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Saturn Ion Starting Problems



  • nsk123nsk123 Posts: 3
    The other day it happened at the exact same place for the 2nd time - at the costco pump. Instead of waiting for 10 mins. I pushed the car out to allow others to fill up, turned the steering to lock position and then started it - it worked. I would try this "spitting on the key" and turning the steering to lock it before trying again.
  • My husband left his headlights on in his 2004 Saturn Ion yesterday. They were one for about 10 hours and needless to say, the battery was dead when he went to leave work. A cop tried to jump him off for about 30 minutes. They even exchanged the batteries between to 2 cars to see if that would work. No such luck. Now that the battery had some juice, the radio and lights would come on but the engine wouldn't turn over. We brought the car home today on a flatbed truck. We still haven't had any luck. The battery is at full capacity now according to the battery reader. The computer reader gadget didn't show any codes. So, there seems to be nothing wrong with the car, except it won't start! There have been no issues thus far with this car. This is the 1st time that we've had a problem and it was caused by leaving the lights on.

    Does anyone know what could have caused this problem???
  • I took a look at my ignition pieces and studied how each one operated. I purchased the car used 1 month ago and already experienced 6 ignition failures related to the Passlock system. The blinking light on the dash with the padlocked car gave it away. I noticed that it doesnt fail to start with my wifes key (not original). When the ignition key is inserted into the ignition fully, it pushes a pin out the other end of the ignition assembly which pushes in the pin in the Passlock which is attached to the end of the ignition assembly. I believe the original key is too short to begin with. The difference in the two keys is the tip. The dealer ship made a spare key from a different blank than the original. The tip on my spare key is considerably longer which ensures that the Passlock pin is pushed in. The blank may be a valet blank. A new key like i have with a longer tip is well worth a try. I hope this solves your problem too.

    Passlock also shuts down the fuel system if the key fails to make the switch at any time ie. key on the edge of being too short.
  • pascoe1pascoe1 Posts: 1
    my saturn cut out on me on the interstate then it wouldnt start it wants to start it just wont stay running i tried a new fuel pump relay and dry gas and nothing. ive been told i need either a fuel pump or a timing belt but im car illiterate i can hear the fuel pump sometimes i dont know where my relay reset button is if anyone has any ideas let me know.
  • i got home from work last night and went to turn off my car its stuck at acc and i cant get the key out any suggestions?
  • when i'm driving my car at 40/60/70 is seems like the transmission goes into neutral and the tackometer hits 4/5 and stays there i have to pull over the car put it in park and then the car seems to run fine. this happens every now and then i have no warning it just happens. dealer replaced parts in my transmission and i still have the same problem. does this sound familiar
  • I too was having the problem of not starting and SOMETIME after the 10 minutes it would start. SMOETIME. So I too replaced the ign switch thinking I am going to have to go through the reprogram process. After i installed it it started right up! Now i am wondering if the switch was the problem or not. Has anyone ever went through this switch replacement without reprograming? Please respond and let me know otherwise I will just have to wait to see if it hapens again.
    Thanks :cry:
  • frdracfan,

    If you have already replaced the ignition switch you should not be facing this issue, unless there is a problem with the BCM. If you got the dealership to replace that switch they would relearn it, you would not need to do anything.

  • Nsk,

    I replaced the ign switch myself and was going to go through the reprogram myself but after i installed it it started right up. The car was already running again when i installed the switch so i dont know if that fixed it or not.
  • mappeemappee Posts: 2
    My daughter's 05 Ion won't start. Turn the key and nothing. No sound just passlock warning icon in dash. 10 minutes later it may or may not start. I've read all the posts and decided to call Saturn and get to the bottom of this debacle.
    Saturn says if enough people call they may take action, but they had no figures on how many people have called. 866-790-5700 Call and complain!

    Currently Saturn says NO recall is planned and repairs are the customers expense.

