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Saturn Ion Starting Problems



  • simply put, Meron posted the most epic post on this forum ever. It is the easiest and cheapest solution to this annoying problem. thumbs up
  • meronmeron Posts: 21
    Thanks bertbaggins,

    Please check out this youtube video. Help these Tibetan refugees if you can. The medical team will return to India again this year, and can use any contribution you care to send.

  • I'm attempting to simplify my earlier post. Find the black electrical switch on the lock housing (the one with the green connector and "white" wire) Remove it and disassemble. There is a resistor on the Printed circuit board. With your finger lightly push on it. If you notice one of the legs is disconnected from the resistor, then solder the leg back to the resistor. Done.
  • Thanks for the tip about the Saturn bulletin, mikeey1. I'm so glad I found this message board. I had the non-starting problem twice last winter, then twice last week. Last year I took it to my mechanic, who "couldn't replicate the problem," but put in a new battery anyway. This year, I took it to my Saturn dealer.

    I told them I thought it was the ignition switch, and to see Bulletin Number 04-08-45-005D, Ignition System - No Crank / No Start / DTC's B2960/B3033, dated March 15, 2006, covering Saturn ION models 2003-2006. They said if they do a diagnostic and the codes B2960/B3033 come up, this bulletin tells them it's the ignition switch. They ran the diagnostic, the codes came up, they replaced the switch, and I was on my way (although it did take 1.5 hours and cost $192). The car has started just fine for the last week now.

    Not the cheapest solution, but easy and aggravation-ending, at least in my opinion. :shades:
  • Yes!! I had the same problem and I took it in and they found out it was the ignition switch. It took them 2 days to fix it and I haven't had a problem since then. At first I thought it might have been my alarm since I had another one installed on top of the manufactory one but they found it was the ignition switch, now I don't have to wait in the cold to find out what's wrong with it. It cost me $179.

