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Saturn Ion Starting Problems



  • meronmeron Posts: 21
    To all those who have had similar starting problems related to the anti-theft circuitry on the start switch I can offer a cost free solution that has worked for my daughter's Ion. After searching all over the net and talking to service departments at Saturn, I discovered a remote start website as well as service bulletins from GM. As a result, once I got the car started, using the wait ten minutes routine, I found the harness plug at the rear of the starter switch, unravelled the electrical tape, and cut the white wire while the car was running. The car has started every time since then, with the only draw-back the yellow "lock" on the dash stays on. You can check this link for wiring diagrams for the Saturn remote start, 2003-4. posts.asp~TID~24582

    The GM bulletin basically describes putting a switch inline in the severed white wire; I just put wire nuts on them.

    The wiring diagram shows three wires; I found five. I only cut the white wire and only when the car was RUNNING. The BCM module thinks that the voltage has been interrupted while being driven and goes into a "failsafe" mode, to allow the car to continue to run, as no one would attempt to steal a car thru this circuit, if it were already running.

    Hope this is of some help.

    By the way this is from KY.

    Good Luck!
  • 4r33l4r33l Posts: 3
    Allright Kentucky! I'll definitely try your solution--since the freezing lube theory isn't holding up.

    Thank you.
  • meronmeron Posts: 21
    I also had heard that the lubricant in the switch was at fault and tried electrical contact cleaner and then relubed the switch. It seemed to help. For a day or two.

    GM service bulletins describe "reteaching" the BCM thru a thirty minute process with a new switch/key, and I inferred that you could also reteach it with an old key. I did so and the car started repeatedly, until my daughter tried to start it, with a different key on a keyring with many other keys and whatnot dangling from it. It would not start, as you might guess but did start for me when I used the 'retaught' key. I think that might have solved the problem, if she would have used the sucessful key from then on, but I wanted a permanent solution for the rest of the winter anyway.

    GM also described the Passlock system as fifteen different resistors that could possibly have been used, thus the reason for the BCM to be retaught. The original had a resistor in the key itself. The module, BCM or previously the TCM, needed to see a small voltage, thru a small wire, that was within a +/- 5% range or the start signal was disabled, some shuting down the fuel injectors, fuel pump delivery. In the cold weather electrons get a little sluggish, and fall outside the necessary range originally programmed into the control module.

    Remote start addons replace a resistor inline between two relays, with a diode ahead of the circuit, I believe as a one way valve. The resistance value is first determined while the car is running I think, between the two wires going from the switch to the module.

    There are websites that describe all this, along with an aftermarket defeating system that learns the voltage that the module expects to see. I think the whole kit runs about $40. The link is below.

    As I said in above post, cutting the white wire, (2003 ION) and putting wire nuts on the severed ends has eliminated the problem, BUT you must cut the wire after the car is RUNNING. The module thinks the circuit has been damaged and falls into a failsafe mode allowing the car to be started from then on. The only side effect is the little yellow padlock icon on the dash stays on.

    I may look into disabling the yellow icon later in the spring. For now I don't see a lot of the car as my daughter hasn't been around much; she's busy driving all over town. EMOTE_STARTS_TYP_p_256.html

    I hope others are able to find a solution here. If you read the above you will see that this problem has been around for a while, across a broad spectum of GM products.

    As far as I can see the only difference in any of the solultions is the wire color on individual products.

    Good luck out there!
  • Ok, I get it now from this forum....... I'm not doing anything wrong, I DO know how to start a car on a cold morning, it's the CAR that is acting up.
    My problem is related in as much as I thought it was my battery, so once we got it running I hot-footed it over for a new, high-performance, high-pricetag battery guaranteed to start in sub-zero temps. Needless to say, it still won't. But my problem, in addition to that, is ever since the battery was replaced the sound system in the car does not work and all I get is an '---error---' message. The clock still works just fine so there is power going to the unit. I purchased the car used from a dealer who was always going to get right on the problem of obtaining an owner's manual for me but that never happened, and I have been unable to find one on my own so I can troubleshoot the problem. Am I going to find anyone else with the same problem??? Or is there truly something flukey this time that I can have fixed as soon as I find someone who knows more than I do?
  • Meron,

    Thanks for the White Wire tip. But I have two questions for you before I do it myself.

    If the Battery is disconnected, with the BCM revert back to it's original status and "forget" that the car is in failsafe mode? Therefore, not letting anyone start the car.

