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Saturn Ion Starting Problems



  • Excellent diagnostic analysis !! I wish I would have read this before I got it towed to Saturn only for them to tell me I needed a new battery. Beware of this problem !
  • A few days ago on a whim I wrapped several scarves around the steering column and the ignition of my 2003 Saturn Ion thinking that if I could keep it warm it might start. For the past five days I have wrapped it up and it has started every time. After the first time I added a long piece of quilt batting and then secured it with a scarf. It sounds silly but so far it's working. I live in the Northwest so it doesn't get much colder than slightly below freezing. The ten minute problem didn't start until last year. That may be due to the fact that we had rather mild winters from 03-08.
  • I boughta saturn ion 2 at the end of 2005. My 2006 was a lemon from the start. Made all kinds of noises, air circulation vent didn't close tightly, then there was the window leaking all the time. More or less they did some test it never leaked. Must have been my Then the following year the not starting of the car started. Had the whole ignition replaced some gel was worn out they said. A year later had to keep replacing brakes and tires every year since. The car had to be jumped once and lost my radio over that. They sell you the car and dont tell you all this anti-theft devices. So the $50 charge to plug in some numbers to the motor for my radio costed me $200 to get the radio back. Now the car has issues with the power steering just cutting out whenever it wants too. Did they tell you there is no power steering pump and that the car runs off of a circuit board for steering? No they did not tell me that. I have hated this car since day one, I have complained about it at least twice a year since I bought it to Saturn. They don't care they just want your payment. I have always bought foreign cars and now I know why. Parts of my car are foreign but not all. To top it off my deal no longer sells Saturns and they charge way too much to fix things. A purchase I will never forget.
  • my car does the same cold weather not start thing. last week my car didn't want to start back up for me at night when i had driven it all day. waited it out and then it worked fine.
    yesterday the same scenario but it wouldn't start up for nothing. tried getting it jumped started cause back in july it locked up on me after running the radio and fan for 20 mins. the saturn mechanic said to get it jump started. was stuck at marshalls parking lot and had it towed home. then had it jumped the next morning.

    had no problems till yesterday. it wont start even after getting jumped 2 times. finally got it towed to the mechanic and am waiting to see what they say is the problem. the tow truck driver thinks its the anti theft device and the roadside assistance guy said its the starter. so let's see.
  • esprixesprix Posts: 11
    aim2please, have you read back through this thread? There's clear instructions on how to easily solve this problem yourself without having to get a new starter.
  • well got my car back from the service center that i used before. the problem was my battery. it was no good and had to be replaced. they said it started right up. it wasn't the 10 min wait it out problem..that's a separate issue & I always wait it out. i did notice last winter that the no start only happened when i didn't get my oil changed when the dashboard computer gave me the reminder. i had to wait a few months cause of finances. after i got the oil changed and fluids checked and free safety check done it was fine 'til the incident in July. might have been bad cells in my battery all this time. i will look into the white wire fix if it acts up again. my mechanic said that this was def. a bad battery. thank the Lord it was nothing too major.

    btw i just found out about the white wire work around as of yesterday. also i will look into getting a battery warmer. might ask my brother to get one for me for Christmas.
  • My wife owns a 2004 Saturn Ion, after looking on YouTube and seeing oblio9's video I am contemplating cutting the white wire. She had this problem last year and once again the temperature is dropping and the car is not starting. I was wondering if anyone who has cut this wire has seriously messed up their car? Oblio how is your car running? Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank You
  • Okay...this white whire fix sounds AWESOME! Becasue i know if i call the dealer it's gonna cost money!! I have seen the TSB# for this and it suggests a new ignition sitch and reprogramming. Does anyone know oif the white whire fix will work for 2006?? I don't want to cut something i shouldn't be cutting!!!