    A happier camper!
  • check back in a year when the same problem starts again. :)
  • mikeey1mikeey1 Posts: 6
    I had to break down and have my ignition switch replaced last Thursday. I woke up Friday morning to go to work and the car wouldn't start! So I now have another appointment to bring it in this Thursday for them to try again. This is like a bad dream. I'll keep you posted on what happens.
  • ricirici Posts: 7
    The only thing that works is cutting the white wire...(go to Youtube and see one of our members here do it..easy and effective.) It is the only thing that works...I got a new ignition switch, I put heating pads on the steering wheel...The cutting of the wire was the only thing that worked.
    However, a moot issue now, as the car was totalled last week. Sigh. Loved the Saturn...wonder if other years have the same issue.
    Does anyone know?
  • 2003 to 2006 ions have this problem. and yes the white wire is the only way.
  • tbsierratbsierra Posts: 6
    I disagree that cutting the white wire is the only way. We had a remote starter installed about a year ago and as long as we use the remote start to start the car before putting the key in the ignition we have absolutely no problems. If you don't want to cut the white whire have a remote starter installed, make sure whoever installs it understands the passlock system though. Ours cost around $350 last year and the car starts great + we get to warm it up without going outside in the cold.
  • mikeey1mikeey1 Posts: 6
    I have a remote start also and it doesn't help, tried it this morning in fact and the car didn't start. So remote start didn't work for me. And I have a remote start in my 2002 Nissan installed by the same guy and it has never given me a problem once! Just in case someone was going to say that. It's just the car i'm sad to admit. I had a 1997 Saturn SL2 Beautiful car, had a remote start in that one also never gave me a problem.
  • bowman2bowman2 Posts: 2
    :sick: After having problems all winter I finally found out about the white wire and cut it. For the next 10 days it started in zero deg. weather. Then one day the power locks wouldn't work- opened with key, wouldn't roll over. Had it towed home. Blown fuse under hood (number 11 ign). Blown radio fuse in console. replaced fuses. Hooked white wire back up. Still wouldn't roll over. Took it to GM dealer (pontiac with former saturn mechanic). they said it needed an ign. switch. They replaced switch, still wouldn't start. Now they say I need a new body control module! Total bill $848. And I have to wait a week to get it. I told them to just let it sit until I either find another way or find enough $. Any ideas out there?
  • mick24mick24 Posts: 3
    So I cut the wire on Saturday the 7th of March and have had no problems since then. The post above mine is making me nervous.However I am just glad to not have to worry about being late for appointments. I just followed the procedure on you tube. It was easy.Thanks to the guy who posted the solution and the guy who filmed the procedure for you tube.
  • oblio9oblio9 Posts: 19
    DId you try retraining the system or the key after reconnecting the white wire? If you google it it is out there somewhere. If I recall you have to try the key, shut it off and leave the key in, wait 10 minutes, try it agian, lreave it in wait 10 minutes then it works on the third try. Something like that. Haven't had to do it myself yet. Anticipate I may need to once the battery needs to be replaced.
  • oblio9oblio9 Posts: 19
    Glad it worked for you mick.
  • did you put wire nuts on the white wire after you cut it? if not, that might explain all your fuses blowing
  • mick24mick24 Posts: 3
    Ok so its a week and a half and still no starting problems. The white wire looks like the best solution. And I recommend cutting it.
  • bowman2bowman2 Posts: 2
    Yes I put wire nuts on when I cut the white wire. Update: new BCM installed still won't start- still blowing fuses??? Bill at $848 and still counting. :sick:
  • ok, now you have me stumped. you must have some other problem with your car. The white wire has worked for everyone else. i'm no mechanic so I really don't know what to tell you. did you say you checked all of your fuses?
  • hey I just thought of somthing, do you have the right type of fuses, and do you have the right type of battery.if not, that could cause blown fuses. I'm sure you have looked into this though. I'm just thinking that if you are blowing fuses, they are getting to much power. there was somthing in an earlier post about the white wire not being thick enough to support the power going through it, and thats why the car would not start. I'm not sure where it is in all these posts. start at about #80 and read on. From what I remember it was pretty informative.
  • wa1968wa1968 Posts: 2
    I started reading this thread because I just bought my daughter an 05 Saturn that has the not starting wait ten minutes problem. She will visit home next weekend from college and I plan on cutting the white wire. I'll post on how successful it is after awhile to affirm that it is a long term fix. I suspect it will be.

    I'm an electronic tech and know enough about cars to be dangerous. The wire not being thick enough for that circuit doesn't seem right unless there is some other serious problem in the steering wheel. After watching the UTube video I'd say the white wire is 18 or 20 awg. Plenty big enough to carry the current for that circuit.

    Also the battery type, unless something other than a 12vdc battery in your car, cannot be too 'big". Car batteries are rated in cold cranking amps. That is the higher the number of CCA the longer the battery will last when under duress starting a car when it's real cold out. Back in the day cars used to have a generator and separate voltage regulator. Now they have alternators with the regulation circuitry built right in. That circuitry makes sure the alternator doesn't put out too high a voltage for the battery and the rest of the circuitry to handle.

    I'd say that bertbaggins has more of an electrical/wiring problem than the security circuit that the white wire defeats. (Actually I'd say the white wire cutting is a work around for a key/key switch problem.) The issue is that most car mechanics aren't real good at troubleshooting complex electrical problems. Most will admit it, others let their testosterone get in the way and wont. Finding someone good at diagnosing car electrical problems is not easy.
  • meronmeron Posts: 21
    White wire issues are security issues; the posts around #80 contain all relevant wire sizes, voltages, diagrams and links.

    BCM issues are separate issues. As are the blown fuses; this is a serious condition based in the wiring of the vehicle.

    Someone here describes the loose foot on the small board where the white wire is attached and the resistor that is loose on that board. Resoldering it is a good solution, but not one everyone here can take on themselves. Cutting the white wire is doable, as berbbaggins has shown so well on youtube. Many have replaced the starting switch only to replace it again and again.

