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:
44,939 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 miscellaneous problems

miscellaneous problem

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2004 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #13

Apr 052016


  • miles


I know there was a recall on this car due to the ignition due to air bags not going off and go my father-in-law has the same car and got it fixed. I just purchased it in April of 2016 and didn't know anything about it until after I purchased it.

- New Whiteland, IN, USA

problem #12

Jun 152016


  • 73,000 miles
The starter

- Staten Island, NY, USA

problem #11

Apr 092015


  • 141,000 miles
After the car is stopped and placed in park, the engine can be shut off but the key stays in a accesory mode and can not be turned to off or removed from the ignition.

- Hooper, UT, USA

problem #10

Mar 262014


  • miles


In late March I called kelly automotive, the dealership where I bought the Saturn to schedule the recall repairs. They said parts would be available in a few weeks. I have called repeatedly to find out when the parts would be available with a few weeks. Lately, they claim I never have called, then when I told them I would file a complaint they found my request. The last two calls, they would look into it and call back. I never get return calls. I contacted GM and they said I had to work it out with the dealership. Just before filing this complaint, I went online to and filed out another form, this time I requested sheperd's in kendallville, in.

- Fort Wayne, IN, USA

problem #9

Nov 122013


  • miles
The timing chain has busted while driving home from work. The engine just stopped out of nowhere

- Los Alamitos, CA, USA

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problem #8

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 #7

Mar 292010


  • 90,000 miles


I have a 2004 Saturn Ion and on yesterday my car would not turn off. Although I could still remove the keys from the ignition, the car would still not turn off. In 2009, I received a recall letter informing me about the recall on my electronic transmission. I don't know if this ignition switch has anything to do with that issue, but I would like to find out. When I called chase Chevrolet here in stockton, ca, on March 30, 2010 at 7:10 am, the repair man told me that it has been a lot of Saturn cars that had to repair this same type of problem. And that either the car would not turn off or turn on and in my case, the car wouldn't turn off. This incident happened yesterday at exactly 6:00 pm when all dealerships were closed. I was in sacramento, ca and had to drive all the way to stockton, ca just so I could turn my car off by the ignition switch that took a family member two hours to figure out. Now I have to pay over $300 for the repair, but if this is happening to a lot of Saturn's, I feel it's an issue that needs to be addressed. Thank you for you time and your gratitude toward our safety.

- Stockton, CA, USA

problem #6

Jan 262010


  • 43,472 miles
In cold weather(temp under 32F), my wife's Saturn will not start. This is the fourth time this season. When trying to start the car, nothing happens. She has light, radio but turning the key everything goes dark and no turn over of the engine. I checked online and found the a lot of other people are having the same problem. The part seems to be the ignition switch has a problem with the passlock. I called the dealer and he even said the same thing about people having this problem.

- Ypsilanti, MI, USA

problem #5

Oct 042009


  • 42,000 miles
On four different occasions while driving my 2004 Saturn Ion on the highway, after hitting an unusual bump or dips in the road, I"ve experience a complete shutdown of the car"S systems, including loss of power, loss of steering and any ability to accelerate, brake or navigate the car. The car slows to a complete stop. From my past experience I've learned that the car will need to come to a complete stop and then shifted into park. The car key will then physically need tp be removed and reinsert the key to get the vehicle restarted. (trying to start the car without removing the key will not work.) on all occasions this has presented an extremely dangerous situation as other cars traveling on the highway at speeds of 55-75 mph are forced to maneuver around my stalled vehicle, which does not even have the power or control to be pull off to the side of the road. The car was taken to the Saturn dealership on October 17, 2007 after the first 3 incidents, however diagnostic tests could not identify or replicate the problem. The dealership adjusted a fuse box in the under carriage of the car. But could not neither assure me the problem was resolved, or would not happen again. The situation recurred recently on Oct 4, 2009 while on interstate 95. The severity of the situation could have easily resulted in a fatal accident as I sat stranded in the fast-lane of the highway. The car is presently at another Saturn dealership where they again say they are unable to identify or replicate the problem. I am no longer confident in the safety of this vehicle and seek the NHTSA assistance in resolving the matter.

- New York, NY, USA

problem #4

Dec 022006


  • 45,000 miles
I am the owner of a 2004 Saturn Ion 3. I have now had it for three winters in which I have had starting problems every winter. I have replaced the battery all three winters, to find that was not the problem. After many reading many blogs and websites I have found that Saturn uses an ignition switch that freezes in the cold. Saturn also does not claim to this issue. We have taken our car to the local dealership with this problem, but no mechanic knew what the problem was. I live in a place that is known for cold winters so I know now (especially after reading complaints about this on the net) that the mechanics have to be aware of this situation with the cars. My husband has replaced the ignition switch to find that it did not help (obviously if we are using the same freezing part)! this is not listed as a recall, because it is not a safety issue. I am sorry, but if I get stuck out at a rest stop on some highway by myself or with my young child in below 30 degrees, that becomes safety issue to me!!! another safety issue that has presented itself in the Ion is my seat belts. They do not lock or retract. There has been no tampering or changing of anything that would cause this to happen.

- Columbiana, OH, USA

problem #3

Jun 162005

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 23,200 miles


My car hesitates when shifting from first to second gear. Once the clutch is out and you apply the throttle the car goes then looses power and then goes again. This car was is in the shop the last 26 of 39 days for 4 seperate attempts to fix it. The dealer states they can not fix it and that Saturn corporate has no idea what is wrong with it either. No one from Saturn customer care has once asked me for my side of the story or the 6 pages of documentation on how I was treated and told would be done to repair my car. The dealership that I purchased it from has told me there is nothing they would do to repair my car. My car is now at another dealership the day after I was told to pick it up because the service engine light came on in approximatley 60 minues after pick up from the original dealer that I purchased it from. It seems there are mant Saturn Ion redlines with this same problem on the internet...

- Pottstown, PA, USA

problem #2

May 012005

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • miles
Car will suddenly stall and shut down

- Morro Bay , CA, USA

problem #1

Dec 222004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 6,537 miles
I purchased my 2004 Saturn Ion in April, 2004. In June, 2004 my right turn signal stopped working, causing my running light on that side not to work either. In July, 2004 when opening up the hood to refill windshield wiper fluid, the hood latch inside the car came off in my hand. On Dec 22, 2004, the brakes on my 2004 Saturn Ion failed to work cause me to go through a stop sign, which resulted in a accident with another car. Both cars were only moving about 15 - 20 mph, but on impact the whole right (passenger side) side bumper broke up and was on the ground. Leaving a big gapping hole on the right passenger side of the car. No recalls have been placed on defective brakes, as of this date. In February, 2005, when coming out to start car after work, the car would not start, the key locked in the ignition, the hood and the trunk locked and couldn't get them open to get a jump from the tow truck. I had to have the car towed back to the Saturn dealership. Battery was replaced. The same day I picked the car up from the dealership, went into a store when I came out the car would not start again. This time the key didn't lock in ignition so I was able to get a jump. This has happened on about 4 different occasion, with the dealership not able to give me any solution to the problem.

- Chicago, IL, USA

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