    I took car to a dealer and he replaced the IGNITION SWITCH for 230.00. Wait...they did give me 31.00 off? 199 "How nice swich was free".
    Let's see how this works, and it's gauranteed for 12K or 1 year.
    ION such shame CALL SATURN! !! !!!
  • mappeemappee Posts: 2
    Saturn told me they work close with the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Asscioation) You may want to file a complaint there also. 8 minutes, EZ enough.
    Call 888-327-4236 to file your complaint.
  • My 2003 does it as well. It all started this past winter. Happened about a dozen times and stopped. Then yesterday I had my car parked in the work garage and even with it being 50 or so roughly out, it wouldn't start. It did it again this morning when I headed into work at 6am also. The "service vehicle" light displays when it happens if I don't immediately turn the key to the off position. Mine does typically start to make the noise like it's going to start but just doesn't seem to catch. If I try to turn it on immediately after turning the key to the off position, then it's quiet and the passlock light and the engine light come on. My Saturn is a standard transmission. Do any of you have the manual transmission and this problem or is it just the automatic? I kinda learned to tell when it is going to do it. The clutch doesn't want to push in easily (and I practically have to put all my weight on it).
  • Thanks Meron. In August, I bought a 2003 Saturn Ion from a dealer for my son to drive to school, and the 10-minute-due-to passlock problem started to occur every few days. I followed your email instructions to the letter, and everything you said worked out. We haven't had the problem for about a month. I am still amazed that you figured out this fix, when from what I have read elsewhere, many Saturn dealers have spent lots of time and money without fixing it. One extra point I should make, in case others also want to do this fix too. Ever since I cut the white wire, I've been getting a SERVICE message on the odometer when I start the engine. I just push the Odometer dial once and the message goes away. Thanks again.
  • I want you all to know I feel your pain with the starting problems on the Ion!!! I too, own a '06 Ion, and think I have found a very cheap & easy cure. LEAVE THE KEY IN THE IGNITION! Once I was done driving around and was parking (in a secure spot) for the night, I left the key in the ignition. I haven't taken it out for over a 6 weeks, and no problems. There is no sensor to be tripped if the key is left in, the anti-theft device is tricked into thinking all is well when the key is left in. I use my spare for locking my car when in a parking let, etc. It gets annoying hearing the buzzer, but hey better than not starting at all!!! I live in northern MN so it has been plenty cold, to have problems and I haven't since I've been testing my theory. Good Luck to all!
  • Thanks Meron, I have spent hundreds of 10 minute periods sitting in that darn ION and your wire cutting trick did the job! Starts at once! I tried to negotiate with Saturn..........It is the last Saturn I will buy. This is the third switch, and I said enough is saved me 300 bucks.
  • I just stumbled across this tonight, and I have to admit I haven't read all 12 pages. It's been happening to me too! I have an '06 Ion, and I love everything about it except this! It only happens when it's cold, and it's so annoying! I can't figure out what it is about the cold that makes the car not recognize the key and therefore disable the fuel. I was thinking about getting a new key and trying that (I got this one used, thought maybe the key was worn and when the cylinder gets really cold maybe it wasn't making the right contact), but now that doesn't seem like it would help at all. It seems to me that once I get it to warm up a bit, then it will start up and be fine. I haven't had any problems with it while driving, it just won't start when it's cold.

    For those of you who have complained about it, who do I call/email to add my voice? This is ridiculus! And I emailed my local dealership a week ago about this (it's happened twice in the past 2 weeks and it's not even that cold yet!), and they didn't even bother to get back with me! And I used to work there! Anyway, if you guys tell me who to complain to, I will gladly do so...they should be doing a recall for this if this many of us are having problems. From what I've read, it's not just Saturns, it's pretty much all cars with the passlock system.
  • meronmeron Posts: 21
    Your welcome, ebikedude.

    What year is your Saturn? What color wire did your cut?

    It has been about a year and my daughter's car is still fine; no starting issues.

    There are a lot more cars out there with similar issues on passlock, not just a Saturn issue. If Saturn, or parent company GM wanted to do any of us a favor they would bring back the EV an all electric automobile that was super popular with everyone who got one under lease; not for sale. Watch "Who killed the electric Car" on dvd. They could sell them now, faster than they could make them, and maybe not have to depend on government bail outs. Or maybe that was the plan.

