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Saturn Ion Starting Problems



  • Hey Folks!

    Agawamguy just checkin in. The last time my car didn't start was December 31, 2008. :mad:

    On January 1, 2009 (post #176) I cut the white wire while the car was running and it's started every time since. :D

    Passlock is disabled!
  • I did two fixes at the same time, so I don't know which actually fixed the cold start problem but it is fixed. the first fix is to remove the electronic guts of the ignition switch, a plastic module located at the rear of the ignition switch. then open it up by depressing 4 locking tabs. Carefully open it up. I used a q-tip with alcohol to wipe clean the defective grease. I then wiped a very thin layer of technical grease, rated to -45F to +185F. The second solution is to install the PLXR passlock module. it was very ease. If i had to choose one solution, i would choose to clean the grease from the ignition switch because it cost zero.
  • I have to give credit to somone else, but I read a post about waiting for the sensorlock light to go out first before trying to start and it has worked-- so far.
    Remember it is a 24 gauge wire, which is very fine, so the electric pulse could be slow in cold/damp weather, which make sense (becomes lazy)
    Put the key in the ignition and turn the key so all the warning lights in the dash come on, when the sensorlock light goes out (orange/yellow), then continue to turn the key and the car has started every time. I live just outsde of Toronto Canada and it gets cold. So far it has worked when the temp was down to -17 Celisus with a wind chill of -30 (that is really cold). Give this a try before cutting of wires. Tommorrow is another test -22 plus wind chill (extremely cold) :confuse:
  • Hi All I am new to this board. I have a 2004 Ion (which will be paid off soon). I love my car especially the gas mileage however I cuss at her a lot more lately. When I first got her brand new I had that problem with the blinker, then it seemed like I went through headlights every month. Last year I started having a hard time starting her in the morning when I got up early once a week to go to school in NH. A few times last winter this happened but not a big deal since I was in Grad School and not working more than part time. This winter has been HELL for me!!! I have to be at work at 545 am and guess what....SHE DOESNT START MOST OF THE TIME!! Remember last week when it was 5 below in CT? Guess where I was at 5am. Yep first sitting in a freezing cold car praying she would start then standing outside while my boyfriend tried to start her up and finally at 545 breaking every speed limit between here and work praying I wouldnt hit ice because I couldnt feel the steering wheel on my boyfriends Escape. Last week I drove his car 3 times to work (he doesnt have to be at work until 8a....big temp difference). After reading this forum it seems the best thing to do is cut the friggin wire. God knows we dont have the money or time to drive to Hartford or Wallingford or RI to have them check it out and then tell us we have to pay for a problem that came with the car. This is such CRAP! Okay time to breathe....
    Ive thought about writing Saturn and the BBB and anyone else who may listen and I most likely will. The one other person who I will write is whichever congressman helps decide whether or not GM gets the bailout money. Why should our taxpayer dollars be spent bailing out a company that sold us subpar cars? After what we on this board have been through who are seriously thinking about buying another Saturn? If they were willing to fix these problems for free it would be one thing but it sounds like they wont.
    Anyway thanks for letting me vent my stomach doesnt hurt as bad anymore. Oh and if anyone hears cussing and screaming tommorrow morning about 515am well then you know whats happening.
  • has anyone that has cut this white wire used both keys to start the car or does only the one work. My wife uses the car also and has her own keys?? :confuse:
  • I posted some time ago (168 ,169) reporting I thought it was the key. I used my old extra key and it worked for about a month. Then 1 day it would not start, I waited the 10 min delay and it started normally. knowledge is a good thing.

    I have now cut the white wire while running. The passlock indicator is on but my car always starts now. I live near Montreal Canada it was really cold last week 25C below or about -15F. No problems. (about 3 weeks now)

    1. If your car won't start, wait 10 min try again.

    Do not call towing, jump start it, or do anything else.
    Mine is a standard and I even tried to push start it.
    I learned the hard way changed battery, changed starter.
    It acted like a dead battery or poor starter connection, or high draw starter.
    What I learned was by the time you got a boost or did anything usually 10 min. had passed and the car would have started anyway if you had tried.

    2. Disabble the passlock system by cutting the white wire while the car is running.

    (see other posts here for details) This took me about 10 min. total and is very easy to do. (I am a aircraft mechanic by trade.)

