NHTSA — Power Train: Manual Transmission Problems

CarComplaints.com Notes: The 2005 Ion still had power steering issues and a defective ignition switch leftover from previous model years, but hey – at least Saturn improved some of its safety rating to marginal, right? Baby steps.

If you had to buy a Saturn Ion – and I would question why anyone would even consider it – I suppose the 2005 could be considered the best of a bad bunch? I mean, GM did finally get rid of that awful VTi transmission, and both the power steering problems and ignition switch defect that plagued owners were recalled. The problem is they waited 10 years to recall the ignition and let over 30,000 warranty claims get filed before they bothered to fix the power steering. So you kind of have to wonder, is GM making these fixes to keep owners safe or just to keep government lawyers from taking all their money? You be the judge.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
38,455 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.

2005 Saturn Ion transmission problems

transmission problem

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2005 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #3

Apr 192011

Ion 4-cyl

  • 92,138 miles


Events leading up to the failure: Upon engaging the clutch (pressing on the pedal as usual) I heard a loud pop/crack noise and the pedal became very loose and went all the way to the floor very easily. Date/time/place of failure: On 4-19-2011 at 9:20 am while parked in a residential parking lot. The failure is described as the clutch pedal not properly engaging the hydraulic clutch due to a bracket or some other part of the assembly's breakage. This bracket holds a piston in proper place to actuate the hydraulic clutch as the pedal is depressed to the floor. Since the bracket is broken, the clutch will not engage fully, if at all. I have temporarily placed double-sided foam tape where the bracket used to be on the pedal so that the piston rod can remain somewhere close to its original mounted position - so that I may drive the vehicle. Since the failure, the transmission exhibits a grinding noise when shifting into third gear - presumably due to the partial engagement of the clutch. This brackets failure presents a loss of control safety issue which I feel should be addressed by the manufacturer; when coming to a stop earlier today, I was unable to shift to neutral while coming to a stop - which nearly caused a crash.

- Durham, NC, USA

problem #2

Mar 162005


  • 3,051 miles
3-16-2005 car leaking red fluid: Diagnosis-axle not seated, new parts ordered, car repaired 4-7-2005 car making thud sound when shifting: Diagnosis-not duplicated (never checked transmission-just drove car) 9-29-2005 car not going into 1st and 2nd gears smoothly, car not starting when key in ignition, internal car gauges not working: Diagnosis-internal computer parts fixed-could not duplicate gear issues (again-did remove transmission and investigate) 3-24-2008 previous gear problems persisted, car would not go into 1st gear; took car to dealer, dealer would not look at because out of warranty due to mileage although problem was reported prior unless I paid 9-1-2008 car will not go into 1st or 2nd; diagnosis (paid for at my expense)-transmission needs to be repaired (at my expense) 9-11-2008 car repaired and while driving home car would not go in any gears: Returned to dealer and found red fluid leaking from vehicle: Diagnosis-additional part in transmission loose.

- Lancaster, TX, USA

problem #1

Sep 212006


  • Manual transmission
  • 20,176 miles
9/21/06, my son was diving his 2005 Saturn Ion redline home from work. Car had 20,000 miles, bought new. He shifted into 3rd gear and the car made a loud noise and was barely drivable. He pulled into a parking lot and discovered a large fluid leak with no ability to shift gears. Car towed to Saturn of danbury. We were told that the transmission had literally "exploded" (their words) and upon investigation discovered the transmission case blown apart, supposedly caused by "excessive RPM". the car was repaired for free: Transaxle assy & motor assy, starter,2 plates, flywheel, shaft asm I spoke to the service rep, who told me they could not prove it wasn't a defect, and would therefore cover it under a "goodwill adjustment, but not under the warranty. No one could explain why there was excessive RPM- enough to blow up the trans case. I was assured that they didn't believe it was anything my son had done to cause this failure. Granted, at 20 years old, I am certain he isn't a model driver, but he is also a very responsible kid and I can't imagine how badly he could have driven the car to cause this. Their repair ticket states that the "failure appears to be from aggressive driving". come on! the car was again towed to Saturn this morning, due to problems with starting. It has happened twice before, but this time we couldn't start it even after repeated attempts. The dash lights flash, the dials bounce back and forth, and the error reads "power start". we'll see what happens next, but after reading numerous threads re this particular problem, I am leary about the possibility of something common that perhaps should be addressed with a recall. Will keep you posted.

- New Milford, CT, USA

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