NHTSA — Engine And Engine Cooling 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:
36,898 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 #17

May 152011


  • 58,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated when the vehicle was turned on it failed to start. The failure occurred intermittently, and on one occasion the vehicle stalled without warning. The manufacturer took filed report 71948037911 and advised that they were not aware of the failure, and there were no related recalls. The vehicle will be taken to the local mechanic for diagnostic testing. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current miles were 58,000.

- Lemoore , CA, USA

problem #16

Nov 152010


  • 88,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion 3 coupe. The contact was approaching a traffic stop when the vehicle began to idle hard and displayed several attempts to stall. The vehicle was taken to a local mechanic where a diagnostic was performed and the contact was advised that the catalytic converter would need replacement. He then contacted the manufacturer and was advised to take the vehicle to an authorized dealer. The dealer advised there were no recalls on the vehicle and the vehicle was not diagnosed by the dealer. The vehicle was not repaired and the failure became progressively worse to the point where it would stall sporadically and without warning. The failure mileage was 88,000 and the current mileage was 93,640.

- Sycamore, IL, USA

problem #15

Feb 172009

Ion 4-cyl

  • 86,000 miles
My 2004 Saturn Ion will not start on cold days. I live in Vermont so there are plenty of cold days. It usually takes me about 10 minutes TO1/2 hour to get it started, if it starts. When it finally starts I have to leave it running so the engine will warm up because if I don't I have to start the process over again. This is a huge inconvenience! everyone I've brought it to doesn't seem to know what the problem is. I love my car but could definitely do without this problem!

- Milton, VT, USA

problem #14

Apr 192010


  • 123,000 miles


Driving down the road car shuts off, I was going 20mhp the road was straight came to a right hand bend in the road and car was off no ABS, no pwr ster, there were cars sitting at the stop sign. Luckily I was able to get the car stopped. To get the car started I had to put in park turn key off then turn key over and it starts right up. This is now the 2nd time this has happened. First time sitting at a red light car was running light turned green gave it the gas mid way through intersection car shut off again and drifted to side of the road with a bunch of cars honking. I thought I needed a tune up and that was 3months ago. That happened until two days ago. Car shuts off while driving with warning, if I was going any faster I would have hit the back end of the car that was stopped @ a stop sign. 2004 Saturn Ion 2.2L I have not done anything with this part do to no income right now.

- Peach Bottom, PA, USA

problem #13

Jan 142006


  • 82,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact started the ignition; however, the engine failed to start after several attempts. The previous day the vehicle was used to jump start another vehicle. The vehicle was towed to an authorized dealer for diagnostic testing. The technician stated that the engine needed to be replaced. The vehicle has not been repaired at this time. The battery has been replaced on three separate occasions. The failure mileage was 82,000.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #12

Feb 102010

Ion 4-cyl

  • 17,000 miles
Our 4 cylinder 2004 Saturn Ion has had unintended sudden acceleration problems for several years. I am a patent holding software and hardware engineer and I can state absolutely after observing the behavior over at least 4 years that this is a software issue and/or a sensor issue and not a sticking mechanical control. It is not necessary to even touch or move the accelerator pedal in order for this to occur. Under certain conditions of temperature and humidity, either some sensor malfunctions or some connector becomes intermittent or the software misreads something. At startup the engine runs at an unusually high idle (~800 RPM), and as soon as you put it in gear, the car lunges forward or backward hard and you have to put it in neutral to avoid having it run away with you - all this without touching the accelerator pedal. When you put the car in neutral the engine runs at between 3,000 and 4,000 RPM on the tachometer for a few seconds and then slowly drops back to an idle (~800rpm). As soon as you put it in gear again, the car lunges once again - throw it in neutral - 3,000 - 4,000 RPM, slowly recovers. After two - three minutes the engine stabilizes and the problem is gone. Please note this is all without touching the accelerator - ever! this happens when the vehicle is cold and usually during high humidity or rainy conditions. It is so unpredictable that I have never sought help from a dealer. It is not repeatable in a way that the dealer would be able to diagnose since it happens fairly rarely (sometimes a couple of times a week - sometimes once a month) and inconsistently. If I was an inexperienced driver and if this was a more powerful car, I would no doubt have had a serious accident by now. I have learned to pay attention to the motor when I first start the vehicle. If it sounds like it is idling a bit fast then I know it will try to run away with me when I put it in gear so I just wait for it to idle down to normal before putting it in gear.

- Clewiston, FL, USA

problem #11

Nov 212009


  • 63,270 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The vehicle would not start whenever the temperatures outside were low. The vehicle has not been diagnosed by the dealer and there were no prior warnings. The current and failure mileages were 63270.

- Highland, CA, USA

problem #10

Oct 112009


  • 40,000 miles
I tried to start my 2004 Saturn Ion at about 11 pm last night and it took fifteen minutes for it to turn over. The temperature was about 28 degrees (F). This has happened several dozen times over the past few years, always when the temperature is below freezing. I know that Saturn is aware of this problem and that it is acknowledged to be a problem with the ignition. I have found reports of hundreds of other Ion owners who have experienced this problem. I think this needs to be recalled and fixed by Saturn as sitting for 10-20 minutes or more in freezing temperatures waiting for one's car to start is not safe, especially at night. Please make this a recall issue!!

- Spokane, WA, USA

problem #9

Sep 152004


  • miles
I purchased vehicle in 2004 brand new. The car continues to have a high idle creating a very dangerous driving situation. I must reset the battery once a week to restore it to normal. It seems to be fine for a week and high idle comes back. I have difficulty starting the car in the cold winter months. I must turn the headlights on to warm up the battery before trying to start car. Saturn was no help. Now I am stuck with a lemon! help!

