Saturn Ion, starting difficulty

I have a 2003 Saturn Ion, 5 speed manual transmission, about 99,000 original miles.

For about 2 winters now, not every cold morning, but many, it is finicky to start. When first turn key, it is like a weak battery. Wait a few minutes, car will start, but only run about 3 seconds, then quit. This may happen about 6 times, waiting about 3 mins before each re-try. On about the 6th time, the engine will start, rough for about 30 seconds, then runs fine. Being a Sales Rep, I drive a lot, and car gets restarted about 9 to 10 times each day, never a problem starting. Would appreciate any assistance on this, should something be done before develops into something serious ?

Has The Original Battery Been Replaced?

There are quite a few people complaining about Saturn starting problems on this site. However, most have a problem with the car not cranking or responding to the ignition key / switch.

If that is the original battery, it is due for replacement. A “chain” auto parts store might just check your battery and charging system for free. Be sure the battery cables are clean and tight.

I don’t have a good theory on why the engine would quit after starting and run rough for 30 seconds when it does start. One of the local experts here may stop by and advise you.

If it’s “like a weak battery” you may have a weak battery. Has the battery ever been replaced? I suggest you nave the battery and charging system tested. Most parts stores will do this free.

A malfunctioning coolant temperature sensor can cause starting difficulties in cold weather. The sensor can also be tested, but you’ll need a service manual or a mechanic for this.

Thank you for the help. I have gone to google, have found a TSB Number 040845005 that sounds like could be related to this issue, but to get details says I must buy their book for $ 12.00. I am hesitant to take to dealer, is this something that would be covered under warranty ? How can I get the details of this TSB without buying the book. Would my own tech have accsess to this info ?

Thank you for the reply. Please see the other reply I posted on the TSB found on Google which sounds like my issue

Do You Have A Charging System Gauge On The Instrument Panel?

I looked at a couple of bulletins. Two talk about your symptoms. Some Saturns with gauges will show a low voltage indication, especially with heater fan, lights, rear defogger, radio, etcetera, all drawing juice at the same time. Idling adds to the problem, by the alternator not putting out enough current. This can occur even if you don’t have a gauge that shows it. Also, when the car sits for several days, the problem gets worse. It all adds up to an underchrged battery. Saturn says to check the charging system, including battery and alternator.

Another bulletin shows a problem with cars that exhibit the problems you have mentioned. Many GM vehicles, including Saturns came from the factory with a battery cable-to-battery connection bolt that has the threads stripped, causing an insufficient connection. The bulletin says to replace the stripped bolt and tighten the terminal to specs.

All this relates to slow and intermittent cranking. I still don’t see anything about stalling or running rough.

GM Says That For Performance And Stalling Problems …

… to try Top Tier gasoline. I’m not making this up. Maybe you already do.

here’s a link to top tier gas:

It’s not the winter, and you’re really only waiting about 2 minutes before each re-try. My 2004 ION has the same issue: the defective Passlock system. When this happens sit and wait 10 minutes. It’s easy to time: if you don’t open the car door, the radio – and its clock – will turn off 10 minutes after you turn off the ignition.

Here is the TSB:

Subject: No Crank or No Start, DTC B2960 and/or B3033 Set (Replace Ignition Switch) #04-08-45-005D - (03/15/2006)

Models: 2003-2006 Saturn ION
Built Up To and Including VIN Breakpoint 6Z147837

This bulletin is being revised to modify the Correction Information. Please discard Corporate Bulletin Number 04-08-45-005C (Section 08 - Body and Accessories).

Some customers may comment that their vehicle will not start. This comment is referred to as “no crank, no start with complete power.”

Additional customer comments may be as follows:

? A clicking noise may be noticed when the key is first turned to the START position, but no noise is heard after the initial start attempt.
? The “Security” light may flash immediately after trying to start the car along with the message “Service Vehicle” in the Driver Information Center.
? The vehicle may not start for at least 10 minutes after the first attempt to start the vehicle. Diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) B2960 and or B3033 may be set in history in the BCM.

When the key is rotated from RUN to START there is a voltage signal sent to the BCM that goes through the PASSLOCK resistor in the ignition switch. This voltage signal may have an early ignition switch bounce (when going from RUN to START) that the BCM interprets as a failure in the PASSLOCK system and disables the starting circuit.

Verify that the ignition switch has been replaced at least once using P/N 10392423. If the switch HAS been replaced previously with P/N 10392423 - Replace the BCM.
After replacement of the ignition switch or replacement and reprogramming of the BCM, perform the 30-Minute Learn Procedure found in Programming Theft Deterrent System Components.

Is the TSB repair covered? If not, about how much does it run? I’m trying to decide whether to trade in my ION or repair it. Any quick help would be great!

Might have a solution: My Saturn Ion 2003 has had same problem. I replaced battery, went to better grade gas. Had everything checked, tightened. Decided after reading the posts here, it could be the theft deterrent might be activated. (My car too would eventually start.) I examined my key, which I have been using for seven years. It looked worn and deformed. I started to use the key I never use, which is in new condition, and the car has started after using it. For a whole week now, in Maine winter, my car has started without fail. I will keep you posted on if this good fortune continues. Try a new key and see if that works for you.