    3. Ignore the light on the dash and enjoy a car that will start every morning in the cold.
  • meronmeron Posts: 21
    We've used any of three keys; they all work
  • I am just wondering if this fix is still continuing to work. I have had many different fixes that have cost a lot of money for this intermittent problem, but it always seems to not work once again. The car for me this past week, has not started on a daily basis and happens 2 to 3 times daily. I am wasting so much time waiting on the car to decide to start at various places... ie. grocery store, my work, the gym, etc. I am also embarrassed at work to have to continually leave early to go out and try to start it prior to actually being relieved from work. Please tell me that the inexpensive fix is still working and I will immediately make an appt.

    Also, when I checked with Saturn concerning the problem, it was stated to me and my mechanic that the problem was unable to be fixed. It was an issue that Saturn already was aware of and was not willing to do a recall since the problem was not a safety issue.

    Jennifer Keough
  • cut the wire. it works. no more headaches for you.
  • I have had no problems starting the car, since I cut the wire. Seems to have been a permanent fix for me.
  • reba05reba05 Posts: 36
    I have had the issue that others have talked about 1 year into owning my ION, and was replaced and seems fine still.
    New issue - problems keeping car running after starting, as well as, very slow acceleration. Brought it in and repair place diagnosed Ignition Control Module as needing replacement. When driving away from repair shop, "Check Engine Light" came on so we brought it back. They said all is fixed and runs well, but reason it could be on is Catalytic Converter. I am not a car person so don't know exactly what that means, but am bringing it in to Saturn to diagnose before making further repairs. Car is an '06 with 55,000+ miles which is not a lot.....we'll see what they say. I love this car but will be very disappointed if there are further issues, especially when not covered by warranty, will need to read up on that.
    Any advice is appreciated!
  • meronmeron Posts: 21
    I cut the wire in issues. It always starts.
  • cp62cp62 Posts: 1
    I have a 2005 saturn that won't start in cold weather and won't release the key from the ignition when it fails to start. I have read in the threads that this happens in 2003 - 2008 Saturns. Saturn refuses to do anything about it. Therefore, I am starting a class action against them. Email me at [email protected] for more info.
  • Hi, I also have a 2004 Saturn ION that doesn't seem to want to start in the cold weather. I've had it towed numerous times and to the same mechanic that I trust. He's never sold me anything that I didn't need. and he doesn't seem to know what the problem is. But by searching the internet it seems that I've found the problem but saturn doesn't want to step up to the plate and correct the problem. I called them today after reading all of these posts and was told by a someone in customer service ( 1-866-790-5600) that no one has complained about this problem before. So if this problem is happening to you please call someone at the above number and let them know that you're having the same problem and maybe, just maybe we can all get our cars fixed! Just to add to this, the car only has 22,000 miles on it and I mostly use it for back and forth to work every day. I had to take my Mother in laws 1988 Buick to work yesterday, which started up no problem in the cold. Don't forget to call Saturn!
  • I have had my 2004 Saturn Ion 2 for the past 2 years. It also does not start when it get's cold/ chilly outside. I have been stranded on spring and winter mornings. Recently (the only time it has happened thank heavens my children were not with me) it did not start in the middle of the day after it had started in the am. I have contacted Saturn corporation on several different occasions with no avail. They told me to have diagnostic test run and I did take it to a local dealership and was told that my car needed a tune up. Saturn eventually told me that there were no other problems and i had given them several websites where they could verify that other people are having the same problems. Needless to say noone there wants to admit there are problems with these vehicles. I also would not recommend calling them - email is best because you actually have verification that you have contacted them and reported the problem. Also my windsheild wiper system cam completely apart while driving in a snowstorm the other day. And I am having trouble with staind re-appearing on the seats.
  • choachchoach Posts: 1
    hi mikeey1, could you tell me what you have found with your starting problems seems that my 05 has done the same thing since December.
  • ricirici Posts: 7
    We changed the ignition switch..still have the problem.
    Yes, the passlock light comes on when it wont start. We are willing to cut any wires, do anything to get this darn thing to start on a daily basis. What wires?
    Did the automatic starters on the car keep working for those of you who had them installed.?
  • Hello,

    I was wondering if you were still having success starting your car. Contrary to popular demand, I recently changed the ignition switch on my wife's car. It was really easy and she/we haven't had any problems since. The white wire seems to be working just fine now since I changed the ignition switch ($40 for the switch and $20 for the Haynes manual). I wonder if Saturn just makes bad ignition switches. I realize this hasn't been everyone elses experience though.

