engine. We had to remove fuses to kill the engine and disconnect the battery. The first time it happened we were stuck in the grocery store parking lot because the key would not turn to start. In both cases we had to break the ignition lock in order to remove the lock cylinder. With the cylinder removed we can use a screw driver to start the car. The screw is much more reliable.

- Ellensburg, WA, USA

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