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:
13 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
4 / 0
Average Mileage:
79,882 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 steering problems

steering problem

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2004 Saturn Ion Owner Comments (Page 4 of 16)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #242

Jul 102010


  • 38,000 miles


The power steering assist suddenly failed while driving the vehicle, making the effort of steering the vehicle increase greatly. Upon turning the vehicle off, the problem temporarily went away, but has continued to happen at an ever-increasing frequency until this date. For the past year, the power steering has failed within driving the first 200 feet every single time I have operated the vehicle. I know this has been a common occurrence with Saturn Ions and related GM vehicles, causing several accidents, and that GM is well aware of the issue. I believe a recall is in order due to the extreme physical exertion required to steer these vehicles after the power steering assist fails.

- Kuna, ID, USA

problem #241

Jan 102014


  • miles
As I was driving on a straight-away, all of the sudden I heard 3 dings in my car - so I checked the dashboard (I was expecting to see fuel or maybe oil life), it read pwr str. Then I noticed that it was extremely difficult to steer my car...I had lost my power steering completely. The amount of strength it took just to turn the wheel was immense. This took more effort than driving an older car that does not have power steering. Luckily, I was just arriving at my destination. Also luckily, the issue goes away once I turn the car off and re-start it. This has happened 3 times since the first time - once while on a highway, once while parking my car, and another while driving through town.

- Dover Plains, NY, USA

problem #240

Mar 212014

Ion 4-cyl

  • 201,755 miles
The car would not turn over, I called road side in hopes that the battery just needed a jump, but when they arrived I found out that the car was not turning over because of another reason. My friends came over and we popped the clutch and drove it to a car repair shop to have them take a look, I was thinking either the starter or the alternator. He called me last night to tell me to contact GM about the recall on the ignition. The ignition is bad and will not turn the car over.

- Waterford, MI, USA

problem #239

Aug 012013

Ion 4-cyl

  • 125,000 miles


Power steering shuts off without warning. Once it happens you cannot turn the vehicle. Must power down the car and turn it back on to get the power steering to work. It can happen 2-3 times in a 5 miles stretch, inconsistent. Warning - happens when turning the vehicle - I almost crashed. Had to stop auto in the middle of a busy intersection - very dangerous.

- Mililani, HI, USA

problem #238

Jan 082004

Ion 4-cyl

  • 175 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicle had multiple failures. The steering was rough and the transmission was causing the vehicle to make loud noises when the wheels were turned left or right. The contact was included in NHTSA campaign id number:14V047000 (air bags, electrical system) however the dealer stated that the parts would become available mid April. The manufacturer was also contacted and could not provide an estimated date for when the contact's vehicle would receive the recall repairs. An authorized dealer will inspect the transmission and steering failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 175. The mileage of 175 was reaffirmed by the contact. Updated 05/28/14 MA the consumer stated the vehicle began having issues 2 weeks after it was purchased. The vehicle wouldnt start, it had high idling problems, and most recently the steering column failure. The battery and throttle were both replaced. Updated 05/29/2014*

- Dearborne, MI, USA

problem #237

Mar 192014


  • 49,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while driving approximately 35 mph, there was an unexpected loss of power steering with the illumination of the warning indicator. The contact continued to drive with force being applied to the steering wheel. The vehicle had not been diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 49,000.

- Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #236

May 192011


  • 180,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while driving 30 mph, the power steering light illuminated and the steering failed. The vehicle was taken to the dealer for inspection and they stated that the power steering motor needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 180,000.

- Charlotte , NC, USA

problem #235

Mar 172014

Ion 4-cyl

  • 169,000 miles
As I was driving home on the freeway on a clear day. I noticed that the steering wheel was hard to turn when I try to change lane. I then decided to pull over at the first exit. When I slowed the vehicle down, it was clear that I had no power steering. There was no warning on the dash console and no audio alarm. Finally, I turned off the engine and restarted the car. The power steering came back and I managed to drive the car home.

- Daly City, CA, USA

problem #234

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 #233

Mar 092013

Ion 4-cyl

  • 89,000 miles
While driving this 04 Saturn Ion I lost power steering while going around a curve. I almost hit the guard rail. If the car is shut off then restarted the problem goes away until it happens again. When this happens the "power steering" warning light appears on the dash. Some times this can happen several times a day and there are times when it does not happen for weeks. It can happen in any weather or temp. It kind of takes you by surprise, one second its working fine then all of a sudden the power steering is gone.