    The 'Man behind the desk' makes all the decisions these days, as in Ford Pinto; cheaper to settle out of court than fix the issue. Even if it does cost human life, doing so. It would be hard to expect moch of anything from Saturn as long as they can sell these switches by the bushell.

    If anyone else uses this wire cutting technique, they might list make and model, and wire color. Otherwise I like the idea of leaving the key in the igition; just keep a spare to gain entry.

    Also thanks to all the others who posted re-teach and waiting rules for this car, as well as other advice and experience. I wish we could all find a way fix these things that manufactures won't address.

    Good Luck!

  • I was reading on another board. This guy said that all he did was take out his old ignition switch and clean all of the grease out off the inside of it. He said it may take a half hour or so to clean. when you are done, spray a graphite lubricant on the parts and put it back in. The car should start fine now. there will be no thick grease to freeze in the winter. I'm going to try it soon. I bought the Haynes repair manual, and it looks very easy and straight forward to remove the switch. I think taking apart the switch and cleaning it will be the hardest part. Has anyone else tried this idea, and does it work


    A very annoyed Saturn owner
  • meronmeron Posts: 21
    I tried this also, as the explanation was that saturns sent to KY were with the heavy lube. It did not fix the issue, just worked for a few days.

    I posted a fix I used in previous listings, around #84 or so if I remember correctly. I think you can click on my screen name to find them all.

    Simply I cut a small white wire on a 2003/4 Ion's starter switch circuit going to the BCM while the car was RUNNING. It is located at the rear of the switch after removing a plastic cover.

    Other year saturns could be a different color wire, I am not sure about that. You can check my posts from last year for the links to installing a remote starter to Ions. That's where I found the instructions last year when I had the problems. No problems since I did this mod.

    Rockfish has instructions for reteaching the BCM, to get the car started, if you need it.

    Hope this helps.

  • was yours not starting becasue it was below freezing like mine.
  • also, where is this wire located. is it the set of wires connected to the ignition switch when you take apart the steering colum. Also it says to diconnect the battery and the airbag when working on this part of the car. I'm assuming you must not have since the car has to be running. :) lol I guess you just have to be careful right?
  • meronmeron Posts: 21
    Yeah, the only time was when the weather turned cold. The 'white' wire is like 24 guage, tiny. I think it is a voltage drop that the BCM sees as less than what the key is supposed to engage when put in the ignition switch. The small wire loses conductivity at colder temperatures, like needing a larger diameter extension cord for longer distances, or when it is cold.

    All this is in previous posts # 84. The car starts now and thru all the cold of last winter, since I cut the white wire. I simply put wire nuts on the two severed parts, but you can install a switch. However you must cut the wire while the engine is RUNNING, so to tell the BCM to start from then on.

    (If the voltage to the BCM varies more than 10% or so, it will defeat the fuel pump circuit. Cold weather can decrease the voltage by that amount as it is only a few volts to begin with, and a very small wire.)

    If your cars restarts after about ten minutes, this is probably this problem.

    You should try the cleaner, just to see for yourself. You may have more luck than I did. It took a lot of hours to find the circuits for a remote start that I used to bypass the anti-theft, on the internet, but it was a lot cheaper than the dealer. And many people here have replaced the switch more than once. Some many times. As long as saturn can sell switches, and charge labor, they probably will.

    There are links to the remote start circuit on post #84.

    The white wire is at the end of the ignition switch behind a plastic cover, wrapped in black electrical tape.

    Good luck!

  • meronmeron Posts: 21
    You can check with john2004 or ebiduke, recent posts just before yours, as they have saved over $300 by cutting this wire. It seems to have worked for both of them.
  • so basically I could cut the wire just like you did for free, and deal with the yellow light always being on, or I could buy the 40 dollar bypass, or the 70 dollar bypass. eaither way my car would start no matter what?
  • meronmeron Posts: 21
    Mine has, as well as the two others on this site that I know of. I only read about the switch installation, and the only benefit is the padlock light would go off, as far as I know.

    This was for the 2003/4 Ion. I don't know what year model yours is, or the others for that matter.

    Anyone who has had luck doing this mod with other year model might post a reply here.

