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Saturn Ion Starting Problems



  • bobkurbobkur Posts: 2
  • Yes, I am out of warranty also. Someone told me that since Saturn wasn't going to take care of me to go to the local fix it shop and they would be cheaper. Still think Saturn should pay!!!
  • My mechanic (not Saturn) printed a technical service Bulletin 3/15/2006 Reference no. 04-08-45-005D affected Models-2003-2006 Saturn Ion Built up to & including VIN Breakpoint 6Z147837

    My car would not start and it was just 3 1/2 years old, with under 30,000 miles but ,out of warranty. I replaced the battery to the tune of $232.00, because it was a vented one, in the trunk. I had called Saturn and they said it was out of warranty and they would not cover any of the expense, so I decided to have a new battery installed elsewhere. Come to find out it was not the battery at all but a problem with the ignition switch (which Saturn knew about) and had that installed to the tune of $118.00 even though the bulletin came out in Mar. of 2006 when my car would have been covered by the warranty. I bought my car new from Saturn of Daytona Bch Fl. but I will never buy another Saturn again because of the treatment I recieved from that dealership.
  • romo3romo3 Posts: 1
    i have a 2004 ION was fine until it got cold. its not under warranty and i bet its the ignition sitch. i was just wondering if saturn ever reimbursed your money?? And after you replaced it was your car fine?
  • jlp4jlp4 Posts: 3
    I have had the same problem with my Ion 3. Car is 4 1/2 yrs old w/53K miles. Started having starting problems in Dec 07. I replaced the battery and continued to have starting problems.Saturn said it was the ignition switch which I had them replace for $225. Less then 1 month after having the ignition switch replaced- the starting problem happened again. Went to Saturn and now they are saying the BCM needs to be replaced to the tune of $616. They offer no guarantee that the problem won't happen again once this has been replaced.. I've owned a Saturn car for the last 20 years and this will be my last Saturn.
  • you can replace it but you have to go through a three stage programing process that can only be done by saturn. For anyone who is having this problem I have been fighting with it for 4 years now and I have had it replaced once already. If your car is out of warranty then you need to call saturn Corporate and tell them what is going on, they will tell you to get a diagnostic done to prove that it is the ignition switch and then they will give you an area manager to deal with the problem I am going through this right now but it seems like every 2 years the switch will go. Sorry for the bad news but this is what I have been dealing with and I live in Maine so every winter I do this in freakin sub-zero temps. yeah!
  • it is your IGNITION SWITCH I have replaced mine two years ago and now it's doing it again so about every 2 years you will have to replace it. Sorry for no good news but mine has been a piece of junk ever since I got it. and one other thing to get your rear end re-aligned you have to get shim kits and the labor is unreal.
  • jlp4jlp4 Posts: 3
    I just got the ignition switch replaced in Dec 07. Now Saturn is telling me it's the BCM. I have contacted Saturn Corp and got a case# but I doubt it will do any good. Just another way for Saturn to suck money out of my wallet. The car is almost paid off so I'll get it repaired & hopefully it will last 2 more years and then I'll buy something reliable- not a Saturn.
  • I have a 2006 Saturn Ion and have been having trouble this winter with not starting. Turn the key and nothing happens. Of course I have 40,000 miles and warranty up at 36,000. Called dealership and they told me that the grease in the ignition switch gums up when it is cold and doesn't recognize the key which then activites the passlock system and car CANNOT be started no matter what for at least 10 minutes. Started doing some research and it seems Saturn has known about this problem with the ignitition switches for years and have done nothing to correct it. The dealership says they even keep a huge stock of them on hand because they have to replace them so often. They quoted me a price of $205 plus tax to replace switch. Called Saturn corporate in Tennessee and threatened to go to BBB if they didn't offer some kind of reimbursement. Received call the next day telling me they had talked to dealership and I would only have to pay $100 towards repair. I think they should have paid it all, but I guess something is better than nothing. My advice: Call Saturn corporate and give them a piece of your mind. If they get enough complaints maybe they will issue a recall so these can be replaced free.
  • yes well I am in that position right now but what they dont realize is that since they making us pay for the fix that is we have the power of a class action law suit. I have a paper from GM stating that some people may come in with this problem and that the only fix is to replace the BCM, and that is what they told me today. So I have a meeting with an area manager tomorrow, so with that in mind I will not take no for an answer cause this is unethical by every and all means!
  • I just had the ignition switch replaced today. I have an Ion 04. It cost me $120.00 which if it helps I guess it wasn't too costly. Apparently they hooked up the computer and it told them the ignition switch was open. There is a bulletin out but it just tells them how to fix it. I think they better recall it!! P.S. what is a BCM?
  • rockfish1rockfish1 Posts: 113
    It sounds like you received a good price for Saturn to replace the ignition switch. The switch itself costs about $30 from Saturn when I purchased one about a year ago.You are also fortunate you did not get pressured into buying a new battery and replacing BCM and the other parts of the system otherwise your repair bill total may have had a comma in it.