- West Pittston, PA, USA

problem #232

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 #231

Feb 282014

Ion 4-cyl

  • 137,000 miles
As I was coming up to a traffic circle, my gears locked up and power steering went out, resulting in a crash into the traffic circle median, totaling the front of my vehicle. Vehicle is still in the shop awaiting maintenance.

- Cheverly, MD, USA

problem #230

Mar 092005

Ion 4-cyl

  • 3,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated while driving 65 mph, the steering wheel became difficult to move and the vehicle stalled. The vehicle was not taken to a dealer for diagnostic testing. The dealer advised the contact that the vehicle was not included in NHTSA campaign number: 14V047000 (air bags, electrical system). The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 3,000 and the current mileage was 50,000.

- Lombard, IL, USA

problem #229

Dec 312013

Ion 4-cyl

  • 62,720 miles
I was driving into parking lot and electric power steering warning with alarm came on the readout on the dash. At that time it had become nearly impossible to turn the steering wheel in any direction. If anyone had been close enough to me there would have been a collision. I turned the ignition off and then on again and the electric steering returned. I am the original owner of the vehicle and this incident put me in a panic mode because I am physically disabled with disabilities that affect my arms and legs. Trying to turn the steering wheel when the electric steering failed caused me great pain. I fear that if this happens again there could be a serious accident with other vehicles or even serious injuries to pedestrians. There was no way I could control that vehicle without a fully functional electric steering. I consider myself lucky that the vehicle was going at a very slow rate of speed and not on the roadway when this happened.

- Methuen, MA, USA

problem #228

Jul 122012


  • 120,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while starting the ignition, the steering wheel failed to move and the power steering warning indicator was illuminated. The contact proceeded to drive the vehicle without the power steering assist function. The contact stated that the vehicle had been previously repaired under a recall issued by the manufacturer related to the power steering component. The malfunction recurred and the vehicle was not repaired for the most recent failure. The manufacturer was notified of the problem. The approximate failure mileage was 120,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Ellentown, FL, USA

problem #227

Aug 012013


  • 103,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the steering wheel failed while reversing and sporadically when driving. The steering wheel had to be turned with force. The failure was recurring. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer to have a diagnostic performed. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 103,000.

- Dallas , TX, USA

problem #226

Nov 212013


  • 168,000 miles
Approaching curve in road when steering wheel would not turn to the right. It felt completely locked, not just loss of power steering, to me. I was able to stop on the shoulder on the other side of the road (facing the wrong way) and after a few minutes, the steering worked normally again. Since that time, it has come and gone a few times, sometimes when I start the car, it feels like the mechanical steering lock is still engaged, but after shaking and wiggling for a few minutes, it usually begins to work. Sometimes I can turn one way, but not the other. It seems to be random whether it fails to the left or right. There is possible correlation to low temperatures, but I do not have enough data to be certain of this yet.

- River Falls, WI, USA

problem #225

Jul 112013


  • 68,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that while driving approximately 30 mph, the power steering warning light illuminated as the steering wheel seized. The vehicle was maneuvered to the side of the road where the engine was turned off. After restarting, the vehicle was able to operate normally. The contact mentioned that the failure would recur sporadically. The vehicle was not taken to dealer for a diagnostic test or repairs. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 68,000 and the current mileage was 70,000.

- Canal Winchester, OH, USA

problem #224

Oct 092013

Ion 4-cyl

  • 92,463 miles
When slowing to park my car the power steering went out. I could not operate the steering wheel at all. Driving it would be unsafe. I shut off the car and turned it back on. I did this twice before the steering would work again. This has happened twice now, the date listed above and again Saturday 10-26-2013. I looked up on the internet for any reported problems on Saturn Ion steering. I found that there is a reported problem and NHTSA has moved their investigation to an engineering analysis as of October 2011. Please advise if there is going to be a recall on this part, or if a recall has already been issued. It is obviously not an isolated problem. I appreciate any help and information you can provide me on this.

- Ballwin, MO, USA

problem #223

Oct 102013


  • 205,126 miles
I was driving approximately 10mph on a residential street when suddenly my power steering light came on just as I was attempting a turn. At that very moment the steering wheel locked up and made it impossible to turn. I then pulled over and turned the car off. I waited for about 5 minutes and then restarted the car, it was working again but then 10 minutes later the light came on again. This is becoming a hassle. I have two small children and I am not going to risk their lives for some faulty car motor. So this is to the car manufactures, could you please fix this problem before it really hurts someone.

- Adelanto, CA, USA

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