  • yeah mine is a 2004. The only thing i'm curious about is that when you cut the wire, does it affect any of the other warning light and singnals that come on when your car is not running correctly, ie: brake lights, oil, check engine. From what you said, it sound like everything else runs and works perfectly. I swear this is my last question. :) hehe
  • meronmeron Posts: 21
    yeah only the little padlock thingy.

    This car has done well for nearly a year, since I cut the white wire. My daughter drives it and puts a bazillion miles on it. I did call several dealerships, and some of them were some help.

    The remote start idea came from my daughter, and then I researched the pass lock.

    Alls well that ends well.

    The voltage on the white wire is only like 6-8 volts. Use insulated cutters if you like. and seal the ends, like with small wire nuts or tape or both, while the car is RUNNING. The BCM thinks there was an accident or something, a failsafe in the system, and allows the circuit to be bypassed.

    That's it.

    Good luck!

  • I bought one of those bypass switches online for 35 bucks. I let you know how it works once I get it and install it. thanks for all your help. Hopefully this saves me a giant headache. :)
  • meronmeron Posts: 21
    Which website did you find it on? Does it come with any instructions for installation?

    You might post some of that info here, as well as the results of installing the switch on your saturn.

    Once I cut the wire I'm pretty sure I just turned the car off and then put wire nuts on th end. Your switch should come with some type of instructions.

    Hope all goes well! Let us all know how it turns out!

  • I ordered it from I'm assuming it comes with instructions. The part I ordered had the same diagram and set up that you posted previously. I will post how it works once I get it installed, and hope fully it will help out more people
  • I own a 03 saturn ion3 and I am having the same problems that everyone else is having with the car not starting only mine happens in Phoenix, AZ. So, my problem is not in cold weather at all.

    This is what happens:
    I drive to the store to get a gallon of milk, come out of the store and the car will not start. All of the lights are on, the radio works fine. Then I try to start it and if acts like it wants to start but then it just dies and the service engine reads across the screen. Then I try to start it again and nothing but all the lights are still on. Then I will go back in the store and mess around for 10-30 min. Go back to the car and all of a sudden it starts.

    I have read everything above and I am definately going to try leaving the key in the ignition and see if that works for now.

    Is anyone else having this problem in high temps? If so what did you do? Does anyone know why Saturn has not put out a recall on this?

    Thanks :(
  • Hello,

    I've been reading these blogs for the last year. My wife has an 03 ion. Her car has been having trouble starting for the last three winters and the ten minute rule seems to work each time. After reading the blogs, I thought maybe heating the ignition switch might work. So, I sat with a hair dryer blowing hot air on the ignition and it starts every time. I'm planning on changing the ignition switch. Is that a full proof cure? I've read many people replace those frequently. I've also read about the wire cutting trick that seems popular. I called Saturn and asked about an ignition switch designed for northern and southern climates, and they didn't seem to know what I was talking about. Although, I didn't specifically ask about a norther "lube" versus southern "lube". Any help would be appreciated.

    frustrated and cold husband
  • We have not had problems with our '03 Ion starting since we had the remote start installed over the summer.

    I see no one posted to your reply yet. For what it's worth, I noticed that the trouble in my wife's car seems to be happenning earlier in the fall and later into the spring. So, the ignition switch may be just getting worse as it goes. The hair dryer works every time. It's just time consuming (five minutes each start). I'd check out posts aournd #84. I think those have been helpful.

  • Hey my name is cassie and we are having the same problem! We are going to call corporate but I think we should all join together and file a lawsuit so big they change the make of their vehicles. Good luck to all who are facing the same problems we are! I think the news is going to love this story! We have had a 2003 level 3 saturn ion for less than two years. When we called the Saturn dealership they said we needed to have another diagnostic done. We originally had it towed to Gattos and they would not even charge us because the manager said there was absolutely nothing he could do. Saturn said this NEVER happens so they would have to special order the piece at a charge of $416! I hate being lied to! It seems more than just "1 out of every 4000" have this problem!
  • hey Cassie. I have a feeling no auto industry is going to possibly do a recall now that they are all screwed because greed. I think your best bet is to do what meron says or what I'm trying.
  • I was wondering if the remote starter everybody has been speaking about works with manual/standard transmissions. My wife's 03 ion 3 has a standard transmission. I've seen other remote starters that will work with standard transmissions and wasn't sure if the remote starter eveybody spoke about in this forum would work. Thanks.