    Along the same lines, if I connect my reader up to the car and reset the errors, will the BCM again revert back to it's original status and "forget" that the car is in failsafe mode? Resulting in the same conclusion as in Question A and not let anyone start the car.
  • meronmeron Posts: 21

    First, check the links for a specific wiring diagram, or solution for your individual car. The white wire I found was specific to 2003/4 Ions. There are many different models made by GM that use this ant-theft circuitry. Thus wire colors are specific as well.

    The GM bulletin specifically states that a switch would be put in the "white wire" circuit, and the remote start added as per the aftermarket product describes. This switch would allow removal of batteries, or reading of the specific error codes, while in a normal starting mode, and also allow the car to be selectively started via the five minute rule, revert back to the "open" side of the switch, with or without the error padlock lite on the dash.

    I have not added a switch. These are small wires, twenty-guage if I remember correctly, and care should be used especially when adding a switch. Because these wires are so small reflects the 'voltage drop' that occurs in cold weather, just as a long extension cord needs to be a heavier guage wire as distance increases.

    Check the links I provided above. (Previous blog). There is a plug-in device, for $30-$40 dollars that supplies the voltage that the BCM requires to start the vehicle. As the BCM is 'fooled' I would assume that there would be no issues as far as changing batteries, etc. I don't think you need to cut wires, or add a switch.

    I may add a switch later, or try to reteach the BCM as I described previously. At some point I may try the $30 add on, especially when we trade the car. Otherwise I'll wait till spring; it's twenty degrees here and my daughter isn't home right now anyway.

    Hope this helps. Check the links and ask me any other questions and I'll try to update as I can.

    Good Luck!
  • I am seriously frustrated...I've been all over the internet, posting all kinds of questions, reading other people's numerous suggestions and getting nowhere. My car is stuck at home and I really need it to get to work (45 miles). Last October, my key got stuck in the ignition and after trying to extract it, I broke the key off inside the keyaway. I tried to take out the lock cylinder, but to no avail. So I just left it that way, using a flat-blade screwdriver to start the car. I was finally able to find an ignition lock for it and I replaced it yesterday. But, now it won't start. I bought a Chilton manual which explained the process of "relearning" the new key. After trying that several times, it still won't start. I found message #9 which referred me to "Saturn Problems & Solutions" (messages 793 & 797), but I was unable to find them. I'm very frustrated and I just want some straight answers without having to search the internet most of the day. Going to the dealer is just not financially feasable; they want $95 just to diagnose it. Not to mention the cost of having it towed.
  • This is the re-learn procedure I used when I replaced the ignition switch.

    To relearn passlock, you turn the key to start, and release it to run, then wait 10 minutes. Leave like that for 10 mins, do again, then do again. Takes about 30 mins to complete. When 3 cycles complete, turn off car completely for at least 30 seconds. then start car.
  • Thanks rock...I'll try that. I will be stopping by the dealer after work to get a new switch. My soon-to-be ex has graciously let me use her car during all this. The Chilton manual doesn't mention anything about waiting the 30 seconds at the end of the 3 cycles; it says to turn the ignition to Off, Run, then Off again. Then it 's supposed to start. Your suggestion sounds like a good one. I'll try anything at this point. I had found several variations to that relearn process on the web yesterday and I got so frustrated when none of them worked. Thanks again for the tip. I'll keep you posted. Have a great day!
  • Rock, it worked!! I replaced the ignition switch and then did the key relearn thingy. I suspected that something wasn't right when the Security light wasn't flashing before. Thanks again. :shades:
  • Replacing the ignition switch is not that costly or complex. I remain surprised that Saturn has not addressed this problem with owners in a better manner. I remember the salesman was very enthusiastic about showing how to replace the headlight by pulling the whole assembly out. Maybe they could have a class on ignition switch replacement since they don't want to extend warranty coverage.
  • I've had the exact same problem. I'd let it sit for a few minutes, try again and it imight start. I've heard/read several different solution recomendations and I THINK I'VE FINALLY GOT IT! Let me tell you why. I talked to the service dept. and I got the usual "yest it could be this or that" so I just called parts and at that time I was going to buy that Pass Lock Sensor based on another person's response on this or another chat site. The guy in parts said don't bother with that. Get an ignition switch. He noted that he sells them by the bunches when the weather gets cold - knows exactly where they are in the bins without even looking it up. I bought one, installed it and haven't had the problem since. It's easy to do. Ther are 3 or 4 bolts that secure the housing on the steering column. Remove it and you'll see the switch on the left side on top. Two "torqs" screws hold it which are kind of hard to get at so you'll need a flexible mini socket set set or something. You may have to put your key in and put it in the "on" position to allow the switch to come off - be sure you've disconnected your battery so you don't accidently trip an air bag. Unpug the switch and install the new one - you may have to reconnect the battery to get the key to come out again. Reconnect your housing and you're good to go. It's been below zero the past few days here and I've had no problems. The business about the lubrication is apparently true. The part is only 25 bucks or so. I too jumped through some hoops - new battery, new starter, clean the terminals repeatedly. The sad part is that it seems this isn't as widely know as it should be at the Saturn Dealerships - Saturn should replace this free anyway. Good Luck.
  • jlp4jlp4 Posts: 3
    I have had problems with my Ion since this past December. I am at the Saturn dealership weekly with the same non-start problem. It doesn't matter how cold it is. I have had the ignition switch & BCM replaced. Saturn has rekeyed the Pass lock system. This time they told me my battery cables were loose. Don't know how that one happened since the dealership is the only one show has touched the car. The dealership is very familiar with this problem with the Ion.
  • tbsierratbsierra Posts: 6
    My husband is thinking about installing a remote starter on his 2004 Ion and is wondering if anyone has tried it? He is thinking maybe this will bypass the problems with the anti-theft system. Has anyone tried this or can anyone think of any reason this might not work?
  • reba05reba05 Posts: 36
    I had to replace my ignition switch in January in my 2006 Ion. When I couldn't start my car, I called the dealership to make an appt. to get it in, thinking I would need to tow it there, however the service guy knew exactly what was wrong and walked me through getting the system reset so it would start for me to bring it in.
    Being that he knew right away what the issue was, I did ask why Saturn has not addressed this with a recall when it is happening to so many Ions, and he agreed....

