Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Saturn Ion Starting Problems



  • Replacing the ignition switch is not that costly or complex. I remain surprised that Saturn has not addressed this problem with owners in a better manner. I remember the salesman was very enthusiastic about showing how to replace the headlight by pulling the whole assembly out. Maybe they could have a class on ignition switch replacement since they don't want to extend warranty coverage.
  • I've had the exact same problem. I'd let it sit for a few minutes, try again and it imight start. I've heard/read several different solution recomendations and I THINK I'VE FINALLY GOT IT! Let me tell you why. I talked to the service dept. and I got the usual "yest it could be this or that" so I just called parts and at that time I was going to buy that Pass Lock Sensor based on another person's response on this or another chat site. The guy in parts said don't bother with that. Get an ignition switch. He noted that he sells them by the bunches when the weather gets cold - knows exactly where they are in the bins without even looking it up. I bought one, installed it and haven't had the problem since. It's easy to do. Ther are 3 or 4 bolts that secure the housing on the steering column. Remove it and you'll see the switch on the left side on top. Two "torqs" screws hold it which are kind of hard to get at so you'll need a flexible mini socket set set or something. You may have to put your key in and put it in the "on" position to allow the switch to come off - be sure you've disconnected your battery so you don't accidently trip an air bag. Unpug the switch and install the new one - you may have to reconnect the battery to get the key to come out again. Reconnect your housing and you're good to go. It's been below zero the past few days here and I've had no problems. The business about the lubrication is apparently true. The part is only 25 bucks or so. I too jumped through some hoops - new battery, new starter, clean the terminals repeatedly. The sad part is that it seems this isn't as widely know as it should be at the Saturn Dealerships - Saturn should replace this free anyway. Good Luck.
  • jlp4jlp4 Posts: 3
    I have had problems with my Ion since this past December. I am at the Saturn dealership weekly with the same non-start problem. It doesn't matter how cold it is. I have had the ignition switch & BCM replaced. Saturn has rekeyed the Pass lock system. This time they told me my battery cables were loose. Don't know how that one happened since the dealership is the only one show has touched the car. The dealership is very familiar with this problem with the Ion.
  • tbsierratbsierra Posts: 6
    My husband is thinking about installing a remote starter on his 2004 Ion and is wondering if anyone has tried it? He is thinking maybe this will bypass the problems with the anti-theft system. Has anyone tried this or can anyone think of any reason this might not work?
  • reba05reba05 Posts: 36
    I had to replace my ignition switch in January in my 2006 Ion. When I couldn't start my car, I called the dealership to make an appt. to get it in, thinking I would need to tow it there, however the service guy knew exactly what was wrong and walked me through getting the system reset so it would start for me to bring it in.
    Being that he knew right away what the issue was, I did ask why Saturn has not addressed this with a recall when it is happening to so many Ions, and he agreed....

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign In or Register to comment.