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:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
76,118 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 #18

Mar 162015

Ion 4-cyl

  • 132,024 miles


On 3/16/2015 I was merging on the freeway in my 2004 Saturn Ion and I had to brake suddenly due to another driver cutting me off, all of a sudden my Saturn began to accelerate on its own and reached high rpms between 4K and 5K and car launched at a high speed. I attempted to brake yet my Saturn still continued to move forward I reacted fast and steered toward the emergency lane pulled my E brake up and threw my car in neutral and shut my car off yet when ignition was all the way turned off my car was still on for a period of about 4 seconds. I am very concerned that this may occur again. This can result in a very serious accident or even a fatal conclusion. I find myself very nervous and uncomfortable driving this vehicle (Saturn Ion) but unfortunately it is my only way to get to work.

- Oak Hills, CA, USA

problem #17

May 012014


  • 150,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. While stopped at a traffic light, the engine revved without warning and the vehicle accelerated independently. The failure recurred multiple times intermittently. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic for diagnostic testing. The technician cleaned throttle body and replaced the sensor, but the failure persisted. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 150,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Lima, OH, USA

problem #16

Sep 092014


  • 131,000 miles
I bought this car as a first car for my daughter that is a new driver. I has been off the road more than on the road for recalls. The first ignition recall could have injured or killed my we were awaiting parts, we were following directions of no weight on key ring and only key in ignition. The incident still happened causing loss of power steering and loss of speed. As a new driver this incident scarred her and she did not feel comfortable driving the car. I put the car up for sale. Then another recall, the eps which also causes the car to lose power steering and causes speed loss. So, back to garber and we just drove the car back home on January 2, 2015. Seemed to start out fine, then loss of speed and the car only drove at 35 mph with a lot of effort. I paid $3500 for this car for my daughter..still paying on the loan and now I cannot get it to run correctly or sell it..I am stuck with a non-running vehicle that I have to insure as well. This total is costing me over $300 a month while the car sits. I don't know if my dealer did the recall correctly. I have had issues with my Impala as well with recalls being done correctly. One including my airbag recall and a seat belt issue that I paid out of pocket $100 after several issues. I feel GM should reimburse me for this vehicle as I cannot sell it or drive it. It is not fair that I purchased this from a dealer only pay for a non working vehicle.

- Sanford, MI, USA

problem #15

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 #14

Mar 012011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 140,000 miles
About three years ago is when I had my first problem with speed acceleration with my Saturn. I left work and turned on my car and started to drive an hour to go home all the sudden my car began to accelerate and I wasn't pressing the gas. My vehicle continued to accelerate and I had to keep my foot on the brake to slow the vehicle down and it was still accelerating. I had to pull over on the side of the road and pop my car into neutral going approximately 70mph. I somehow managed to get home but my car continued to accelerate without me pressing on the gas. When I would turn the vehicle on while it was still in park the RPM's would go crazy as if I had my foot on the gas pedal. I immediately contacted my auto shop who indicated that they could not find anything wrong with my vehicle. I have had several incidents since then and ended up crashing earlier this year. My vehicle sped up on a snowy road and I lost complete steering for my vehicle, I nearly rolled my car and crashed head on into a snow bank. My air bags never deployed, after I contacted my insurance company they were surprised with the amount of front end damage I had on my vehicle that my airbags should have deployed but they did not. I know others are having the same issues with the vehicle accelerating with no application of the gas petal and the brake pedal does little or nothing to stop or slow the vehicle down.

- Elkhorn, WI, USA

problem #13

Feb 112014

Ion 4-cyl

  • 135,000 miles
My fiance and I were driving down the road about 40 45 mph and the light up ahead changed yellow to red just before I could come to a complete stop, my car accelerated I held both feet on the brake and the car kept wanting to inch forward itseemed as if I held the gas pedal down to the floor I got within 2 or 3 feet from the car in front of me out of instinct I quickly put the car in neutral and shut it off had I not I would have rear ended the car in front of me I then waited a minute or two tops put it in park and started it, it acted normal I thought maybe there was and object or something that may have slipped by my feet while driving or my floor mat moved there was nothing there.there has been other times like right after starting it up it revs to the highest RPM possible as if its going to blow up I hurry and shut it off wait a few minutes and try again, and another time I drove about 2 miles going down the road at 45 mph as if I had cruise control on when my car doesn't have that feature which is really scary I don't know what to do please help thank you

- Lansing, MH, USA

problem #12

Aug 012012


  • 100,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while stopped at a traffic stop, the vehicle erroneously accelerated as the contact had the brakes applied. The vehicle was able to be driven to a private mechanic where the failure could not be replicated. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was contacted. The failure mileage was 100,000 and the current mileage was 108,000.