    Cold and Frustrated Husband
  • tainataina Posts: 5
    I have the same problem! Was the bypass switch helpful? I was thinking about installing a remote starter..
  • I am not sure about manual transmission but my husband's is a standard and the remote starter works on his. He no longer has the problem starting the car as long as he uses the remote start to initially start his car and then puts his key in. Its nice too because he can just reach out the door and start his car to warm it up in the winter or cool it down in the summer and if anyone tried to take it it would just die on them (the doors remain locked).
  • tainataina Posts: 5
    I am considering getting a remote starter on my car but I have to wait until the end of the holiday season. Would a new key be a temporary solution? I have also "re-taught" my key (waited the 30 minutes for the pass-lock system to reset itself) but its such an inconvenience
  • I still do not have mine hooked up. I'm trying to find a way to hook it up without a remote starter. It seems like it should work, but the directions that come with the switch are for hooking it up with a remote start. I'm emailing some places that sell them to see if they have a solution for me.
  • tainataina Posts: 5
    I found an auto shop that will install the bypass without the remote starter--
    this is their website
    They charge $175-$200..

    Also, I would really like to try the wire idea that Meron suggested but I do not know any mechanic that would do it for me (and I am not comfortable trying it myself).

    So until I can get the money for this--I would like to try getting a new key or valet key to see if it would help. Has anyone else tried this approach and found it successful?
  • Tiffany,

    Do you know where your husband got his remote starter?

    Cold and Frustrated Husband
  • I did the white wire cut yesterday, no problems starting so far. I also left it out for 12 hours in the cold to make sure, and it started right up.

    Did notice that the clutch was a little sluggish when I started it, I doubt there's any connection there, beyond the fact that it's starting when it's out in the cold, and I may need some transmission fluid or something like that.

    One thing that I did notice is that I'm getting the Service Vehicle error, everytime I start the car. Is there a way to have that code cleared, or would doing so cause problems with getting it started.

    I will be posting up a blog post with picture on how to do this modification, anyone should be able to do it. I only had to buy a shopguide to confirm that I was cutting the right wire.
  • 96WS696WS6 Posts: 2
    I found this forum after replacing the starter, battery, and ignition switch on my 04 Ion (5spd manual). I cut the white wire today, and so far so good. I will definitely post again if the car redevelops the starting problem.
    As far as the vehicle error message, I have been just pushing the trip odometer reset button to get rid of it. I don't know how to prevent it altogether.
    My idea to get rid of the padlock light on the dash is to pull the bulb.
    Good luck to everyone.
  • Exactly which white wire did you cut was it coming directly from the bcm. my bcm is the one under the dash a little to the left of the steering column.
  • meronmeron Posts: 21

    The white wire is located at the end of the ignition switch, opposite from where the key is inserted. Check posts around #84 for more in depth instructions. This was for a 03/04 Ion; some models may be different, but most here have cut the white wire as per the diagrams, as bertbaggins used. It has worked for me for over a year now, and again as the weather has gotten colder, this forum has gotten very busy!

    The white wire was wrapped in black electrical tape on our car; it is a very small wire, and needs to be cut while the car is running. See my previous posts to bertbaggins, and others around 84.

    good luck!

  • tainataina Posts: 5

    Does the location of the wire depend on if the car is automatic vs. manual? Also, I have a viper car alarm-(not factory) on my car (Saturn Ion 03)--it wont be affected if I cut the wire while my car is running right?

  • For anyone who is unclear on where the wire is and needs clarification, you can go to my flickr feed and see the wire that needs to be cut. In the pictures, it is the wire that has the orange wire molds on them.

    These photos are going to be use if/when I get around to writing out a blog post describing how it's done. Been making sure all is well with my car before I do it. Over a week into the mod and I haven't had an issue with starting the car yet!
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