  • You will be relieved after you cut the wire, I can assure you of that. If you’re in question about cutting the white wire do it the way I did it. I put a connector in place so that it would be easy to reconnect if needed. I cut the wire shortly after my October posting and my daughter shipped the car to Las Vegas and HAS NOT had one problem since. Before we cut the wire it was a daily problem.

    Happy Holidays! Joe Tree
  • :) You will be relieved after you cut the wire, I can assure you of that. If you’re in question about cutting the white wire do it the way I did it. I put a connector in place so that it would be easy to reconnect if needed. I cut the wire shortly after my October posting and my daughter shipped the car to Las Vegas and HAS NOT had one problem since. Before we cut the wire it was a daily problem.

    Happy Holidays! Joe Tree
  • I to have had a no start 03 Ion in the winter. It gets worse every year. I changed the Battery and waited the 10 minutes, but I have to get to work at 6am. I was going to cut the White wire too and put a switch in line so i could use the security in the summer. I am an electrician and I heard about the bigger wire and wrapping the steering column but that wont work. The car gets warmer on the inside in the day time and the car will start. Here's what I Found, I heard that the grease in the Ignition thickens and as it gets older it becomes hard. I took off the Plastic around the steering column, the 3 screws are underneath. When the cover on the top and left side are off (you don't need to take the right cover off) The ignition switch is about 6 or 7 inches long and on the left end of the switch is a black plastic switch assembly with a green plug with wires coming out in the black switch. Pull out the plug (it's kinda tight) then get a torx driver (don't know the size) and take out the 2 torx screws.
    Then wiggle the black switch pulling as you turn the ignition switch with the key in it. It took me 3 or 4 tries to get the switch off pulling quit hard. There is a kind of a 1/4 inch squire end on the rod that goes into the switch and you have to align the switch and rod to get it off and on. When you get it off go into the house and lay a paper towel on the table. Pay attention to the way the switch comes apart (IT WILL BASEICLY ONLY GO TOGETHER ONE WAY) there are two small tabs on the switch that you might have to push in to pull the switch apart. once apart find the circuit board and take some alcohol on a paper towel and clean the grease off the board. There will be some black in the grease, When clean I took a little Vasaline on a Q-tipe and wiped it on the same side of the circuit board that had grease on it before. I put as much vasaline on it as about a 1/4 drop of water (VERY LITTLE) or don't use any vasaline. Wipe the silver fingers that touch the board (DO NOT BEND THE FINGERS) Snap the switch back together and reinstall the switch with the screws (THAT WAS THE HARDIEST PART) After the screws are tight try and start the car.
    When it starts, shut it off and put the plastic parts back on. I pulled the airbag fuse but I don't think you have to. If you want to pull the fuse it is under the vertical cover
    that your right knee touches, take out the black plastic screw, it turns 90 Degrees to unlock. the fuse diagram is on the back of the cover.

    This is The one that worked for me and it worked for a friend at work too. I think it is the grease insulating the fingers from the pc lines.
    It took me about 40 minutes, 10 minutes just for putting the screws back in because you can't get your fingers in there. A short torx wrench about 1 to 1 -1/4 inch long is the longest you can get in there. A pair of needle nose pliers will really help. Good Luck
  • Please report this issue to Consumer Affairs as soon as possible.