- Canyon Country, CA, USA

problem #11

Oct 012011


  • 120,000 miles
Whilst driving, my car would accelerate on it's own going almost 45-50mph. Pressing the brakes would barely do anything. It won't start when it thinks it's too cold outside, I've had the battery tested multiple times and it is fine. Also, when trying to stop the car and take the key out of the ignition it resists a lot. Happens multiple times a week.

- South Bend, IN, USA

problem #10

Jan 032012

Ion 4-cyl

  • 91,100 miles
When entering a highway and gathering speed, I removed my foot from the gas pedal and the car continued to accelerate. I applied the brakes but the car reached 85mph. I hit the gas pedal and the vehicle began to decelerate. I pulled off the road and turned off the vehicle. I restarted the vehicle and drove home (10 miles) without further incident.

- Livingston Manor, NY, USA

problem #9

Dec 012003

Ion 4-cyl

  • 1,000 miles
The litany of problems with this unsafe and unreliable vehicle is long and varied. Multiple transmission problems, electrical issues, losing power while driving, etc.. GM and Saturn knew of these issues, especially the ones concerning the vti transmission, yet they chose to continue to put the public at risk by denying their responsibilities to correct these problems. The only real way, in my opinion, to make this right is to fully recall and replace these vehicles. This car has been nothing but a nightmare since I bought it brand new in late 2003 and continues to be a hazard. Please force GM to do the right thing and get these cars off the road before someone gets killed.

- Mantua, NJ, USA

problem #8

Jan 242011


  • 129,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while driving approximately 40 mph, the throttle suddenly jammed and the vehicle began revving uncontrollably. The contact had to place the vehicle in neutral and coasted to the side. After inspecting the vehicle, he went under his hood and placed the throttle back in its proper place. The vehicle was then towed to his home. It had not been inspected by a dealer nor had it been repaired. The failure and current mileages were 129,000.

- Waldorf, MD, USA

problem #7

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 #6

Nov 062008


  • 67,000 miles
While slowing and preparing to stop for a traffic light, the vehicle began to accelerate, RPM's increased even though foot was off the accelerator. Vehicle was difficult to stop and required more than normal foot pressure on brake pedal. Once vehicle was stopped, engine continued to race. Problem was corrected by turning off the key. Problem has occurred three times randomly over the past year. On all occurrences, the cruise control was not in use.

- The Colony, TX, USA

problem #5

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 #4

Dec 222007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,000 miles
2004 Saturn Ion 1 the car revs it's engine to over 3000 rpms when you put the car into park and idle. If you shut off the car it is ok, but if you put it into gear the car the lurches forward unsafely.

- Lockport, 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

Sep 152005

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
2004 Saturn Ion. While driving on the freeway at approximately 60-65 mph the vehicle began to slow down to almost no power. The rpms went to the red area, and the engine began to make a strange noise. The consumer coasted off the road, after a block or two she got back on the freeway. When driving at freeway speeds the vehicle began to do the same thing again. The vehicle was then taken to the dealership. The vehicle is currently at the dealership and they may not be able to get to it until Monday. This happened on September 15, 2005. (11/15/05)

- Torrance, CA, USA

problem #1

Jul 152004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
While the vehicle parked while running the vehicle idling high on its own. The driver noticed while driving the vehicle would hesitate and would stalled. The driver tried to restart, but was able to do so. The driver was able to drive the vehicle to the dealer. The mechanic informed the driver that the vehicle was operating as design. (possible valve sticking) when accelerating from stop, the vehicle would hesitate, then take off at a high rate of speed. This would also occur in reverse as well. There were times when accidents would almost occur. There would be high RPM's of 6000 plus. This was an intermittent problem. It was believed to be a problem with the vti transmission. Additional problems: Wind noise when sunshade was cracked, turn signal would not cancel on turns and the chime would go off and was an intermittent problems, the driver's side dash seemed loose and or misaligned, and the wipers would not clear the window.

- Palos Hills, IL, USA

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