    As for the BCM perhaps this will help:

    Vehicle Theft Deterrent (VTD) Description and Operation Passlock™ System

    The theft deterrent system has been incorporated into the body control module (BCM). The theft deterrent is provided in order to prevent the vehicle operation if the correct key is not used in order to start the vehicle. The ignition key turns the lock cylinder. The cylinder rotation produces an analog voltage code in the Passlock™ sensor. This voltage code is received by the BCM. The BCM compares the voltage code to the previously learned voltage code. If the codes match, a class 2 message is sent from the BCM to the powertrain control module (PCM)/vehicle control module (VCM). The message enables the fuel injectors.The design of the Passlock™ system is to prevent vehicle theft by disabling the engine unless the ignition lock cylinder rotates properly by engaging the correct ignition key. The system is similar in concept to the PASS-Key® system. However, the Passlock™ system eliminates the need for a key mounted resistor pellet. The components of the Passlock™ system are as follows:

    The ignition lock cylinder
    The ignition switch
    The Passlock™ sensor
    The BCM
    The security telltale
    The VCM/PCM
    Ignition Lock Cylinder and Housing
  • A BIG thank you is due here. My )4 Ion had this problem the first year we bought the car. We had our ignition module replaced in 2005 because of the starting problems. Well i just took it in again today because we where having really bad starting problems lately. Well I drew the line lastnight. My car is currently down until i can get the time to fix i. So my wife works evenings so we don;t have to pay for daycare. Well when she called me at midnight to tell me the car wont start i wasn't happy seeing i get up at 4:30 for work. Well i managed to get it in right away this mornin & told them the what was happening and what was originally replaced. Well on my ride home in the rental car i got a callfrom the service department. He said we we pulled some codes and found that your computer is hosed and didn't say anything about the ignition switch. Well when they called for me to pick it up at days end they went over everything with me. He said that they replaced the computer but also went ahead and replaced the ignition switch because "Saturn" has figured out that when the computer goes bad it is also making the ignition switch go bad somehow. So int the end i ended up havin to pay the $100 deductable and the Rental car because the service didn't exceed 3hrs. Glad i got the extended warranty which expires in Nov.

    Well thanks i got some useful info from all of you. Hopefully i don;t have to come back for anything else seein i won't buy another Saturn now that there are GM. Saturn has lost there individualism it's not "Saturn" anymore is "G-saturn-M" all the cars look the same. sorry for the rant.

  • lola03lola03 Posts: 2
    I'm having the exact same problem with my 03 ION. The weather had gotten below zero here and the battery went dead. I charged it back up in the house. I then installed it and ended up with the same symptoms. The car won't start, the radio doesn't work, and I get the "POWER STR" message on the console. Did you find the root of the problem?
    Thanks All
  • I already replaced the battery, did not purchase it through Saturn cause I figured I would be at least double. Someone in these posts mentioned that the battery that is in the trunk was vented? Mine is in the trunk but didn't notice "venting"?
  • rockfish1rockfish1 Posts: 113
    The venting is thru two "ears" on the top of the battery which connect to the tubes that vent battery gases to the exterior of the car. Check your battery to see if you have the tube connected.

