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My Saturn hates cold weather

For over a year now, whenever the weather got even a little bit cold, my 2003 Saturn Ion refuses to start. I’m not talking below freezing cold, I’m talking about 60 degree weather!

The car just refuses to turn over, and all I hear are little periodic clicks from the engine. Sometimes on the “warmer” times if I wait 10 minutes and try again, it starts.

One sure way to get my car to start is to connect jumper cables to another car. I can then immediately start my car just fine; I’m not even sure it can count as being a jump. If I then turn the car off, and start it again it’s fine. If I leave it alone for 3 minutes it will not start by itself anymore.

Mechanics, the dealership, and myself are completely stumped. Does anyone have a solution?

During late spring, summer, and fall I don’t see this problem.

First I would suggest disconnecting each cable connected to the battery, one at a time and cleaning both ends of the cable and the connection points on the car. re-attach making sure they are tight. If it happens again, try a few gentle tugs on the cables and try again.

Also do the same with the ground strap from the engine to the frame of the car.

Even a connection that looks ok many not be making good contact and cables can go bad internally, so if tugging one a cable makes a change, you may want to replace that cable.

Good Luck.

Presumably somewhere between you, the mechanics, and the dealership your battery and charging system have been tested? Many auto parts stores will do this for free.

The battery tests fine, but I’m not sure if the charging system was.

I will try the cable suggestion this evening when it stops raining.

Unfortunately, the only thing accomplished doing these is to reset my clock and radio presets.

Assuming good connections and good cables, this really looks like a bad battery. If your battery is the original, it’s time for a new one anyway. They often have date codes stamped on them somewhere.

I bought it new last winter, and it had the same issues right after I installed it.

There is electrical resistance in the starting circuitry. The resistance(s) cause a voltage drop by the time the voltage goes through the ignition switch, neutral switch, relay / theft prevention module (if used), connectors, and starter solenoid. A repairer’s task is to us a “voltmeter” (aka multimeter) and the wiring diagrams to check the voltage and resistance from the battery to the starter solenoid. Other methods are…inefficient and likely ineffective.

My son’s ION has the same problem. I did a bit of research and the problem is the ignition switch. The grease in the switch hardens when left in the cold for several hours causing it not to engage. This also trips the pass-lock cutting off fuel to the engine for 8-10 minutes until it resets. Saturn has since redesigned the switch but refuses to issue a recall. The only thing that seems to work for my son is to run a blow dryer over the switch while he waits so the car will reliably start on the second try.

We too have the same exact problem. This is probably the thousandth post I have read about this issue. They should have done a recall. Our car went the entire winter while only doing it once, and it wasn’t even that cold (40F). This summer however it did it to my wife around 1AM after she had got off of work. It was not cold. It is such a random problem. Dealer also claims to be stumped. Finally I talked to a mechanic at a former Saturn dealership and he said they had seen it several times. They usually replace battery, alternator, etc. before finding out that it is the ignition switch. Supposedly has something to do with the theft lock system. The car can do it twice a week then not for 6 months. If we wait 10-20 minutes it sometimes starts. We also jump the car and it will start. It has been doing this for about 4 years now. Everyone wants to replace the battery, even when it doesn’t need it. We don’t want to put a dime in this car so we have chosen to live with the problem. Maybe it is the ignition switch. We haven’t tried that yet.

Thank you for your reply. The information you presented it exactly what I have also found. I don’t know why everyone keeps saying it is the battery. Saturn should have recalled this. Thank you for the good information.