    Choose the option you are comfortable with. The white wire on my daughter's Ion has been cut for over a year. It has started ever since.

  • Hey everyone, i bought my 2004 Saturn ion 4dr 2.2 about 2 weeks ago and about a week after i got it, it wouldnt start one morning after i went to go to work. I figured it was the battery, since thats what it seemed like at first...And i figured the car is 5yrs old with 47k miles on it, probably still has the original battery so i replaced it 3 days ago. Today, i go to start my car to go to work and same thing! Try to crank it, turns over maybe once, then crank again and nothing at all. All the accessories and lights are working but wont start. Gave it like 5 mins, cranked again and it started but then died right away (also could smell it was running rich). Then nothing again, waited another 5 mins and started right up as if nothing happened! So then i hopped on line and found this thread, good thing i didnt take it in first, they were gonna charge me $190 plus tax to replace ignition switch. I think im going to cut the wire first.
    also i called the 866 number you listed and opened up a case with customer service, the lady said she hasnt heard of this issue. And when i told her about this thread and me looking on line and finding many different people with the same problem she basically said that online stuff is a crackpot and nobody knows what their talking about, that its a bunch of people that dont know what their doing. Also the CS rep called my local dealership who told her that the steering console and the key had been replaced on the car RIGHT before i bought it from this used car dealership, literally like 20 miles before i bought it. I'm thinking who ever had the car couldnt figure out what the problem is, and after dumping a few grand into it decided to get rid of it. So now i have this gem in my posession haha. Hopefully cutting the wire will do the trick because i dont feel like dumping money into it, only to find out later that didn't fix the problem like for some of the people in here. I have also emailed the person here posting about a class action against saturn regarding this. Cant belive saturn wont do a recall on this!
  • 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 now almost April and my car has started every time.

    Passlock is disabled! :blush:
  • I bought one of those gm passlocks. however, I could not figure out how to hook it up, because my instructions were for hooking it up with a remote starter. I'm sure there is a way to do it without a remote start, but I tried for awhile and just gave up. I just cut the wire. its all good now
  • I am definitely going to cut my wire -- good work, guys. Next question: after I cut the white wire and disable the passlock system, does that mean I could use a simple, non-transponder key for entry/running?? Curious.
  • I'm not really sure about the non transponder key. I guess just give it a try and see what happens. I've always used my main key.
  • The Saturn Ion key does not have a transponder. If the key will turn in the igniton the car will start.
  • OK, no transponder. So it's just the fob that has to be programmed and I can have a blank key cut and that will work as well as the original? Thanks for the help -- this is new to me.
  • mick24mick24 Posts: 3
    OK so its been a month now since I cut the wire and I can say that it has worked. :):):D:D :shades:
  • hey guys i have an o6 ion. i need to replace key lock cylinder. does anyone have pictures or can go indepth. and tell me what i need to do to get it to comeout. and what tools will i need thanks.
  • I started having the issue discussed here on my 2006 Saturn ION 3 this past fall/winter. It seems like during that time period the car would only have the issue if the temperature was literally freezing or below (32 F). After the weather started warming up again in the past month, I figured the problem would go away. This morning I walked outside into 70 degree weather and found that my car would not start. This also happened to me last week. It was about 50 degrees, but had rained heavily overnight so I thought that had some effect on it.

    Since this is still happening to me in warm weather, does this sound like the same issue? I think I still have some warranty time left on my car, so hopefully any repairs will be covered... I'm just worried that like others, this problem will start up again even after a "fix." I would use the white wire fix but I really don't want a check engine light on my dash all the time, and my wife is somewhat wary of the solution. Has there been any progress in dealer repairs that have led to permanent fixes, not just stopgaps?

