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Saturn Ion Starting Problems


My Ion won't start under -15 dgres C but when things warm up turn the key and it roars, dealer says when it won't go call us and we will help. What to do? Battery cell freezing or something els I should know about?


  • Need some confirmation. Having intermittent starting problems with my 2004 ION2. Insert key, turn on, lights come on but no turnover. Sit a few minutes, turn on, tries to start but dies as if no gas, or get a turnover and that's it. Sit another couple of minutes, turn on, lights, no turnover. Sit a bit more, turn on and it starts, but runs rough so give it plenty of gas and it smooths out after a short bit. Then runs fine. Sometimes I can drive, turn off and it starts immediately; other times I drive, turn off and go the same procedure as before. Sometimes days in between start problem, other times, next time I start I have the problem. Took it to shop (don't trust dealership) and of course, car started every time. I read posts on this forum from beginning and it seems the crank position sensor may be the problem. Comments, thoughts and ideas gladly accepted. This is my second Saturn and really haven't had too much problem with either, just the dealership. The service departments cringe when they hear my name and if interested will tell the story. Next problem will be to find a reliable, trustworthy mechanic to replace sensor (if that's the problem). Thanks for reading and Happy New Year to everyone. Linda
  • rockfish1rockfish1 Posts: 113
    This sounds like the same problem I am have with my 2004 ION2. (See message #764).
    Have you had the problem fixed?

    I am hesitate to go to the dealer with an intermittent problem knowing they can not solve word problems and may start replacing good parts.

    I thought I solved my mystery when I reset all the fuses inside the car and engine compartment. The car started okay for 3 days straight then to my disappointment begin to fail again.
  • Sorry, problem not fixed yet. However, found a guy to seems to really know his stuff who's first thinking was starter relay, or a couple of other really minor things. When he looked at the car Saturday and found it was a standard transmission, took a look at clutch limit switch(I think that's what it is) which prevents car from starting unless clutch is depressed. It indeed was doing intermittent things so he bypassed it and the car started fine the rest of the day. Sunday morning, it did the same thing, so he's doing some more research. He still thinks it a minor problem. Very frustrating with it being so intermittent. Keep in touch! we may figure it out soon. And I agree, I sure wouldn't take it to the dealer. Just need to find someone with "common sense" and is willing to keep at it.
  • I would really like to know what's going on with my car, I'm having the exact same problem with my car not starting, or occasionally sputtering before dying and then not starting. Have you found a solution to this problem yet? Like many others, i refuse to run to the dealership for any intermittent problem, cuz it never happens once i'm there. This has been a reoccuring problem for me since nov 2006. The first time i finally got it started and it was fine...until last week, It took 20 mins of wiggling things before it started. Today I had no luck and bummed a ride to work (yeah, fun). I really need to fix this problem. Please let me know if you've found a solution.
  • rockfish1rockfish1 Posts: 113
    I believe the intermittent starting problem (most notably when it is cold) with my 2004 ION 2 has been solved!!!!!!!

    The problem was due to the original ignition switch which is a $50 part from Saturn. The ignition switch is located on the back end of the ignition lock.

    The ignition switch sends a code that is generated in the ignition lock to the body control module (BCM). It is a part of the Passlock2 system on the 2004 Saturn. The Passlock system is intended to prevent a worn (worn keys use to be about to start any of the earlier model Saturns without any security system) or incorrect key from starting the car. If the proper code is not sent then the BCM will shut down the car for up to 10 minutes.

    When I talked to the parts guy at Saturn to see if he had one in stock, he indicated that they have a lot of them since they are in demand.

    I was able to replace the ignition switch within an hour and then I performed the 30 minute re-learn Passlock process. The only tool you may not have if you replace the switch is a short bit T15 Torx head since there is not a lot of space to work when removing the switch from the back of the ignition lock on the steering column.

    Hope this inexpensive fix helps since there seems to be a lot of Saturns with a similar intermittent starting problems.
  • I have had the same problem (intermittent no start) with my 2003 Saturn Ion 3. Of course, there hasn't been any rhyme or reason and I've been hesitant to take it to the dealership, it's out of warranty and I have very little confidence in them. We had a computer put on it to read the codes (this morning), however, there hasn't been any stored. Do you know if it will only send the code if you check it at the time it won't start?

    Thanks for the info.!
  • rockfish1rockfish1 Posts: 113
    I do not have a scan tool so I don't know if any codes or pending codes were stored.

