NHTSA — Steering: Electric Power Assist System 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.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
49,771 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

problem #13

Jun 022014


  • 114,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the vehicles power steering failed after trying to reverse from a drive way. The vehicle was difficult to steer. The power steering light illuminated on the dash board followed by a warning chime throughout the vehicle. The vehicle was not driven since the failure. The manufacturer was contacted and they offered no remedy. There was no diagnosis completed on the vehicle. The failure mileage was 114,000 and the current mileage was 114.000.

- Gallatin, TN, USA

problem #12

Aug 242012


  • 1,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated while traveling 40 mph the power steering light illuminated. The manufacturer was notified of the defect. The failure mileage was 1,000. The current mileage was unknown.

- Toledo, ID, USA

problem #11

Dec 162013


  • miles
2004 Saturn Ion. Consumer writes in regards to electronic power steering failure. The consumer stated she first started having front suspension problems, which the dealer fixed free of charge. The exhaust was leaking and she paid to have it replaced, along with the catalytic converter. Also, the horn stopped working. The consumer received a letter in July 2012, from GM stating the warranty was being extended because the electric power steering could fail. On December 16, 2013, the power steering failed, as the consumer was leaving a parking lot. She had to use extra force to turn the steering wheel. After a couple of minutes, it was back to normal. A test revealed, there was indeed a failure. When the consumer called GM, she was informed the extended warranty had expired on 11/28/13 the consumer no longer owns the vehicle. Updated 02/5/14

- Monroe, WI, USA

problem #10

Sep 272012

Ion 4-cyl

  • 24,220 miles


Traveling on an interstate at 65 mph we heard a tone indicating something was wrong, steering became difficult and we noticed that the power steering indicator light was on. The power steering was gone and it became very hard to steer and was unable to quickly maneuver. We pulled over, turned off the car and then restarted it and the power steering came back on. Same thing happened again after traveling a few miles. We were able to get home and now the power steering shuts down every few minutes. Car is unsafe on public roads in regards to being able to make quick maneuvers and could lead to accidents and injuries. Clearly a manufacturing problem not normal wear and tear. Chev. & pont. Cars with same equipment and complaints were recalled. Saturns should be also. There is an open action number of EA11014...updated 12/11/12 the consumer stated Saturn volunteered to replace a portion of the steering that controlled the power steering at no charge. Updated 12/12/12

- Salisbury, NC, USA

problem #9

Nov 092011

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,500 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated while driving 35 mph the power steering failed and as a result the steering wheel became difficult to turn. The power steering warning lamp illuminated immediately after the failure occurred. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who was unable to diagnose the failure. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure but did not offer any assistance. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 99,500 and the current mileage was 112,394. Updated 6/6/12 the electric power steering motor was replaced on 05/22/12. Updated 06/11/12

- Rapid City , SD, USA

problem #8

Jul 012011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 87,000 miles
Electronic assist power steering fails without any warning. Steering becomes very difficult if not impossible for some people which could lead to loss of control.

- Hooper, UT, USA

problem #7

May 222010


  • 119,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. While driving approximately 65 mph he heard a chiming noise in the dashboard and the power steering light illuminated on the dashboard. He lost all power steering and stated that he continue to drive with difficulty to his destination. Four hours later he returned to the vehicle and the power steering worked as normal. The failure occurred twice. He took the vehicle to a local mechanic and the electronic power steering module was replaced. He had to replace it because he was not able to handle the vehicle traveling through the mountains on the way home. The contact stated that he received a letter from the manufacturer stating that they have had the identical failure with other 2004 Ions. The failure mileage was 119,000 and the current mileage was 123,000.

- Richmond, VA, USA

problem #6

Jan 112008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that the power steering failed sporadically. The power steering warning light illuminated on the instrument panel immediately following the failure. The steering wheel became difficult to control. The contact stated that she had to shut the vehicle off and restart it in order to reset the power steering assist. Prior to the recent failure, a year ago; the power steering column was replaced. There were no further repairs made to the vehicle. The failure mileage was 70,000 and the current mileage was 84,000. Updated 05/11/10. Updated 6/1/10 the consumer stated when she put the gear in drive, the power steering light illuminated and the steering column would become stiff as if it was locked. The vehicle has electric power steering. The steering motor was replaced. Updated 06/24/10.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #5

Feb 072008

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 40,000 miles
Failure of the electric power steering system: I have owned my 2004 Saturn Ion since new and it has approximately 52,000 miles on it. I noticed about 2 months ago, the power steering system will turn off randomly. It started to happen very infrequently, less than once a day. Now it happens many times in one trip. If I turn the ignition off and restart the car, it will work again, notwithstanding another failure. The dealer has quoted me 700 dollars to do the repair work. Considering the car only has 52,000 miles on it and many others have experienced this same problem on the Ion and other Saturn models (from searches of various Saturn forums), I find this to be unconscionable that Saturn will not recall the item. This could cause a major problem for an unsuspecting person if it turns off in the middle of a cornering turn. The forces required to turn the wheels and the failed steering assist motor are more than expected.

- Katy, TX, USA

problem #4

Mar 012007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 45,000 miles
Since 45,000 miles the cars power steering will stop when driving and when the car is turned off and back on again the steering will work for a few miles. Trouble code C0475 means to replace the steering column according to the tsb. Car has 67,000 miles and I refuse to pay $1000 for a poorly designed GM part just ask they Chevy Malibu owners they are suffering from the same problem.

- Wadsworth, OH, USA

problem #3

Aug 062007

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 43,300 miles


Power steering failed on my 2004 Saturn Ion while the car was in motion on a winding street. I was able to maintain control but a person of lesser strength would likely have crashed as the steering was extremely stiff. Took car to dealership and the whole steering assembly required replacement at a cost of $1,079 plus #111 for a 2 day car rental. The auto was just out of the warranty period. Dealer kept old parts.

- Bedford, TX, USA

problem #2

Jan 012005

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 1 miles
Steering failure during static and very slow turning exercises. This is a consistent problem with the vehicle. We teach new drivers and re-train elderly drivers and this is a major issue for a training vehicle. The dealer has confirmed the problem. He performed the power steering diagnostic system check with the following results. "since most occurrences of the dtc are caused by frequent static steering, such as parking maneuvers and high ambient temperatures, review the eps system with the customer toi determine the conditionsl under which the dtc set". the system reset which does not help. Increasing the speed of the vehicle does that. The dealer has no cure. I think a manufacturer has a responsibility to provide a vehicle that can safely be operated upon a road way regardless of static steering or slow steering.

- West Hartford, CT, USA

problem #1

Jun 202004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 4,000 miles
Electronic assist steering system:ravaling at interstate speed - design flaw.esign flaw result - lost control of car due to sudden jerk of wheel to avoid collision with motorist coming into our lane. Did 270 deg spin in heavy traffic. Came to stop against median guardrail after crossing two lanes.peed 65 mph with trafic flow. Misc. Notes: 1) car occupants = 3ea. 2) it is predicted that this design flaw is serious enough that the public will be exposed to news reels detailing flaw resulting in deaths, Saturn will be forced to recall. Time to get busy to make recall effort reality.

- Hurricane, WV, USA

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