  • As far as I know there has been no progress with the dealer in fixing this issue. If your car is under warrenty, I would see if a new ignition switch could be installed for FREE. Since your car is not starting in the warm weather, it could be a different issue. I would be willing to bet however that if they do put a new ignition switch in, your car will probably still have trouble in the cold next winter, and then I would recommend cutting the wire. My 2004 would not start in the cold. I cut the wire and my car works great now. I quickly got over the dash light being on. it is better than having a car that doesn't start, and since the dealer won't do anything about it except changing parts and charging you a ton of money, the white wire cut is a good deal.
  • bbmcg78bbmcg78 Posts: 1
    Hello all. I have joined your masses in angry response to my 04 Ion not starting. Only unlike most of you, I do NOT live in a cold climate. I live in Phoenix! This is a problem I've had off and on since I bought the car BRAND NEW in Sept 04. The first time, of course, was the ignition switch. Worked for a while, then started up with the NOT starting again. I would shake the car a bit and wait a min or two then it would start right back up. Well, last Sunday, it finally wouldn't start up again. Took it (towed) last Wed and, natch, they said it was again the ignition switch and replaced it. Today is Monday morning. I've only driven the car a handful of times since I fixed it (260 bucks later) and now it won't start AGAIN!!! I'm so incensed I could throttle the GM of Saturn. I will be calling them once again to see if they will fix this problem (hopefully FREE since they didn't fix it the first time) yet again. Aside from the poor soul whose switches all decided to blow, has anyone here had any post White Wire Cutting issues? I am now convinced this could be the ONLY solution, short of calling my lawyer and local news station to shed light on this epidemic.
  • oblio9oblio9 Posts: 19
    My Oil and Coolant lights were on before I cut the wire. Cutting the wire added the Service Vehicle message and the passlock icon lit up on my dashboard. I finally got around to changing my oil but they were not able to get the change oil message to go away. They also weren't sure why the Coolant light is on since my levels were fine. I can't say that this is definitely related to me cutting the wire but it is a possibility. I am planning on connecting the wire to a switch soon so that during warmer months I wont have the service vehicle light. Beyond that though after cutting my wire in January I have not had a problem starting it. Not even once. Still very very glad I did it.
  • fbordoyfbordoy Posts: 8
    hello every one ,does any of you guys had any problems with the a/c? mine was in good working condition last summer but now only have hot air and check the compresor and wont kick.can any one give an idea ,thanks :mad:
  • phg1960phg1960 Posts: 1
    My daughter just picked up an Ion. (wished I had read this thread beforehand) This morning her car would not start. It cranked, started, stalled and would only crank afterward. She tried it an hour or so later, it did start and has been started several times since. The Passlock indicator was not on.

    My question is does this sound like that Passlock (white wire) issue? Or will the car do nothing when the Passlock problem happens?

    Thanks in advance...
  • oblio9oblio9 Posts: 19
    Could be. This usually only happens in cold or cold and damp weather. I figured it had to be the passlock when I would try, the iginition would fail and I would wait 10 minutes. The passlock is on a 10 minute cycle. After 10 minutes it would start on the first turn, if it didn't I would just wait 10 more minutes and it would start on that turn. If that's the case, cut the wire.
  • The posts in this thread describe to excruciating precision the starting problem in my Sister-in-law's ION. She has gotten really tired of being exactly ten minutes late for her first appointment every morning!

    After living with the problem for many months (and allowing the extended warranty to expire in the meantime), she implored her Saturn dealer to "Fix it this time!"

    He did so (it appears) by replacing the Ignition Switch [non-permissible content removed]'y (Part No. 10392423). This cost $34.06 for the part, plus $220.00 for labor -- which includes a $110 (approx) fee for "diagnosis."

    The dealer returned the car, warning that if this did not fix the problem, they would next replace the BCM (Body Computer) for $665. The problem has not recurred in the 11 days since the repair; we continue to cross our fingers.

    The dealer returned the "bad" part, so I dismantled it and snapped some photographs. I offer these for the perusal of fellow sufferers of this extremely annoying problem.

