Question about 2004 Saturn ION

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Saturn ion,sometimes wont start

It wont start then I come back few minutes later and will start

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  • gnt454 Nov 24, 2008

    When cold it will not start, I get "Service vehical" flashing where the oddometer is, after a few minutes it will start and as it warms up the idle will increase and restarting lowers the idle.

  • bvander1 Dec 03, 2008

    I have same thing happening right now. In Oct it did this for the first time. Waited a while and then tried and it started right up and ran good until about 2 weeks ago. Then it did the same thing. We replaced the battery. Last night it did it again! This time on the third try it started but then shut right back off after spitting and sputtering a few seconds like it wasn't getting enough gas or something. Then I noticed the "service vehicle" light came on and went right back off. I waited a little bit and tried it one more time. It started and stayed running. I drove it from work right to the local mechanic shop. Hope it's nothing too serious and just a computer thing that needs to be reset or something. I love my Saturn! :)

  • mrtitanhead Dec 16, 2008

    I have 2004 Saturn same problem just put in a new Battery and a New Alternator I drove it all weekend 2-300 miles started everytime came home Monday morning for work just like Thurs & Friday morning of last week the car will not start one day it took a jump the another day after 15 minutes it stated then another I called triple A he said battery fine and of course the second he cranked it the car started. I don't understand why it will start at 11pm when it is cold but will not at 6am, however on weekend I get up around 9am and it is fine to start it.????

  • Anonymous Dec 21, 2008

    This is not a recall it is only a bulletin, recalls they will fix for free. I have the same issue with my 04 saturn ion.

  • fbor414 Jan 08, 2009

    Hi everyone ,I wrote on this page before and some recomended Edmunds.com and there is a lot of people with the same problem we have some one recomended to cut the white wire while the car is running in idle,white wire is located by the ignition switch plug and the car will run with no problem ever ,but it will light the security light all the time.and by the way pull the air bag fuse before do it.I am stuck with the problem because after I replaced the switch and reprogram it .never start again now I have other problem, but as soon I can start the car ,I will cut the white wire for sure and it will resolve my issue for ever.thanks and good luck to all of you,we are in the same boat and honestly never will buy a GM car again........

  • kolitzj Mar 01, 2009

    My 2004 ION just did the same thing. I go to try to start it I get no crank and service vehicle flashed in odometer. Thought maybe battery acting up. Came out a few minutes later and used a portable jumper battery and poof. Started right up. After reading these postings I'm not sure if it started because of the jump I gave it? Or because ten minutes went by? This car has only 33,500 mi. on it. I already had the power steering issue that others have mentioned, resulting in the column being replaced. Dealer only charged me labor. Now it's doing this. I'm going to take my car in to my Saturn dealer ASAP and believe me I'm going to raise HOLY HELL with them. I do all the preventive maintenance with them. No other service people ever laid there fingers on my ION. I'M GOING TO TELL THEM THAT THIS CAR HAS ONLY 33,500 MILES ON IT AND THESE PROBLEMS DOESN'T SPEAK HIGHLY OF THEIR SERVICE DEPARTMENT OR THEIR PRODUCT. These problems shouldn't be happening period, let alone with a car that has such low mileage on it. What's amazing is that these issues started 6 months after the 3 yr.-30,000 mile warranty ran out out. I even recommended a friend to them and they bought a 05 ION from them. NEVER AGAIN.

  • Dennis Zlatkin Sep 27, 2012

    Mike, your instructions for replacing the ignition switch on my Saturn Ion were excellent and much appreciated. Going through the "relearn" procedure was also a breeze. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

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There is a guide on this site that tells you how to fix the passlock problem

http://moontaj.com/passlock

Posted on Oct 06, 2010

  • MikeO89 Nov 21, 2010

    The guide there is well done and accurate. I changed out the ignition switch myself on my 2004 Saturn Ion using that guide and there were no surprises. Then programed the "re-learn" process myself. Was easier than I thought it was going to be. Saved myself a couple hundred bucks.

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The best solution is go to your car at least ten minutes before you have to leave first thing in the morning. If the car does not start, just let it run out the clock. Do not open the doors, just sit there and wait. As soon as the radio goes off you will be able to start the car.
Then, since it is so obvious there is a flaw in the car's manufacturing, write GM and tell them you will never buy another Saturn because they refuse to fix this problem. (I have already done so. I refuse to pay Saturn to fix something that is a flaw in their manufacturing.)
This is not isulated to just a few cars. There are forums with list of people complaining about this same issue, but GM refuses to fix it unless it is still under warranty.
Also, write the NHTSA. They research issues with cars that can potentially become safety issues. If there are enough complaints the NHTSA will become involved and force a recall.

Posted on Dec 08, 2008

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This problem is common with the Ion .... it's the ignition switch that goes bad and gets worse with cold weather. The switch triggers the anti-theft device so you have to let the car sit 10-15 minutes before attempting to start again. I just had my ignition switched replaced at the dealership ... cost me $245 for parts and labour. I say it's a ripoff ... but whatcha gunna do. You can't replace it yourself neither , the car needs to be reprogrammed afterwards.

Posted on Jan 08, 2009

  • Jt93 Oct 28, 2010

    This problem has occured with many ions. I was about to get my Mother and Laws because they told her it was a electrical problem and she was gonna need to replace the brain of the car, She got fed up and thought about buying another car and giving me that one. But me bein the honest person i am i told her to tell them to change the ignition switch. She said they had aready did that. Well i told them to check into the starter. Turns out they put in another faulty ignition switch and she had a melted wire on her started that needed to be replaced. So now it cranks up everytime. Yeah i just missed out on a good car for myself but bein that im 17 i kno what im talking about i think i did a good thing by helping her. She loves the fact that when she gets into her car now it cranks right up and she doesnt have to sit in the hot sun for 10 minutes until it decides it wants to turn over.