    Warm and Happy Husband aka Cold and Frustrated Husband
  • ricirici Posts: 7
    I am worried I might cut the wrong thing. What does it look like? Where does it come from? Does the car have to be running? :confuse:
    I am an older woman with no mechanical skill, but desperate to have a car that starts each day.
  • oblio9oblio9 Posts: 19
    Here is the video I shot of me cutting my wire. This is the first video I have ever uploaded to YouTube and the first video I have ever edited so there are some bad transitions, stuff I had to speed up to get it under 10 minutes, etc but hopefully it is still informative. Let me know if it helps anyone. Thanks to everyone on this forum or I never would have know to try this anyway!! :)
    Video of me cutting the white wire
  • meronmeron Posts: 21
    Great video! Picture worth a thousand words! This should clear up any questions about the process.

    Anyone with cold starting issues should watch this video!

    Last year when it first got cold people were writing in about Ions not starting; it's the same this year. You can re-attach the wires when it warms up if you like, as when trading or selling your car. Really the only issue is the yellow 'pass-lock' icon staying lit on the dash.

    Thanks oblio9!

  • I used to have start up problems on my 2005 Saturn Ion 1. I brought the car to the dealer and told him I was having start up problems. Before I could say anything else he knew exactly what was wrong and they fixed it with my routine oil change. I haven't had a problem since and that was 2 years ago. I don't remember the exact explanation but I remember reading about this on another message board. Something to do with the lubrication that was only tested down south in warm temperatures?
  • Hi everyone,just want to let you know that on my saturn after I replaced the new switch never start again untill put the old one back and re-program it and I was able to start my saturn ,so right after I got it started cut the white wire and temperatures in conn.has been on the single digits and it starts right on with no problems,but I will put a on and off switch for summer time and to bring it to emission wich is every 2 years.So to all of you with this recomendation THANK YOU VERY MUCH. ;)
  • PIBPIB Posts: 2
    I own a 2005 Ion with the same problem. One suggested solution which didn't work for me was the idea of leaving the key in the ignition. I'm in Canada so have to deal with the Saturn Canada crowd and, while they sound helpful, haven't come up with a solution. It seems to me that a recall is the only answer but how do we get them to move????
  • I had this problem last year and I called Saturn to complain. After telling them about all the research that I had done and know that this is a problem they know about but won't fix, they told me they would fix my ignition switch for $100.00. If I remember correctly the quote I had got to fix it was about $150.00 so they really didn't do too much. Just so you know, I did report my problem on the phone and in writing. I don't think this will do much good unless EVERYONE calls to complain. By the way, since ingition switch was replaced last winter it has always started since then. We have had several days of below zero temps and so far no problems this winter, but I have a feeling that it is just a matter of time.
  • Hello,

    Thanks to everyone who's posted to this forum. It's been very helpful.

    My husband and I have a 2003 Ion and have been experiencing this cold start problem for three winters now. Initially we had it into the shop over and over again. They replaced the battery and checked out the starter - never finding anything wrong. We've been going to a new mechanic in the last year or two (who's fantastic - will never go back to the Saturn dealer) and he replaced the ignition switch this past October. Nothing helped and the problem was getting worse - happening nearly every day this winter.

    After reading this forum, we realized it was definitely a problem with the passlock system. We investigated the bypass module and then read that it wouldn't work without a remote starter installed. We also read about cutting the white wire, but weren't really comfortable doing that.

    So, we had a remote starter installed about two weeks ago. I explained the problem to the shop that did the installation and they suggested adding new keyless entry (we already have manufacturer's remotes) which would allow us to completely bypass the manufacturer's security system. The car has started up every time since - and it's been below freezing here in Chicago all but one day in the last two weeks. It was well worth the $325 we paid for it.

    I hope this post is helpful to another frustrated Ion owner. I will never buy another Saturn after this. We were about to get rid of the car, which we just paid off. I'm happy to be able to keep it now.

    I have not yet, but definitely plan to call Saturn and file a complaint about this. Good luck!
  • dy37dy37 Posts: 1
    Thanks for the solution meron and the video how-to oblio9. I just cut my wife's white wire (2004 Ion II) after at least a dozen no starts in January. Thanks to you guys, and the others who reported on the success of the white-wire method, my total expenditure was $1.99 for a bag of assorted wire caps.

    I can't report that the problem is solved since I just cut the wire; I'll report back (surprised) if the problem recurs. Last week, I tried waiting for the passlock light to go out before turning the key all the way to 'on' and also tried leaving the key in the ignition overnight. I experienced a no-start on the first attempt for both methods.

