Transmission Failure

2004 Saturn Ion

This problem may be covered under warranty. Ask your Saturn dealer. Seal Of This Might Hurt 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
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
121,850 miles
Total Complaints:
12 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. new transmission (4 reports)
  2. not sure (4 reports)
  3. replace transmission (4 reports)
2004 Saturn Ion transmission problems

transmission problem

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2004 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #12

Sep 242015

Ion Ion 2 Quad Coupe AU

  • CVT transmission
  • 130,000 miles


Driving 70 mph on 95 and the RPM was between 3 and 4. All of a sudden the speed dropped to 25 mph. I pulled to the shoulder, turned off the car, turned it back on and was able to drive 50 mph to work. Towed to dealership. They fixed the recalls. There was also another problem with the coolant. I can't afford to fix this. The car was paid for. Now I have to get a car payment. I'm not paying $5900 for a $4000 car.

- christyva, Richmond, VA, US

problem #11

Apr 142013


  • Automatic transmission
  • 138,894 miles

When I brought this car I did not know the transmission was out, so I had to buy a used one that cost me $1450. My wife drove the car 1 year and some months and this transmission went out again. We were unable the get a transmission because they cost too much. I feel that the company should refund. Why would you want to buy a car when the transmission costs so much to fix .

- Henry T., Atmore, AL, US

problem #10

Jun 172015

Ion Level 3

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles

Its only been about 3 mouths I have had my 2004 Saturn Ion and while I was driving it felt like I lost all acceleration. It felt and sound like I was stuck in neutral. Come to find out its the transmission and it going to cost more than the car is worth to fix it.

- jake, Rutland, VT, US

problem #9

Jun 062015


  • CVT transmission
  • 100,800 miles


We bought this car a year and a month ago for my daughter sixteen birthday. This past weekend she was driving down the road and her car stopped in traffic while going 55mph. She almost was killed due to this. Had it tow to the shop and tell us 5,600 dollars for a transmissions and I am reading reviews and in two years it may go out again. This is bullshit. I am very angry.

- marisat, Marshville, NC, US

problem #8

Jun 012015


  • CVT transmission
  • 110,000 miles

Really angry at the fact I purchased this vehicle only two years ago and already have to buy a new car when this is NOT EVEN PAID OFF YET. Car ran great in the beginning and then randomly the check engine light comes on and car doesnt shift gears. I took it to THREE different shops and they all told me they couldnt fix the transmission because its CVT and really tricky blah blah computer inside blah blah. RIDICULOUS that you would make a car that is unable to be serviced first and foremost. ALSO RIDICULOUS that there isn't a soul including the DEALER who sold it to me that will fix it without replacing transmission. quoted me $4700 to replace!!! now I have to buy a brand new car when im still paying this one off!!! I will never ever purchase a Saturn OR a vehicle that has a CVT transmission. Poorest decision in the car making world ever. Not to mention it was also recalled for ignition switch randomly locking on people. Not to mention I also just purchased 4 brand new tires on it for 500 dollars. VERY ANGRY.

- Alex V., Philadelphia, PA, US

problem #7

Apr 152015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 186,000 miles

This is my second transmission failure in almost 3 years. Not quite 3 years yet, we are a couple months away. I replaced the original transmission with a brand new transmission that came directly from the GM Manufacturing factory. That cost me $3000.00 on a car that I owned for 7 months. I have had various other problems. The car shop definitely knows me by first name, but let's forgive all of that to normal car maintenance and enduring Wisconsin winters.

I cannot afford a new car. I cannot afford a new transmission. and on top of that, I purchased this car specifically for the wonderful rear hinged doors. I use a wheelchair and it is very nice to have. And despite working a full-time job, which I need my car for, it is unrealistic for me to buy a new car and two transmissions all within 3 years on a $27,000 annual salary. This is outrageous. When a person puts their hard earned money into a large purchase item such as a car, there should be an expectation that the car will last more then 3 years.