    You can find these photos at:
  • pacersbrpacersbr Posts: 2
    I have a pretty good relationship with the Service Manager at my local dealer and he said a replacement of the ignition switch and passlock will do it, for about $170. I've been reading through this and even did a keyword search to make sure, but it seems like nobody on here has replaced the passlock, despite the fact that everyone realizes this is the problem. Has anyone had this done?? It's gone from not starting every three weeks or so to every three days over the last week, so I'm getting to the point where I just want to get this done and hope it works.

    If anyone out there has had this done please let me know. Thanks.
  • bertbagginsbertbaggins Posts: 38
    I don't know about replacing the passlock. I been following this thread for about a year now and I don't remember ever reading anything about replacing it. I know that replacing the ignition switch will not solve your problem. It some cases it fixes the problem for a few weeks, and for others it works for about a year, but it always seems to fail for sure by about a year. I never tried to replace my ignition switch, because everyone on here was saying that it didn't work and they were wasting alot of money. So I just cut the white wire and it fixed my car. I only spent a few bucks.
  • meronmeron Posts: 21

    The GM Passlock system is fairly simple, especially when compared to other makes. However, if yours is goofing up, you won’t think it’s so simple.

    Here’s how it works: When you first turn the key, the PCM provides power to the fuel pump, injectors, and ignition system. You can crank and start the engine. However, there’s a magnet built into the lock cylinder. As you rotate the key, the magnet passes over a Hall Effect sensor—a sensor that detects the presence of a magnetic force. The magnet produces a unique voltage when it passes over the sensor. The sensor sends this voltage signal to the Body Control Module where it is compared to a stored value. If the sent voltage doesn’t match the stored value, the PCM shuts down the fuel injectors for a minimum of 10 minutes and, well, you’re pretty screwed at that point. If you try to start the car again, you will see a blinking Security light. That’s your sign that the Passlock system has shut you down.

    What goes wrong: GM vehicles experience a very high failure rate in the lock cylinder and lock housing mechanisms. Fortunately, they’re fairly inexpensive and easy to replace.

    Testing the Passlock sytem: Remove the plastic cover shrouds from the steering column near the lock cylinder. Inside you will see the Passkey module surrounding the lock cylinder. It will have 3 wires coming out of it. Turn the key to the ON position and use a DIGITAL multimeter (Do NOT use an analog meter) to backprobe the probe the black and white wires. If you see 12 volts on the white wire and 0 volts on the black wire, you can proceed to the test for the Passkey module. If you do not see those voltage values, you have a wiring problem between the connector and the BCM.

    Next, connect your voltmeter to the yellow wire. It should read 5 volts. Keep the probe connected and turn the key to the off position and back to the start position. The Passlock Data Voltage has a potential of 10 different values, ranging from .86 to 4.28 volts. The voltage should drop to a voltage level between those values and stay within .02 volts of the initial reading for at least one minute. Repeat the test several times—you must receive the same voltage for each test. If you do not, replace the lock cylinder and the Passkey housing.

    To remove the lock cylinder, first disconnect the negative battery cable and allow the airbag to power down for 5-10 minutes. Slide the Passkey module off the cylinder housing. Insert the key and turn the lock cylinder to the start position. Place a 1/16” allen wrench into the hole on top of the lock module to release the steering column lock cylinder set pin. Then turn the lock cylinder to the RUN position and pull the lock cylinder out. Reverse the procedure to install.

    After you replace the cylinder and Passkey module, you will have to conduct a relearn procedure for the BCM to learn the new voltage value. Here’s the procedure: Lock doors and unlock. Clear codes. Turn key and bump starter,
    leave on for 10 minutes. After a few minutes the dash light will
    go out. At that point, turn the key to the off position for 90 seconds to 3 minutes. Repeat this procedure 3 times for a total of 30 minutes and on the 4th try the car
    will start.