    Thanks again.
  • ricirici Posts: 7
    All of you who have cut the white wire, please let me know how it is going for you...if it is starting all the time or if you are experiencing the no-start problem still occassionally. I want to do this, and the video was WONDERFUL, but people i mention it to (who dont have a Saturn or this problem) tell me I am crazy to cut wires.
    But, if you tell me it is really working..especially those in the NorthEast, where it has been a cold winter so far, I will cross my fingers and go for it! The non-starting is getting to be too much, especially at 6:30 am each day.
  • PIBPIB Posts: 2

    See post # 215 for someone who cut the wire in 2007 and no problem since.
  • I cut the wire. its been like 2 months now. I live in minnesota. we have been below zero for like 3 weeks straight, and my car has started everytime since cutting it. Don't listen to your friends who say you are crazy to cut wires. it is the best thing to do if you own this stupid car. actually I can finally appreciate the car since fixing this problem. I haven't had any other problems to fix
  • Yes it works.

    I had problems for a year, cut the wire about a month ago. No problems since. I live in Canada where it is cold. Car works 100% now definatly the fix.
  • Hi,
    A friend of mine is a mechanic and he found out that Saturn has a bulletin out about this repair. The Bulletin Number is 04-08-45-005D and it's titled Ignition System - No Crank / No Start / DTC's B2960/B3033. it's dated March 15, 2006. Covering Models: 2003-2006 Saturn ION. I called up the dealership that I bought my car from and asked if their was any kind of problem with the ION's? He said no, I then asked to speak to the service manager and he said he was the service Manager. Lots of help they are. Call Saturn and let them know about the Bulletin. Hope this helps.
  • Hi,
    I have an automatic start and it doesn't help at all.
  • ricirici Posts: 7
    Thank you, thank you for the wonderful video. We just came in from cutting the wire, and I have high hopes. Of course, today it is 50 degrees out, so it started right away, but still plenty of winter still to come here in PA.
    The video showed us exactly what to do, and not hard at all.
    After the next cold snap, if the car keeps starting in the mornings, we will nominate you for sainthood!
  • ricirici Posts: 7
    Cut the wire and now it keeps flashing "Service vehicle" Does that stop after a while?
  • oblio9oblio9 Posts: 19
    Nope. It does that forever. The only way around it is to get someone to install a bypass for a remote starter. From what I have read it sounds like the part would cost you ~$60 and then whatever a shop charges you to install it. Unless you know how to do it. I looked at that and it looked a fair bit more complicated than cutting the wire and I can live with the service light.
  • The service vehicle comes on at every start up. Push the milage button once and it goes away untill the next start. The yellow passlock light stays on all the time. Just ignore it or put a piece of black tape over it.
  • :P Well I bucked up and took it to Saturn. I do not know cars enough to "cut the white wire" myself. So I paid $200 bucks for a new ingintion switch. I asked them if I have this problem 15 months from now will I be covered? Mechanic said, "Probably". Well its fixed for now. I can finally go out to my car and know it will start. I talked to the mechanic about everything we have addressed here.
    Only in Cold weather, wait 15 minutes and it will start.
    If it is broke it will stay broke. You know what i mean? Not start later eventually. Which means it is an electrical problem. They didn't charge me for the Diagnostic because DUH, I already knew.

    2 error messages:
    "44 times theft" - which meant if it didn't start, the car thought someone was breaking in.

    something else about not reading something but "valid".