    Not all battery shops carry vented batteries. I was surprised Sears does not carry them.
  • lola03lola03 Posts: 2
    My problem is fixed.
    It turned out to be the ignition switch. I also needed a battery.
    The battery was cheaper at the dealer. I called several auto parts stores and was getting prices like $120, $145 for this vented battery. AutoZone doesn't even carry this type of vented battery and Napa wanted me to bring it in to match it up. Even the Saturn dealer I called to in the next city wanted $120. My dealer did it for $99 for the battery and $15 for the installation. Cheaper then I could do it.
    Another good thing was the tow. We have Saturn tow coverage on the car with the extended warranty and they paid for a tow to the nearest Saturn dealership. That is great when you live in a rural area like we do. I called a tow service directly and they wanted $130 cash and my insurance only will reimburse me up to $100. My car was towed at no change to me. They were even there in under 3 hours. That's not bad for a day when it's been below zero for a couple of days here and all the towing services have been busy. Plus my dealer fixed the car the same day.
    I was only charged for the battery work since the car has an extended warranty til 100k and I'm at 98k. Just in time!
  • we went thru the whole battery and ignition switch thing since day 1....finally after winter #4 and throwing a head gasket myself they found the connection to the battery was bad. We replaced the battery already per their recommadation but it still didnt fix it. Which i dont understand why there is a special vented battery that cost more. A regular one works just fine. And also if the car doesnt start right will jump start or if that doesnt....give it a few hrs of the temp rising and it started. We never had a tow. So after all the ignition switches, batteries, they also replaced the main computer it ended up being a problem in the connections going to the trunk to the battery. So far this winter. It starts everytime. First time since we have owned it that it hasnt had this problem. I really hate to say it to everyone who had the ignition switch and new batteries put year it will happen again. It always did. BUT HEY...good news....3 more payments and its mine!
  • Am experiencing the same ignition switch problems as alot of others here and will have to take it in to a dealership soon . Car flashes service engine light , won't start , all lights on dashboard light up , horn sounds after locking the doors , wait a while longer and it starts like nothing was ever wrong ..soooo frustrated !! I live in Jamestown NY , bought the vehicle 3 years ago from Orchard Park NY which is 65 miles away ( no Saturn dealers here in Jamestown ) , hopefully when I take it in to a nearby Chevy dealer they can correct this problem ( they service Saturns supposedly ) and it will be a recall issue that is relatively inexpensive for me . Any advice would be greatly appreciated ! Tim
  • 4r33l4r33l Posts: 3
    Ditto to everyones symptoms. In late 2005, when I had my ignition switch replaced, the dealer told me something along these lines: the ignition switch was developed, made, and tested in a state where the temperature doesn't dip below 20 degrees (ie, Kentucky). The "lube" inside the ignition switch wasn't quality-checked for freezing at "teen and below" temperatures. (This could be a posible explaination as to why the theft-deterrent system is triggered and the no-start occurs). So, the dealer replaced my ignition switch with the "northern climate" lube and has worked fine for over 2 years. But....

    Last week the temperature happened to be 10-15 degrees. Guess what? My car wouldn't start. Exact same symptoms as before. Luckily after trying to start it for a bit, and then going in the house and waiting 10 minutes before trying again, the car started and I was able to get to my job interview on time. (Thank God.) The weather warmed up immediately and for a week no problems, but yesterday, again, it's in the teens...

    So I just called my service dept, and the warranty work warranty has expired (they allow 1 year for malfunctioning warranty work to be repaired). So my warranty issue isn't retroactive--I'll have to pay for any repairs done. (This doesn't seem fair...). Anyway, I called customer service (800-553-6000) and they said that some repair "bulletins" have just been released "for 03-05 Ions with the no-start condition." Service is supposed to follow 2 possible recommended fixes Document ID#: 1959536 and Doc ID# 1871764. The customer service rep said that you should be able to obtain copies of these documents at the dealership. I don't have them yet myself, but the rep explained:

    One of the documents says that deposits left by "cheap" gas could be clogging the fuel system--use GM System Treatment Plus to clean the gas tank/lines, and use high-quality, detergent gasoline from places like Shell (not the cheap stuff from BP or Citgo). Since I have to buy the cheap stuff ($3.10/gal is cheap?), it is a strong possiblity that my current issues are related to having crusties in my fuel system. So I'm going to try a little clean-up before I invest in replacing the fuel pump, fuel line, or whatever. (I might just invest in a microwaveable hot pad and hold it on the ignition switch on those cold, cold days. LOL.)

    I do believe that replacing your non-starting ignition switch with one that has the "northern climate" lube is the cheapest, quickest solution. Don't spend a fortune replacing the battery, BCM, etc. The service department should not con you into that--by now, they KNOW how what the issue is.

    I'll update y'all about how effective using better gas and the cleaner is.
  • 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:
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