    From hearing the complaints from other Saturn owners with the same intermittent starting problem (it seems to occur more often in cold weather), I decided to try the same fix that worked for them. So I invested less than $50 for the part and was able to install it myself within an hour. If I had to do it again, it would be a 15 minute job not counting the re-learn process. This saved me hundreds of dollars I did not have to give to the dealer and the possible aggravation of taking a word problem to Saturn and having them replace multiple parts.

    Does your Saturn have the Passlock 2 system? If so, this might work for you.
  • God bless you! After receiving your reply, I talked to the guy who's been working on my ION (and getting frustrated bigtime!). We had gotten to the ignition switch, but were stalled. He had finally figured out that reprogramming was necessary and is taking it to Saturn to have it done (said it will only cost about $60). I really hope this solves the problem and from what you've indicated, it should. Question to you would be how do you do a relearn process? We'd like to know for future (cause I think it will probably happen again, if I keep the car). Really haven't had any trouble with the car til now. But can't afford to have problems since I'm by myself and live about 30 miles from nearest Saturn (not that I trust them at all). Car only has about 55,000 miles on it and I would hope I could get a lot more out of it. Any way. Sure appreciate the assistance. Will let you know for sure when I get car back.
  • lisa35lisa35 Posts: 2
    my problem is i have a 2004 saturn ion 1, it makes a rattle noise underneath, when it is under 20 degrees out, first time was told it was loose trunk latch, 2nd time heat sheild was loose, now who knows. once the exhaust heats up noise goes away.
  • Hi Lisa.

    You might have a exaust cuplink that is loose and once the exaust heats up the seal closes and the noise goes away.
  • Help! 6 months after I bought this car brand new--I had the ignition switch replaced because it wouldn't start when cold. Dealer said it wasn't a big deal, when it is cold, cars don't start. 4 years later--it's zero degrees, and my car takes forever to start. Usually after about 20 tries, the car turns over and starts. Several people have told me they don't think it's the batttery--but, I have no problem when the car is garaged-and warm. I now have no garage, so, it's a problem. Is there a permanent fix until I can sell it next year? The dealership is no help. Should I heat it up at night and then put a blanket over the engine? Please advise! I live alone and need to get to work and school (and back) safely!
  • I have the same problem. I live in MN and whenever the temperature drops, it always takes me a while to get the car started. I also took it to the dealership and they told me it was not my battery but if I wanted they could charge me for a full diagnostic etc. I decided against it.
    They told me I may have something to do with my ignition..however I only have problems starting the car when it gets below 20/30 degrees or so.

    Since that time I have heard from at least two other people who have owned the older Saturn Ion's that they have the same problem.

    Is there some type of heater that we could install to correct this? If it is not the battery....what are the possibilities?
  • This motor won't start. My son said he was sitting at a light and the motor just died. It backfires through the intake occasionally when attempting to start. Crank and cam timing seem ok, crank position sensor and intake water sensor are good. Get a code 23 from the computer but my book doesn't show that code. Any ideas?
  • I have an ION3 that every winter since we have owned it has has starting issues. First they replaced the battery, then the ignition switch, then the battery 2 MORE times. We have had several serious issues with this car but the starting thing was killin me. This last few weeks every morning my hubby had to jump it with my 12 year old van(which started EVERYTIME). Finally I took it in on Thursday since we only have 2000 miles left on the extended warranty. They claim that it is a computer problem and they ordered a new computer for my car. We where also having problems with a surging in the trans but of course it didnt happen for them. But then again when you only drive it less then a mile to test it it wont happen right??!! Well they said the computer "glitch" it what is making the start problem and the trans issue. I sure hope for their sake that this fixes the problem. I am sooo glad we took the extended warranty out on this car. My husband owned 2 saturns prior to the ION with NO PROBLEMS AT ALL. We get this..which is our fault buying a first year model anyway..and it was in for different things 16 times in 12 months. they have replaced MAJOR parts in this car. It is unreal. It scares me to think we are knocking on 75K and no warrenty soon. well i hope for everyones sake that the problem gets fixed and we all having starting cars!!
  • Mostly this problem occurs when I am attempting to start the car for the first each day. Today it happened and it was not a cold day and the time was 12 noon. Each time when I turn the key the car fails to respond (I hear nothing). The odometer spells out Maintain Vehicle. Jumping the battery doesn't help the battery appears to be working great. When I took it to the dealer they could not pull any codes and gave up immediately as they are clueless when it comes to trouble shooting. I have had this problem for over 2 years and was hoping it went away as it didn't fail at all for over 6 month. Lately however it has failed 6 times over about a 12 day period. Each time it has failed the problem has gone away after 10 to 15 minutes.