- Angela B., River falls, WI, US

problem #6

Jul 192013


  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles


Seven months after I bought my Saturn, it started to have problems accelerating. Not to mention that I had just added brand new tires to the car, but that was my own fault for not looking closely at the tires. Anyway, I took my car in and was told that my transmission was going and there would be no telling when or where it would happen...just that it was going to happen and there was nothing that I could do about it. He was right. My transmission quit working while I was going 65 miles per hour on a busy highway. I had to leave my car there overnight. The tow truck came, brought my car to the shop where they did some investigating. They confirmed that my transmission failed.

After looking for a used transmission, it was determined that this wasn't going to be an easy transmission to replace. There were no used transmissions. In fact, it was impossible to find any Ion transmissions. Which is when I found out that I would have to order a brand new transmission from GM. This total cost me $3000.00!!!!

Remember, 7 months previous to this I had purchased it for $6000.00. Since then, I've had to replace sway bar, brake pads, brake shoes, you name it! And all of those small things are fine. Normal car maintenance on a vehicle that I drive very frequently. Until, just two days ago. I reversed out of a parking spot, and was left in the middle of a busy intersection with a car that would not drive forward. I had to have my car pushed out of the street and towed to the car shop. Where I have again been told that my transmission has failed. It has been 2 and half years!!!! I had a brand new GM right from the factory transmission put into my car and it failed after 2 years.

- Angela B., River falls, WI, US

problem #5

Feb 042014


  • CVT transmission
  • 113,000 miles

Who can take their Saturn Ion to the dealer for recalls? I have three pending but it will not move to go anywhere. You can't repair it because no parts are available. Help!!!

- Aletha H., Spotsylvania, VA, US

problem #4

Feb 242011

Ion 2.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,140 miles

this is exactly what happened to us. our transmission has failed each time with no power at all. we are on our 3rd tranny. i bought it used with 66 000km, the first original tranny went at 75 000 km (under manufacture's warranty, thank god)), and we just replaced it just on feb 24th 2011 at 112 879km and we had to pay half price due to the lawsuit (over $2,500).

once i can afford it in the next year i am sooo geting rid of this car. if i see someone with one i tell them to beware. no wounder GM got rid of this brand of their line of vehicles. i will never buy or recommend this vehicle to anyone.

- Melissa B., Abbotsford, British Columbia, canada

problem #3

May 122011

Ion Ion 3

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,000 miles

I bought 2004 saturn Ion feb 2011 114,000 miles, drove car very little, while making a left turn into my subdivision, transmission slipped out of gear as I was making left turn I applied the gas and transmission changed gears reved up several rpms car became difficult to steer and I lost control of my car and hit the concrete wall l!!!! I totaled my car not to mention damaged someones concrete wall and could have died or hit someone!! I did not understand what had happened with the transmission and the steering until I went online and found all the complaints regarding the transmission and steering! This is unconscionable to know that a car has this problem and put people in unnecessary danger!

Now I am faced with having a failure to control my vehicle on my driving record, and increase in insurance premium, property damage to someones home and no car!

- bcooper220, Sun City, CA, US

problem #2

Nov 012010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

This is the 3rd time the transmission has gone out in this car. There is a class action lawsuit that exists about transmission in Saturns. They are known to go out on the 2004-2005 models. Even the lawsuit doesn't help some of us because when GM fix the car under the lawsuit, you can expect it to go out again in 2 years. Then you are not covered because the mileage will probably be too high to be covered under the warranty. I've found the average transmission replacement is $4000.00. The cost of replacing it and the expectation that it will go out again is the reason these cars should be taken off the road. All of these models should be taken off the road and demolished. They are unsafe because there is not any indication as to when the transmission will go out. You could be driving on the highway and then all of a sudden your can slows down because the transmission went out. No lights come on - nothing. Please help me spread the word that these cars ar no good. Search all of the complaint boards and you will see the thousands of people that have had the same problem. GM is doing nothing to help people for the long term. You ultimately will either have to fix the car over and over or junk it yourself. Dealerships won't tell you about this (of course) because the want to make your money. Please beware and spread the word.

- mackga, Atlanta, GA, US

problem #1

May 202007

(reported on)

Ion Quadcoupe

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

Took FOREVER for Saturn to take care of this. Literally left me stranded 500 miles from home, without a ride back. Had to rent a car, and then drive back to get my car 3 weeks later. Saturn wouldn't even deliver it to me.

- jacque, San Diego, CA, US

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