    Overall very happy with the car, with the exception of that incident happening on a minus 20 degree day!
  • xanasxanas Posts: 1
    Please help. My roommate has a newer model (i'm thinking 2005 or newer) Saturn Ion, the key is stuck in the ignition, can't turn it to turn the engine off. The steering wheel is not locked, the automatic transmission is in park. Any suggestions?? Thanks.
  • nsk123nsk123 Posts: 3
    First, thanks everyone on this forum for sharing their experiences and solutions to the problem. This greatly helps.

    Secondly, screw Saturn for having known this problem and not doing anything about it and not even issuing a recall.

    Thirdly, screw the dealerships who try to make money out of it. I got a quote of 900$ from the dealership. Thanks to this forum, I am informed wont get conned, but cant help pitying those innocent souls who were conned into buying the whole package.

    Fourth, did anyone take up the matter with Saturn Corporate? If yes, can you please share your experiences?

    My car has the same problems in sunny CA, so I guess temperature is no the culprit in my car, can any one tell me if they still had problems after the re-learning trick? I am not too comfortable tinkering with white wires, or replacing the ignition switch myself. At the same time I hate to pay the dealership, any ransom.

    Is there nothing what we can do to make Saturn issue a recall? Chain mail sent to Saturn Corporate? Is Saturn selling Ions with faulty ignition switches or is this a (only) recognized mode of revenue?
  • i have a 2004 saturn ion redline. This started about a 2 weeks ago, everytime i get gas i get back in to start my car, it starts right up but then my RPMS bog down like it out of gas and then dies. i start it back up and it does the same. the 3rd time it starts right up and runs fine. this only happens when i stop to get gas. the car runs perfectly after. I've tried fuel cleaner and treatments but i cant figure it out. if any one has ideas please help!! Thanks Justin
  • tbsierratbsierra Posts: 6
    My husband was having difficulty starting his car about a month ago so we decided to take the plunge and have the remote starter installed to see if it would work. Since the remote starter bypasses the security system that seems to be the problem the car has started fine ever since. I hope I am not jinxing it but this seems to have solved the starting problem and my husband has the luxury of starting his car remotely to get the air going in the summer and the heat in the winter :).
  • I have a 2003 Ion 3 which picks the damnedest times to not start. I have read the messages on this forum and seems obvious that the passslock senors are not picking up the key when inserted, hence the 10 min delay. I was in traffic yesterday when the car would not start again. As a last resort, I spit on the key, put the key back in and it started! I believe the moistened key overcame the lack of contact with the senors. I am only relating my experience and I have only done it once but I will
    try this again when it fails to start - WHICH IT WILL- and if it works again, that is good enough for me. I would be delighted to hear from any one else who has tried this.
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