    Together we can hold GM accountable for the poor construction of certain vehicles.
  • I have had a problem with the security light comming on when I drive after cleaning the grease off the curcuit board and when it does the odometer says "service vehicel" If I push the trip odometer button for a second the message goes away.
    But it was 7 degs. last thursday morrning and the car started right away.
    So I don't care about the light. Next I am going to pull the fuse to reset the computer and see if that stops the security light comming on and the message.
  • spqr1spqr1 Posts: 2
    I have a 2003 ION 2 and was transferred to Germany from Georgia. In Georgia I dealt with the would not start for 20 minutes as well. The temps in Germany right now have been in the teens to twenties. I broke down and snipped the infamous white wire and it has fired up ever since. I got tired doing the usual 20 minute waiting period before it fired up again. Took 20 minutes total and like the video/posting said, the yellow security light on the dash stays on and the service vehicle message comes on. You can turn the service vehicle message off by hitting the trip meter button or simply waiting and it goes away by itself. Other than that, I have experienced no further "side effects".
  • exia1exia1 Posts: 1
    Wow, I just can't believe that there is so many problems for the Saturn ION. I bought a Saturn ION 3, 2003 used. A friend of mine said that the Saturn's are the best vehicle that he ever bought. So going on his word, I bought one used. Less than a month, it started to have problems. Went to the dealership to get it fixed, no problem. Was running great until yesterday. The car wouldn't start. It was -12 degree Celsius with a wind chill of up to -21 degree Celsius of where I live. I thought it was the battery, it took about 10 tries before the car started. I called the mechanic and he said to use fuel line anti freeze. I bought it, poured in the gas tank and waited to till morning. Car wouldn't start. So now reading this thread, it could either be the battery, the ignition switch or both. Damn it, why did I listen to my friend.
  • oblio9oblio9 Posts: 19
    In your friends defense: my Ion is my second Saturn. My first one was fantastic. I abused it and drove it into the ground and it never failed me. I loved it. The second one has been a disaster in my book. Unreliable, inflexible and sensitive. Total pain in the neck. I reccomended Saturns to other too. Very enthusiastically. If you read about the fall of Saturn you find out that Saturn of 10 years ago is not the saturn of the last several years. It's a shame as it was a great car company. In any case, sorry you got stuck like us but don't go too hard on your friend.
  • Many of us, I'm afraid, fell for the same trap. As I confessed 'way back in , my Sister-in-law purchased her troubled ION upon my advice. But I had previously owned two Saturns and she had owned one herself! All performed flawlessly for years -- but all were SL2's -- not the IONs we are all struggling with now.

    So, please don't beat up your friend; he's a victim, too!

    The good news today: Since she replaced the ignition switch eight months ago, the car has started every time. Of course, she lives in sunny southern California . . .">link title
  • jabbjabb Posts: 1
    My wife got Saturn Ion 2 model 2005. It is also having the same problem not starting after 10 minutes most often on cold weather. We are always left behind when everyone goes home from a party. Do not cut the wire yet. Try this method first and it has been working for me for 2 weeks now. TURN ON THE PARK LIGHT BEFORE STARTING THE CAR. When your car starts you will notice that your right day time running light will work likewise your front right turn signal too. If you thought it was effective and helped you, kindly go to my ebay and search for "Saturn ION 2 will not start - $1 remedy " by GREATBUY4SURE. thanks
  • Just want add my frustrating experience with a Saturn Ion 3 sedan and the no start issue. A week ago when the temperature dropped here in Winnipeg to -15 degree C, the Saturn or what I call the red lemon, decided to take another winter holiday again for the 5th straight winter. There it sat in the driveway looking like a giant red poinsetta while we drove around it in 3 dependable, high quality Chrysler products.

    I finally had CAA tow it to my Saturn turned Chevy dealer for service. They claimed after 5 years and 120,000 kms that it needed a battery and this was why it wouldn't start. At this point I should point out that the red lemon has had 4 ignition switches and 1 body computer since we bought it new 5 years ago if my memory serves me correctly. Not to mention some of the other issues this car has had not related to starting.

    So they put in a new battery and now sitting in a warm service shop of course it starts. I am out about $230 with their diagnostic time added to the battery and the installation costs.

    I drove to the dealer from work (50 kms round trip) pay the bill, get the keys and I verified that yes it actually did start. It is parked right in front of the dealership - must have wanted to advertise the high quality cars GM makes. I went back to work.

