NHTSA — Engine And Engine Cooling: Engine Problems

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.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
34,582 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

problem #11

Feb 102004


  • miles


When the weather gets too cold, my car does not start. I either have to keep trying to start the ignition every 5 minutes and then in half an hour it starts or I have to wait until the sun comes out for my car to start. I've had this car for a couple of years now and I only have this problem from November-February. These are the coldest months and every morning during these months I have this problem of not being able to start my vehicle.

- Linden, NJ, USA

problem #10

Apr 122009


  • 55,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. After driving for approximately ten minutes the vehicle intermittently stalls. The vehicle was in the process of being taken to the dealer for inspection. However on the internet she discovered many complaints describing the failure. The failure mileage was 55,000. The vehicle identification number was unavailable.

- Fond Du Lac, WI, USA

problem #9

Nov 052007


  • miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact had to make several attempts to start the engine successfully. There were no warning indicators illuminated on the instrument panel. The failure occurred more frequently in cold weather conditions. The authorized dealer was notified of the failure and they stated that it was a common occurrence. The vehicle is in the process of being taken to an authorized dealer for repair. The VIN and mileages were unknown.

- Westallis , WI, USA

problem #8

Oct 032005


  • 111,899 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that when the vehicle and weather are too cold, the vehicle takes longer to start or will not start at all. The dealer stated that the oil that enters the engine does not heat up normally. The repair would cost $2,000. In addition, the power steering fails while the vehicle is in motion. The steering becomes very difficult to turn and must be done manually. The dealer stated that they would have to go into the steering column to repair the failure. The failure began a year after the vehicle was purchased and has become worse over the years. The failure mileage was 111,899.

- Knoxville, TN, USA

problem #7

Feb 012007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 23,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. When trying to accelerate from a stop, the engine would stall. The failure occurred between 2-5 mph. All the warning indicator lights on the dashboard illuminated. The vehicle did restart immediately. The vehicle was not looked at by a dealer. The failure mileage was 23,000. The current mileage was 26,700.

- Ansonia , CT, USA

problem #6

Jan 092006

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles
My 2004 Saturn Ion coupe never starts in the cold. It has become such a headache I warm a towel in the morning put it on the engine before I start it. I get such a migraine wondering what is going on with my car. I called Saturn they said it was a theft device and maybe someone tried to steal my car or gas. Crazy!!!!!!!!!!

- Santa Rosa, CA, USA

problem #5

Nov 302006

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles


I have had my 04 Ion for one and half years now, and last year when the weather started to get cold, it would not start. I called the dealer and they told me that the grease around the ignition could not tolerate the cold weather here in Nevada. So I had it replaced. Problem solved, until this year. Just today, for the first time this year, it didn't start. Now the weather here has been in the teens for the past week, this tells me that it's not just the temperature, there has to be something else. But no one can tell what. Something needs to be done.

- Reno, NV, USA

problem #4

Oct 282006

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 36,000 miles
2004 Saturn Ion III lost 4 of 5 quarts of oil and the oil light did not come on. The engine has to be replaced at a cost of $6,000. The dealer said, too bad".

- Reisterstown, MD, USA

problem #3

Oct 092005


  • Automatic transmission
  • 56,000 miles
Saturn Ion 2004. Two major defects. I purchased the car new in October 2004. In October 2005, the transmission failed, and required complete replacement. Saturn stated there had been many concerns about the transmission, so replaced it for free. (minus my incurred costs of travel). Second major defect: May 2006, a cylinder head cracked. Saturn has agreed to "replace" the cylinder head, but I have to pay for $800 of the repairs. A 2 year old vehicle should not have these two major defects. The car currently has 79K miles. I know that "replacing" the cylinder head will get the car running again, but it will never be the same...and I still owe 10,000 dollars on the car. Thank you for your consideration.

- Hayward, WI, USA

problem #2

Sep 202005

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 17,000 miles
2004 Saturn Ion 2, car stalls and doors lock the persons in the vehicle. Car has been in the shop 5 times for these 2 issues and has yet to be fixed, car will stall out while driving at anytime, sometimes at speeds of 65 mph on the highway or turning into a parking lot or turning a corner.

- Sheboygan, WI, USA

problem #1

Mar 292004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 3,500 miles
By 3500 miles (after 1500mi when we could have returned it), the front passenger turn signal burnt out. The car was also sputtering when we started the engine. The mechanic found a cracked head, that we were told was probably present when we purchased the car; had we known we would've returned the car. We were given a rental car, but had to drive 45 min one way to get to Saturn of green bay. Within a month, the front driver turn signal had burnt out. The wiring was replaced while we waited 2 hrs with our 3 year old. We had to drive 1 hr 1way to Saturn of appleton for repairs. In Aug 2004, the car was making a noise when we turned onto a steep grade. In mi for vacation, we had to drive over 1 hr 1way to Saturn of troy; the swaybar and mounting brackets had to be fixed. We waited for over 2 hrs with our son while it was fixed. In Sept 2004, the front passenger side turn signal had to replace the resistor. We drove 1 hr 1 way for the repair, and had to wait 2 hrs with our son. We had asked about the cruise making a funny noise, but it was checked and we were told it was fine. In April 2005, the cruise stopped working and had to be fixed. It took over a week for the part to come in, and almost 2 weeks for it to be repaired at Saturn of green bay. I had to go to the dealer 30 minutes early, be driven over to my school where I teach, walk to my second school I teach at, and wait for a driver to pick me up (20-40 min past when I was done for the day). Despite everything we've been through with a new car that should need minimal care at this point, we've been basically told that we should take the $2600 hit to buy a new car while the dealer breaks even. This is poor salesmanship, and we will not be purchasing Saturn products any longer.

- Two Rivers, WI, USA

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