- Columbus, OH, USA

problem #8

Dec 012007


  • 70,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. Whenever the contact attempts to start the vehicle in cold weather, it fails to start. On occasion, he must allow the vehicle to rest for 15 minutes before it will start. Other times, he must jumpstart the vehicle in order for the engine to start. The contact has not had the vehicle inspected by the dealer or a repair shop. He found a recall online pertaining to the failure, but it was unable to be found on the NHTSA web site. The manufacturer was aware of the issue and stated that no recall was issued. The failure mileage was 70,000 and current mileage was 95,000.

- Chillicoth, IL, USA

problem #7

Aug 152008


  • 0 miles


I am 75 years old and this is the only car I have and I cannot rely on it to start when I need it. On several occasions, I have been headed to a doctor appointment and go to start the car and it will be as much as 30 minutes or more before it starts. It is criminal for Saturn to know of this problem and not issue a recall to correct the problem. I do not know when they realized the problem and fixed it, but I'm on a fixed income and I put out a lot of money for this piece of junk! I thought Saturn was a good company but I see now that don't really care about their consumers. I am very disappointed in them.

- Roanoke, VA, USA

problem #6

Aug 212008


  • miles
On several occasions I have had to bring my car to the dealership because I would lose complete power to my car while driving. I would not get any warning lights or sounds, it would just lose complete power. The service department at Saturn of danvers has not been able to find the problem with my vehicle. I have been in loaner cars on two different occasions while they tried to duplicate the problem. This is an intermittent issue. I have lost power at low rates of speed and also on the highway. This is a real safety issue for myself and others on the road. On Thursday, August 21, 2008 my car lost power on I-95 N in woburn, MA while driving, several vehicles had to avoid hitting my vehicle and other vehicles. I notified the Saturn corporate office and they had john cachurski (sp) contact me, he stated I would need to return their loaner car and get my car because they can not help me because they can not find the problem. An online search found several other people throughout the country with my model/year with the same issue without resolution from their dealerships. This is a huge safety issue that needs to be resolved. I would appreciate some help to try to get my vehicle up to par.

- Wakefield, MA, USA

problem #5

Jan 012008


  • miles
Power steering continuously goes out while driving. Found others online having same problem. Restart the car and it comes back on most of the time.

- Alabaster, AL, USA

problem #4

Jan 162007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles
Vehicle randomly won't start. More frequently during cold and/or damp weather, but not always. Vehicle will either do absolutely nothing or start to crank and stop or after repetitive tries, start and run very rough then cut out. I have lost count of the number of times this has occurred to me. In most cases I have left the disabled vehicle sitting for a day and tried again the following day to have it either start up like nothing ever happened or start, run rough and eventually smooth out. Many of these incidents have occurred in my driveway and just caused me to be late for work and inconvenienced. Twice it has left me stuck at work scrambling to find someone to pick my children up from day care. And tonight it left me stranded in the cold during the midst of an ice-storm at 11 pm...and again, late for work. These are not old vehicles experiencing this problem and after reading the vast complaints, it is certainly not an isolated problem. Something needs to be done, the consumer should not have to pay for an obvious manufacturer defect. I will be contacting Saturn in the morning to attempt getting it repaired.

- Rome, NY, USA

problem #3

Sep 012004


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Multiple episodes with this car of sudden acceleration especially when putting car into drive or reverse. Roadside assistance has had to start car for me 2 times. Another time the car stalled while idling 4 times within 30 minute drive. Tonight the car lost power completely while I was driving. I see multiple complaints on this page for the same problem. Saturn has not been able to find any problems on their computer. I would like to fight this with the lemon law but I am so afraid to drive this car now that I want to just get rid of it as soon as possible.

- Fishkill, NY, USA

problem #2

Nov 222004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Engine shut off, causing the steering wheel to lock when vehicle traveled over road bumps. Taken to dealer twice for testing, but the results showed no apparent problem.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #1

Nov 122003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
In October of 1993, I bought a 2004 Ion 2 quad coupe from Saturn of larchmont. I traded in my 1997 SC1 for this car. In the beginning of November, I needed to have the right side front bulb replaced because it burned out. In January, I brought the car in for its first oil change and two recalls. It also to made a rattling sound underneath. This first time, the link and torsion bar supports were replaced. I returned about two weeks later with the rattle and an additional complaint. The car had stalled while driving it. I was told that a book underneath the seat was making the rattling noise. They also said that the stalling couldnT be duplicated, so they didnT know what needed to be fixed. I returned one week later with the same rattling problem. They kept the car for three days and drove it over sixty miles. This time they replaced the sway bar links and bushings. Finally, the noise stopped! in July I brought the car to Saturn of white plains. The car had stalled again and started stuttering when stepping on or releasing the gas petal. Again no codes were found to indicate why it stalled. I was also told that the stuttering was normal for the vti engine because of its new technology. about a week and a half later, the rattling started underneath the car again. I brought the car into Saturn of white plains again. Two days before my appointment, the radio had reset itself. On the day of my appointment, the technician took the car out and said he heard no noise and felt no rattling. He took me out with him and said what I heard was normal. Again a test was run and no codes were found. I brought the car to Saturn of larchmont on July 30, 2004 because the rattling continued and the radio reset itself again. Bob linder, the service manager, took his time and logged my issues for the technicians to address them. The stabilizer links were replaced again. A new radio was ordered to replace the one in the car. The banging underneath the car has returned.

- Bronx, NY, USA

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