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My 04 had the same problem. What it is is there is a recall on the ignition switches and you have to get it replaced. Its easy to install but you have to take it to a dealer or a shop because they have to relearn the computer with their scan tools. But I'm like 90% sure this is what your problem is. Mine did the same thing. It wouldnt start or the engine would turn over for a split second then nothing, but everything else would work (lights, radio, wipers...) and it would throw the service light through the odometer also. If its still under warranty they should fix it for free since its a manufacture recall but if not you'll have to pay. (i had to pay)

Posted on Nov 26, 2008

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  • cdlcr159 Nov 26, 2008

    oh yeah, dont get it and install it yourself and expect to take it to a shop to get it re-programmed because it wont start at all if you put it in and dont relearn the computer.

  • MikeO89 Nov 21, 2010

    You don't have to take it to a dealer, you can do the "re-learn" procedure yourself like this.

    I. Try to start the engine (first time). It may or may not fire the starter. If you have a manual transaxle, be sure to hold the clutch in when you try to start the car. After the start fails, *LEAVE THE KEY IN THE "RUN" POSITION* for 10 minutes. During this 10 minutes, the passkey icon (the lock) will flash every half second or so. After *EXACTLY* 10 minutes, it will stop flashing.

    II. Second time - Once it has stopped flashing, turn the key to the "ACC" position, which is halfway between OFF and RUN. Wait about 10 seconds. Turn the key back to the RUN position (depressing the clutch, if it is a manual) and try to start it. The pass lock light will flash again for yet another 10 minutes. When it stops flashing, continue to the next step.

    III. Third time - Once it has stopped flashing, turn the key to the "ACC" position, which is halfway between OFF and RUN. Wait about 10 seconds. Turn the key back to the RUN position (depressing the clutch, if it is a manual) and try to start it. The pass lock light will flash again for yet another 10 minutes. When it stops flashing, continue to the next step.

    IV. After you have done this 3 times, over a period of exactly thirty minutes, turn the key to the OFF position. Wait for 30 seconds. Do not get impatient, because one wrong move could cause this to fail! After 30 seconds, the car will start.

  • Dennis Zlatkin Feb 05, 2013

    Excellent instructions, easy to follow. I did it and it works! Thanks!

  • Savannah Jun 25, 2013

    How long did this solution last for? Do you have to do this every time?

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Shortly after my winter starting problems began, a mechanic checked the trouble codes related to my check engine light (always on for the five years I've had the car). He saw a clutch sensor (switch error). I've heated the ignition switch with a hot bag of water and that didn't seem to shorten the time it took to start in cold weather -- usually ten minutes from my first try and sometimes 20. Caveat: within the last month the car has started on the first crank at both -11 degrees and -13 degrees though it gave me trouble later in the day after it got "warmer". Not a solution yet because I haven't researched replacing or disabling the clutch switch much as of now.

Posted on Feb 05, 2013

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My 03 Saturn Ion does the same thing, I took the cigarette lighter out of my Buick and put it in the Ion, then when the car wont start in the cold I push in the lighter and wait for 20 seconds for it to heat up and then pull the lighter out and hold the flat of the key (metel part) across the end of the lighter for 5 seconds and then put the key in the ignition wait 5 seconds then try to start the Ion. (DO NOT PUT THE KEY INTO THE LIGHTER PLUG) Repeat a few times if nessesary.
If your Ion still doesn't start well, were back to squire one.
Hope this helps someone.

Posted on Mar 01, 2009

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  • MikeO89 Nov 21, 2010

    That heat trick doesn't work. The problem is with the ignition switch, not the ignition lock cylinder.

  • Tim Sherman Feb 05, 2013

    Shortly after my winter starting problems began, a mechanic checked the trouble codes related to my check engine light (always on for the five years I've had the car). He saw a clutch sensor (switch error). I've heated the ignition switch with a hot bag of water and that didn't seem to shorten the time it took to start in cold weather -- usually ten minutes from my first try and sometimes 20. Caveat: within the last month the car has started on the first crank at both -11 degrees and -13 degrees though it gave me trouble later in the day after it got "warmer". Not a solution yet because I haven't researched replacing or disabling the clutch switch much as of now.

  • Paul Williams Feb 09, 2013

    jenwattsdphi
    I went to my Saturn dealer in Flint, Mi and got the switch for $35 changed it myself in 20 minutes and then did the learning thing that was posted above and it worked. I put a charger on my battery as the head lights stayed on with the key on while learning. The $35 switch was bought in March 2010, Good Luck

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SOURCE: saturn ion,sometimes wont start

The problem is in the ignition - the grease gets thick in the cold and doent turn quite right the first time. everything turns on, but the anti theft system thinks you have the wrong key so shuts off pwer to the starter. it takes 8-10 mintues to reset. That is why it normally starts when you come back later. I have had the same problem and done tons of reseach. Right now my temp solution has been a small heater and an extention cord. I keep it plugged in over night on a medium setting - just enough to keep the inside temp above freezing. I am also researching remote starts because saturn dealership charges $250 to replace the ignition, and a remote start will run about $300. Saturn wont do a recall because they feel it is not a safety hazard. I say that is bull. Good luck!

Posted on Feb 04, 2009

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