    It could be an ignition switch problem such as the one described in other emails on this web site.
  • selooseloo Posts: 606
    My daughter has a 03 ION that we purchased used from a private party. The previous owner gave me the maintenance records. At around 30K miles the previous owner went to the Saturn Dealer complaining of a intermittent starting problem. The dealer claims that the under the hood fuse box was loose (causing the car to lose ground) the mechanic tighten the box and declared the problem resolved. The car has 55K miles and we have not experienced any problems with intermittent starting. I hope this helps someone.

    Good Luck.
  • selooseloo Posts: 606
    My daughter has a 03 ION that we purchased used from a private party. The previous owner gave me the maintenance records. At around 30K miles the previous owner went to the Saturn Dealer complaining of a intermittent starting problem. The dealer claims that the under the hood fuse box was loose (causing the car to lose ground) the mechanic tighten the box and declared the problem resolved. The car has 55K miles and we have not experienced any problems with intermittent starting. I hope this helps someone.

    Good Luck.
  • This sounds like the same problem I had with my daughter's 2004 ION 2. See my message in the forum
    Saturn Problems & Solutions #793 for a description of what worked for me.

    If you perform the repair, you will need to use the relearn procedure for the passlock system described in
    Saturn Problems & Solutions #797

    Hope this helps to save you a few bucks.
  • My Ion 2005 would'nt start on first try but it would after 15 minutes of the initial try. It has an ignition switch defect and Saturn will not recall the part for the model will be discontinued in 2008. The repair at the dealer takes about 1 hour and mine was covered by garanty.
  • It is the problem I got mine fixed this week. 2005 have the defective part. But saturn won't recall!?! :mad:
  • we had the same thing every winter since we owned it. They have replaced the battery 3 times and the ignition switch. Well finally after this winter, and having to jump it 5 times in 2 weeks I took it in. They replaced the computer stating that the computers in this car has been malfunctioning. We have had it back for 4 days now and it has been -4 for 2 mornings and it starts GREAT>. It also took car of the transmission surge that happened every once in awhile. the car runs so good right now. What a difference in power, starting and everything.
  • I posted this to a reply to someone else but I though I should give it its own Title. We had many winters of non starting ION and after an ignition switch and 3 batteries they replace our computer. Our dealer said that the IONS have had computer problems. Its now been almost a week and below freezing again and the car has started without ANY problems. Aslo we were having problems with a surging in the trans when going from 1st to 2nd gear...its an automatic. It also fixed taht problem. This car is running like it did when we took it off the lot with 15 miles it. It has 74K now. It runs good, it has spunk again. Amazing what a fix of a computer will do. Lucky for us we took the extended warrenty and it covered it. But looking at the cost of replacing it on our own wouldnt have been to bad. Cheaper in the long run then replacing batteries and ignition switches all the time.
    I would ask your local service department about it.
  • I have a '95 Saturn my folks handed down to me. It has about 180k miles on a rebuilt engine. Aside from being stolen once, and thus a ripped up interior, it ran pretty well until it suddenly developed an intermittent starting problem a few months ago. I've taken to parking on hills just so I can pop the clutch to start the thing, just in case it won't. Doesn't matter if it's cold, hot, wet or dry, although I *have* noticed it had a greater tendency to switch it's starting (from not starting to starting, or from starting to not starting) when I go over one unavoidable particular speed bump in my work's parking lot..... hmmmmmm.... that made me thing perhaps grounding, but who knew where that could be?!?!

    We've replaced the battery and the ignition switch, and cleaned up the dinglybob that has to be pushed in by the clutch peddle in order to allow the car to start. We've been mulling over pulling out the starter to test it, but hey, I'm happy to try your suggestion and see if that works!

  • When the car was stolen, how did the thief start the car? If the ignition and steering column was damaged you may want to start by taking the cover off the steering column and look for loose parts/wires.

    I don't think the '95 had the passlock 2 system so the ignition switch problem myself and other have referred to probably does not apply but if the ignition lock was tampered with when stolen you may want to look there.

    Since I am sure you proceed very slowly over the speed bump that would not be the problem of knocking something loose.

