NHTSA — Power Train: Manual Transmission 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:
32,350 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 transmission problems

transmission problem

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2004 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #5

Aug 242006


  • 21,000 miles


The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. While driving approximately 25-30 mph the vehicle lost power steering. She stated that the vehicle became very difficult to steer and she had to hold on to the shifter and the steering wheel in order to gain control of the vehicle. The vehicle was manual. The contact had taken the vehicle to three local mechanics and they advised her that the steering column needed to be replaced and has referred her to the dealer. The vehicle was not taken to an authorized dealer for this failure. The contact stated that the failure was intermittent at first but she no longer has power steering. While driving the vehicle also locked in gear and she could not shift out of gear. The contact stated the failure happened at 9,000 miles. The vehicle was taken to the dealer thirty seven times for this failure and they have replaced the wires but the failure continued to occur. The dealer has never diagnosed the failure because the contact would not pay $500 for diagnostic testing. The failure mileage was 21,000 and the current mileage was 83,000.

- Barnhart, MO, USA

problem #4

Dec 012004


  • 9,000 miles
After only 9 months of owning my Ion I have experienced problems with shifting the car in and out of gear. It is a random occurrence and can happen 8 times in a week then not at all for months. However when it does happen it is a life threatening experience as I am usually driving on a major highway. The car will be "locked" into 4th for example and when I try to shift to 5th I can not get it out of 4th. I have taken the car to the Saturn dealership a minimum of 20 times for this problem, only to be told that they could not do anything. I then took it to a different dealership where the tech took the car home for 1 week, experienced the problem for himself, and told me all he could do was replace a wire and hope it helped because Saturn would not let him investigate any more options. It did absolutely nothing to help my car. And since the last time my car has been at the Saturn dealership my power steering now goes in and out. Apparently they busted a seal and failed to mention that to me, so not only do I have to worry about not being able to shift, but also losing my power steering. They only solution I can come up with is to try my best to get the car to a safe spot and turn it off and let it sit. This car has had more problems than anyone should have to deal with: Reverse switch going out, airconditioning going out, power windows no longer work, power steering, and not being able to shift. I have to drive this everyday with my children in the car with me at most times. This should have all been taken care under the orig. Warranty, as it all happened within the first 6-12 months of owning the car. Lol that's what I get for buying a GM product.

- Barnhart, MO, USA

problem #3

Aug 082009


  • 72,000 miles
Transaxle grinding/whining noise in 3rd or 4th gear, excessive engagement or disengagement effort while shifting into 3rd or 4th gear, will not shift into either 3rd or 4th gear.

- Tacoma, WA, USA

problem #2

Jul 202007


  • 59,751 miles
The contact owns a 2004 Saturn Ion. The clutch pedal on the vehicle has a retainer that does not have the proper durability. After a few months, the retainer detaches and causes the clutch pedal to raise upwards. As a result, the driver is unable to properly switch gears fast enough. When the failure first occurred on July 20, 2007, the dealer replaced the cylinder axulator, master clutch, the entire clutch pedal, and the retainer. The repair lasted for 15 months. Recently, while attempting to switch gears at 15 mph, the contact noticed that the clutch had once again lost the retainer and caused the pedal to raise. The contact was unable to determine where the clutch was located, which nearly caused a crash. He called the dealer and was informed that the vehicle could not be repaired for free because it was no longer under warranty. The contact believes that this is a safety issue that the manufacturer should be responsible for repairing. He called the manufacturer directly and they refused to make any repairs. The vehicle currently has not been repaired. The failure mileage was 59,751 and current mileage was 80,210.

- Orlando, FL, USA

problem #1

Dec 282004


  • miles
While driving the car locks up and is impossible to shift in and out of gear. This usually happens in 3rd, 4th and 5th gear. The car has to shut of for a period of time and it usually will unlock the system. I have been stranded on the interstate with my two young children in the car, unable to get to safety because I cannot shift into a lower gear to move off the road. This car is a death trap, and Saturn refuses to fix it, even though I brought it in under the original warranty. This problem has been occuring for nearly 4 years now.

- Barnhart, MO, USA

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