    Want more information about this repair? Click on eautorepair. This is the consumer version of the professional mechanic's online shop manual Mitchell On Demand. It contains exactly the same information the professional mechanics get. You can print out every service procedure, specification, component locations, wiring and vacuum diagram, TSB, and recall related to your vehicle.
  • bertbagginsbertbaggins Posts: 38
    ahhh, wow thats way to much work. Glad I just cut the wire. lol
  • drookedrooke Posts: 1
    Has anyone that cut the white wire have a remote start installed? I'd like to cut the wire on our 2005 Saturn Ion but am worried about not have the remote start work.
  • loratikaloratika Posts: 1
    My son has a manual '03 Saturn Ion 3 that hasn't given us any problems before this one. He was driving it when it stopped running while exiting the turnpike. My husband thought it was the battery, so we bought a new one. It started up, but stopped running again about a half block from the house. We pushed it home, he got a jump & drove it about two miles before it stalled again, we tried jumping it again, but it wouldn't start, so we had it towed home. It hasn't started again since then.
    When you turn the key in the ignition, it seems like it wants to start, but something is preventing it from turning over & getting gas or something. It's been sitting out front for several months now.
    My son hasn't gotten around to having someone look at it so I thought I would. I wanted to go online before having it towed to the dealer so that I would be prepared & hopefully not easily duped into paying a large bill for something I didn't need done (it’s no longer under warranty). I also wanted to see if maybe it was something that my husband could fix himself. I then saw on this forum that a lot of people with Ions are having similar starting problems & not much help from the dealers. Although most of them seem to have problems with the ignition relating to cold weather. I live in Miami & we rarely see temperatures below 50.
    I thought it might be a problem with the passlock, locking up the car so it won't start as an anti-theft deterrent. I went out & tried to start it & I noticed the yellow padlock over the car symbol came on, but it also went off shortly after I released the key. I assume it is supposed to. I read that a lot of people got around a similar situation by either installing a remote starter to the ignition or by cutting the white wire leading from the ignition to bypass this problem, although they said that the car had to be running when the wire is cut. I don’t think a remote starter would work on a manual transmission & would like to try the white wire fix, but my problem is how do you do that if the car won't start at all? I saw in one of the replies, someone had a link to a place that sold remote starters. They offered to sell online a way to temporarily start the car to repair it. I thought that I could do that & then cut the white wire, but my husband pointed out that it may not even work with a manual transmission. They don’t have a # to call & ask. Do any of you know of how to start it temporarily & if it would work on a manual car?
    I tried calling the dealer's service department to see about taking it in & he started playing so many games, I guess because he thought I was a dumb "women" who wouldn't know any better. I really don't want to pay to have it towed there for service now!
    Have any of you all had a similar problem in warm weather, some suggestions or advice? I'm hoping my husband, who is very capable will be able to take care of this problem. I've even fixed a few things in our vehicles myself. I did think to look at the fuses on the driver’s side of the center console, but the first one I pulled, happened to be the 15A BCM (PWR) fuse. It looked ok, so I replaced it & since it started to rain, I quit & tried to start it just to see if anything was different. When I went to start it, I mistakenly put my daughter’s Ion key in the ignition & it wouldn’t even turn (as would be expected). When I put the right key in, it turned & didn’t do anything this time, but make a clicking sound similar to a turn signal, but louder. I feel like I just took another step back & now may be worse off. Thanks in advance for any help you may have.
  • chemistrychemistry Posts: 2
    I live in Lakeland, Fl and have been having the same problems. During the winter when the temperature dropped to the 30's the passlock light would come on and the car would not start. The car would sometimes start after some time had elapsed. Just recently after all the rain we have been having the problem has returned even though the temperature was in the 70's. I called the Saturn dealer and they didn't know what was wrong with it. I may end up cutting the white wire.
  • bertbagginsbertbaggins Posts: 38
    just watch the video on youtube. it shows you perfectly how to do it.
  • chemistrychemistry Posts: 2
    Thanks, I found the YouTube video and it looks very easy to do. My only question is what happens when you have to replace the battery. Will the car still start with the cut wire after replacing the battery?
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