    Much success with your Saturn.
  • I have a 2003 Saturn ION that recently started to have starting problems, my brother has the exact same car and it also just started to have problems since it became cold, snowy, and salty. I took it to a very good mechanic and he could not figure it out. Finally I took it to a friend that dedicated alot of time to it. The problem is defect in the placement of the starter, it was extremely dirty from salt and corrosion because it is located in a bad position. Since few areas will have this problem (ie upstate NY) there will probably never be a recall. I had the starter changed and the part was $200 which is quite expensive compared to mant other cars. This is only the third day of it operating it, but it does sound much healthier. Hope this helps.... also stay away from the dealer mechanics : )
  • But I'm thinking they either already had a key close enough, or they used Fiscar scissors (which open a Saturn door easily). It was stolen and recovered a few days later over a year ago, the starting problem didn't start until about three months ago. The creeps stole my car, with two car seats in the back and out-of-state plates, from the Sea World parking lot in San Diego! Oh, yah, take a car from a family with little kids who are far away from friends and family to call for help. Lovely. They had a thing for joyriding in stolen green Saturns, as they parked the green '95 Saturn they had stolen just before mine a few stalls away. I tried my key in that car, and was able to open the door with it, but not start the car.

    BTW, luckily, my folks lived nearby, so I wasn't far from family, but still! Also - Sea World security? Extremely nice. They even went out and bought car seats to replace the ones stolen so the kids could leave the lot safely.

    Sorry, still makes me MAD!

    Anyways, when we replaced the starter switch, we had to pull the cowling around the steering wheel, and everything looked okay down there. Still, I'll keep that in mind... may brave the PIA cowling again to take a closer look.

    Tightening the fuse box last night did no good. It just gets dusty here in southern Nevada, and it came from southern California, so I'm not sure how grimed the starter is. But it does seem like the next logical choice to check.

    Thanks for all your help!
  • davey49davey49 Posts: 5
    Was this problem ever fixed? I would've replaced the battery regardless of what the people said. 4 years is about time to replace it.
  • I have posted about my car, but I also wanted to post about my mom's 2004 Saturn Ion. She had the same problem w/her car not starting in low temps this winter. Her dealership also replaced her igntion switch and then it was fine. I do understand that cars are complicated machines/computers, etc. However-- a car should not repeatedly fail to start in cold temps. My uncle tests cars in Alaska--but, they are Toyotas! Maybe Ions are not as rigorously tested?!!? Also--dealerships need to do a better job at providing customer service. I think Saturn is alienating their loyal customers like me by providing a low-quality car combined w/bad service and multiple, expensive repairs!! I will not be returning to my Saturn dealer again for a new car!
  • jswitzer1jswitzer1 Posts: 1
    I have a lengthy tail to tell, please bear with me. I have an '03 Ion and have had intermittant starting problems. I had the ignition replaced before the warranty ran out, which seemed to fix it, but the starting problems have returned. I didn't think temperature was not a factor, but now that 90 degree weather is here it hasn't failed to start in about 2 weeks.

    Meanwhile, I was in an accident and one of the parts replaced (with an after market version) was the right front running lamp/blinker. A week to 10 days after I got the car back, the light developed intermittant problems, sometimes it would light up/blink and sometimes not. I took it back to the dealers body shop where the repairs had been made and after an hour or so of swapping things around, a tech noticed the bulb for that light didn't fit the socket tightly and was losing connection. Sounded simple enough to me. But the appraisor suggested I bring it back the next day when a certified GM tech could check it out. That guy decided that the starting problem and the running light problem were both due to me needing a new BCM, to the tune of $560.

    I had read about a recall on 2003 Ion's for the bulb/socket issue, although mine wasn't in the recall. But this was NOT my original running light, it was the after market version the insurance company authorized. I wonder if that light could have been from the batch with the problem that prompted the recall?

    Not to be too cynical, but I'm not ready to drop $560 on a BCM just yet. Can anyone corroborate that the starting and light problems sound like a BCM issue? I imagine they could be in some cases, but I'm not sure about this case. I'd like to have another running light installed to verify, but can't seem to get the appraisor to call me back. Knowledge IS power, so any info anyone can provide would be greatly appreciated!

  • jelswickjelswick Posts: 1
    A couple of the issues posted sound similar to my problem. Occasionaly, my Ion won't start. It will sputter, then do nothing during the next 5 or so tries, then almost start, then nothing for a few more times, on and on for up to 20 minutes, and then it finally starts with a loud backfire and then a really strong gas smell. The problem is not tempurature dependant. The first time it was sunny and 70, then it's done it in the winter, in the sun, in the rain, and yesterday sunny and 95. Any thoughts?
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