    After work I picked my wife up and we drove from home (60 km round trip) to pick up the red lemon and bring it home. I wasn't surprised when it failed to start. Lots of juice in the brand new battery of course but the Passlock system would not recognize the key because the car had now cooled off completely. So nearly 2 hours wasted and we head home leaving the red lemon for another trip into the service bays AGAIN. It has now been sitting for 2 weeks. I tried all of the usual tricks GM recommends to get this piece of junk to start

    So in the meantime we continue driving our 94 JEEP with 450,000 kms, the 94 Dodge Spirit sedan with 419,000 kms and the 99 Dodge Dakota with 380,000 kms all on original drivetrains. They all start at any temperature and all love to drive around our red lemon poinsetta. The 3 MOPARS combined give a fraction of the problems that the red lemon does and in the combined 39 years of service and 1,250,000 kms I can guarantee you these 3 vehicles have spent a fraction of the time at the dealership for repairs. They only ever let me down three times in that time period for 2 water pumps and one fuel pump.

    It is no wonder that GM hit the ropes this last year and is destined to take up last place in market share within a few years, if they manage to survive at all. I have well over $5,000 credit on my GM Visa card towards buying a new GM vehicle but it will go waste. I can not see myself ever buying another smelly GM cowpie.

    Now if some car thief would just steal it .... Ooops I forgot, that can't happen unless the thief has a Dodge tow truck.
  • blucatblucat Posts: 7
    Thanks to all who helped with the "White Wire / Cold Start" problems and, inparticular, these folks:

    meron, oblio9, bertbaggins, agawamguy, rockfish1 and amber13

  • My wife's 2003 ION was having the same problem. I owned the car for 4 years and then gave it to her. I never had any problems with it and I parked outside through 4 grisly winters. The first winter she had it, she ran into the same starting issues everyone else is having. A guy at work told her to mess around with the fuses and that they sometimes fail to make a proper connection. After doing that (probably for 10 minutes or so) the car started. It happened a few more times before we replaced the fuses and everything seemed kosher. Spring had sprung after all.

    The next year the car went dead and we were told it was the starter. It may well have been, because the car never started after that, but I now suspect it was a "series" of 10 minute freeze ups and bad timing on our part. We never made the connection to what had happened the previous year.

    This year, it started happening again. Same symptoms as everyone else. After a few instances of being stranded in the cold, she took the car to NAPA and got a new battery installed. But then it happened again...and again...and again.

    After doing a search and finding this thread, we came to the conclusion that we probably needed to cut the wire. But before doing so, I wanted to try one last ditch effort suggested by a poster a while back.


    My wife started turning the key until all of the dashboard lights came on, then waiting to start the engine until the lights turned off. It has been almost 3 weeks and (knock on plastic) she has not had a single issue. And we have reached temperatures as low as 10 degrees since.

    So my advice would be to try this method before taking the drastic step of cutting the white wire or investing any money in a new ignition switch, battery, BCM or starter. If it doesn't work for you, then pull out the scissors. I'll be sure to re-post if we run into any more starting issues.

    Now my question is: How do we tell if the replacement battery she bought is "vented"? And if not, what are the consequences? Do we need to re-replace the battery? FYI: She bought it at NAPA for about $85.

    Thanks and good luck to everyone.
  • Look at message 376 and 378.
    It has been 0 degs. F for a couple of days lately and I have had no problem starting my Ion. I am starting to get my confidence back that the car will start in the morrning. I think the reason the starting problem is showing up later in the cars life is the greese is drying up and getting thicker in the Ignition switch. Someone used the wrong greese.
    One of these You tube videos shows how to get the switch off and the other shows the switch out of the car and on a table. note the greese on the curcuit board. Good Luck :)
  • i live in san francisco and have the same problem
    so i dont think its necessarily a cold weather issue
  • if the issue is with the security system, wouldnt getting a new key work just as well?
    that way the car wont think you are using the wrong key
    my key is all scraped up.. so maybe thats why it thinks i am using the wrong key?
  • blucatblucat Posts: 7
    I tried the key and it didn't help. I'm in Virginia, it's cold and didn't notice the problem 'til cold spell. I cut the wire last week and it cranks wonderfully - each and every time! It was just above 20 F. this morning and no problems. Appears to be the contacts and grease on the ignition switch printed circuit board and affects the security system. Cutting the "White Wire" disables the security system. THE VEHICLE MUST BE RUNNING WHEN YOU CUT IT (see video elsewhere herein). And you'll need a 7mm socket (small diamerer) or a 7mm nut driver. When the weather warms up, I intend to replace the ignition switch, incluting the P.C. board, and use some better quality lube so I can re-enable the security system.