    Well good luck to all, Amber a Saturn owner.
  • ricirici Posts: 7
    Good Luck Amber. We had the ignition switch changed and it still wouldnt start. I do hope that you have better luck with that than we did.
    Let us know.
  • Karen_SKaren_S Posts: 5,092
    If you own a Saturn and are willing to talk with a reporter about your experience, please contact [email protected] by Friday, February 20, 2008.
  • yes, Iam sure that a lot of people would like to talk to resolve this matter @ once you have questoins ,we have answers....... ;)
  • Sure,
    This is a major issue to me and I'm sure a lot of people would talk to you.
    Let me know what to do.
  • Just wanted to relay some information regarding replacing the ignition switch ($44 @ Local Saturn dealer) in my daughters '04 Saturn Ion. The torx bit needed to remove the screws holding the ignition switch is a size T15. I used this bit with a 1/4" combination wrench to remove the screws in the tight area. I disconnected my battery to replace it but you must be careful not to lock out your radio/CD player. If the theft deterrent is activated you will have to enter a code to use the radio after power has been removed and then reconnected. Myself, I have to go to the dealer to have them hook up their scanner (post 2000) and retrieve the radio code so a passcode can be obtained from GM.
    I had an idea that maybe the original ignition switch might have been OK and just needed to go through the computer relearn procedure that I did on the new switch. My problems (intermittant start, wait 10 min., etc.) seem to have started after I replaced the battery (power disconnected). Originally the problem was a low battery and the engine turned over slowly. The battery appeared to be original so I replaced it with 1 from local NAPA auto parts store (around $85). I didn't think to try the relearn procedure until after the new switch was in but might be worth a try for
    someone with a similar scenario.
    Just wanted to contribute a little to this discussion that has been so helpful to me in trying to remedy this problem! :)
  • I incountered A 2006 Ion yesterday. I have been a locksmith for 23 years specializing in automotive. Basically GM has 3 antitheft systems. Vats, passlock, and transponders. Yesterday I found that the Ion security system is Basically a passive Vats system. It lacks the hall effect coil and magnet of a passlock, and lacks the transponder and rf coil of a transponder. However it has the key rotation "sensing" of passlock and computer intigration of Transponder. The physical part of the system is very simple and located in the the black switch at the far side of the ignition housing and held on by 2 # 15 Torx screws. Inside this switch is a printed circuit board with only a resistor on it. The resistor is designed so that the "legs" are weak and will break free if the lock cylinder is physically forced and removed. I did this yesterday. I bought a new lock cylinder today for $19.51, but the car would not start. If you take this electrical switch apart you will find a small "foot" on the opposite end of the white plastic you can see with the switch assembeled . This "foot" is designed so that if you pull on the white plastic and rotate, it will break a leg off the resistor and disable the car. It is my opinion that when Saturn designed this resister with the weakened "tear away" leg the did not take into account the flexing of the printed circuit board or the expansion and contraction from changing temperture.
  • So what to do? (#1) With an ohm meter check the resistance. Here is a list. 1———— 0.402 ohm
    2———— 0.523 ohm
    3———— 0.681
    15————11.801 You will have the open the old switch to access the resister for testing. The #s 1 to 15 above are #s from the old Vats system. It may be possible that these #s are on the boxes with new switches from Saturn and ethier Saturn does not know what they mean or don't want to tell. IF YOU BUY A NEW SWITCH , THE OHM RESTANCE MUST MATCH THE OLD, OR IT WILL NOT WORK!
  • (#2) Take the old switch apart and resolder the leg back onto the resister. and to be safe cut off the "foot" on the white plastic piece, but do not shorten the length
  • This is the option I would choice for permanence. Remove the resistor from the printed curcuit board and solder a wire in its place. One of the 5 or 6 connector socket prongs ( the 2nd) which clearly connects only to one side of the resistor needs to found. Find out what color the wire is and splice a Vats bypass in. Done. Find the resistance of the old resistor and match it to a Vats# from the above chart. For example 3.7 ohms is a# 10 Vats. The vats bypass I am thinking of is simply a resistor. They might cost 2 Dollars or 20 dollars, I don't know. I have taken some camera phone photos that I will try to post here or on my website Please someone take some quality photos and post. If this works for you and you are good at writing, please do, I just want to get the word out about the bad resistors with "break away legs" . Also key length makes no difference, if it turns, its good. Good Luck.
  • This is the option I would choice for permanence. Remove the resistor from the printed curcuit board and solder a wire in its place. One of the 5 or 6 connector socket prongs ( the 2nd) which clearly connects only to one side of the resistor needs to found. Find out what color the wire is and splice a Vats bypass in. Done. Find the resistance of the old resistor and match it to a Vats# from the above chart. For example 3.7 ohms is a# 10 Vats. The vats bypass I am thinking of is simply a resistor. They might cost 2 Dollars or 20 dollars, I don't know. I have taken some camera phone photos that I will try to post here or on my website Please someone take some quality photos and post. If this works for you and you are good at writing, please do, I just want to get the word out about the bad resistors with "break away legs" . Also key length makes no difference, if it turns, its good. Good Luck.
  • I bought a 04 saturn ion when it was brand new and for the past three years have been having the problem with it not wanting to start. I replace the battery first, which really ticked me off as the dealer said since the battery was in the trunk it would last for 8 years. And I live in Florida and it would be 80 degrees and it still didnt want to start, by the time I jumped it of my other car it would start. Has to have happened 50 times. Long story short I took 5 minutes and cut the white wire. It has started better in the last month than it ever has. It does tell me to service engine every morning but I dont care. Ive put 115k miles on it and am planning on driving it forever.
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