    GOOD LUCK TO YOU - and thanks to everyone who helped me solve my problem!
  • yeah, i tried my spare key today
    sure enough.... car didnt start again tonight
    cutting the white wire this weekend
    i live in san francisco so i still am not sure my issue is with the weather
  • I have been reading this thread for probably on and off for over a year. I live in NJ and the starting issues started about 2-3 years ago.

    Just like everyone else, it took 10 mins to sometimes a half and hour to get my car going. I would take it to the shop, which of course, the car would start every time for hits when hooked up to the computer, the mechanic (all three) could never figure out the problem - not the battery, the spark plugs, fuel filter, any and everything.

    After my last mechanic experience, I thought about the amount of time I am spending at the auto shop, the amount of time wasted starting my car and being late for everything....not to mention that the car had newly started to strand me places from not starting. It used to just give me a problem once a day, the first time I would fire her up, recently it was almost every time.

    Well, two nights ago, we decided to cut the wire. I had been thinking about doing it and then I saw the youtube video that someone did and decided to go for it. I figure, what is the worst that could happen? My car is a 2004, which I plan to run until it falls apart! I didn't want to have to get a new car and a car payment (which is what was going to happen, since no one could figure out the problem), nor did I want to go through just replacing things on the car until something worked.

    I cut the wire and my car has been great ever since! No more waiting for a 1/2 hour to get it started, being late to work, getting stranded everywhere and just the frustration of dealing with this car!

    I am so happy I cut the wire! I only wish I had bucked up and done it a year ago. I could have avoided so many cold days waiting for a miracle along with money at the mechanic and time lost at work.

    If anyone has this problem and wondering should they or shouldn't they......go for it. It will make you so happy!!

    Thanks to everyone here that has helped me fix my problem! You guys are all awesome! I no longer will get stranded anywhere or freeze to death trying to get my car started!!!
  • somewhere i read something about getting an oil change after cutting the white wire and resetting the oil life or something like that
    does anyone know what i am talking about ( i dont know much about cars so i barely know what i am talking about)
    and what do i do if i need to change the battery after the white wire is cut?
    my cousin is cutting the wire for me this weekend.... i cant wait
    i am sick of this 10 minute wait business
    and like i said before, i live in california where it doesnt get that cold
  • I just replaced my battery last week. Believe it or not it lasted over 5 yrs which amazed the Napa guy. I replaced it only because I was told it was getting low when I took it in for my inspection and to start w/ that to figure out the apparently, oh-so-famous, staring problems. Care to wager if it worked?

    Anyway, "Napa Guy" said they could test the old one to see if it did need replacing. As far as the vents, they should be on the top side edges of the battery. They look like smooshed ovals that the venting tubes attach to. As soon as you look @ the battery you should notice them. And yes the battery needs to be vented, batteries apparently give off some type of exhaust and being enclosed in the car could be dangerous. Not sure of the exact consequences but I sure don't wat to find out. If the battery was under the hood all would be well since there is no floor holding all fumes and exhaust in. I paid the same for my battery.

    Hope this helps. I'm taking my car in to my mechanic fri. and will be taking in a copy of your message and others to help him fix my car. My other option is to leave it on the train tracks in my backyard.

    Wish me luck!
  • thanks for the reply but i was wondering if you had to do anything with the white wire if its been cut when installing a new battery
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