Friday, September 18, 2009

2005 Saturn ION no crank, no start.

I just finished repairing a 2005 Saturn Ion that broke down (conveniently) in my driveway. My brother drove it in and a couple hours later it would not crank.

The Symptoms
These cars are known for a ignition switch malfunction, but the symptoms were slightly different (the security light did not flash*).

  • Everything seemed to power up but would not crank.
  • PWR STR, SERVICE VEHICLE, and COOLANT errors were displayed on the dash.
  • I was unable to connect to the OBD2 bus.

The Diagnosis
The Battery is located in the truck. There are 2 positive wires running from the battery forward. the big main one to the starter motor and fuse-box and a smaller one with an inline fuse holder several inches from the battery which apparently goes directly to the ECM.

  • The spare tire compartment had about 1" of water setting in the bottom which submerged the connector just after the inline fuse.
  • The wire corroded off both sides of the connector, shorted and blew the fuse.

The Repair

  • Twisting the wires together and replacing the fuse resulted in a running car. The wires were soldered.
  • The Check engine light was on however with a code p0315 Crankshaft Position System Variation Not Learned. According to most websites, solving this requires a "CASE Relearn Procedure"on GM's Tech2 scan tool. Apparently it will never clear itself. However there are several aftermarket scan tools that can do this. I happen to have a TriCAN from I love this tool, it does a huge amount of things many expensive hand held units don't. It has it's downsides though, it requires the use of a laptop, and in this case I could enable the CASE Relearn, but had to figure out what to do next from forums, etc.

The CASE Relearn procedure
  • Bring coolant temp up to 158F+
  • Shut off car
  • Wait 10+ sec
  • Start car
  • Hold foot firmly on brake from now on
  • Enable CASE Relearn
  • Steadily increase RPM until it hit's the (lowered automatically by the test) rev limiter at 4000RPM
  • Remove foot from throttle immediately at the first blip
  • MIL should go off at this point
  • Clear code (stays as historical)
The Moral
Always check the simple stuff, I spent several days hunting for problems up front because the truck was so full of junk I couldn't even look at the battery. I assumed that as long as i had power up front the battery area was fine. How wrong I was...
Oh, wiring diagrams are your friend.

* If your security light is flashing you probably need a new ignition switch, they are a very common problem.


  1. I have a question. I had my ignition switch replaced. Car worked fine for a year. Then my key broke in the ignition and I had to use a spare. Car started giving me trouble again. It click click clicks. An hour later it starts or sometimes 10 minutes or 30 minutes. Do you think the problem could be related? Thank you.

  2. It doesn't sound related to the problem described above, however I may still be able to help you.
    I have two ideas:

    In either case check the battery for corrosion and tight connections. Also check the smaller red wire (coming from the battery) and it's in-line fuse for corrosion.

    1. If the click, click, clicking is moderately loud (it sounds like the car is going crazy) continue here, otherwise skip to point 2.

    The ION's need a good battery, a really good battery. They do this weird clicking / electrical system bugout thing if the battery is weak / depleted. Often all the dash lights flash as well. It's kind of scary the first time around. Most cars will try to crank, or barely roll over, but the ION's go nuts!

    Probably the easiest way to check this is to get a jump start, if it starts right up it's your battery. If it's cold a marginal battery will be weak. The colder it is the worse it is. If you have access to a multimeter you could monitor the battery voltage.
    12.6-12.8 = full charge (with no load, key off)
    less than 9v is low when cranking
    I'd like to see above 10v cranking
    Try it when it starts and when it doesn't, I'm not sure what the limits are. But maybe you can find out.
    Bottom line: replace the battery.

    2. If by click, click, click, you're referring to the action of turning the key from run to start, but aren't getting loud noises, flashing dash lights, and general weirdness it's probably your ignition switch.

    If it's cold (usually this happens when it's really cold) warm the left side of the steering column with a blow dryer. Don't melt the plastic. The ignition switch is in line with the key (same angle) on the other side of the steering column. It usually doesn't take much heat to get it working again.
    Bottom line: repair / replace ignition switch (or only drive when it's warm out)

    Less likely it could be the red wire / in-line fuse in the trunk coming from the battery, check for signs of moisture in the trunk / spare tire area.

    Depending how the broken key was removed it's possible the switch was damaged, although I would expect it to never start at all in this case.

  3. I have a Saturn Ion 2005 and i am having trouble with it just recently when i turn it on it wont the only way it turns on is by me turning the key completely and hold it for about 20 seconds and than it turns on

  4. I just got done replacing the starter on my 05 Saturn. It crunk right up fine,but once I drove it. I shut it off an now it want start. What could be the problem

    1. Does it crank? If it doesn't crank does the security light start flashing when you try to crank? If Yes, it's probably your ignition switch. You'll need to replace it and do a relearn before it will crank (takes about 30 min). You can just do a relearn and it will start, but expect it to randomly strand you while you do the relearn and get worse until you replace it.

      If it cranks, but won't start look for blown fuses in the fuse box and there's one inline in the trunk near the battery that will cause this.

      Failing all that start checking generic problems, does the fuel pump run?

  5. I have an 04 ion 5 speed. About a year ago the car was driven home and parked, it snowed overnight and the car sat for 2 days. After the roads cleared the car would no longer start with a key but would have complete power to everything. It would aslo roll start and start with a push button, i have replaced the ignition switch, the key lock cylinder and the clutch pedal switch. It still will not start with the key.

    1. Wow, That's a good one. I assume it doesn't crank with the key, but will bump start or start if you jump the starter right?

      If it will start and run for more that 30-60 seconds the (factory) security system is working fine.

      Have you checked the starter relay, all the fuses, wiring harnesses for obvious problems? I usually swap the starter relay for the horn relay if they are the same.

      Also look for a aftermarket security system or remote start that could be interfering.

      I'll think about this some more and reply if I think of anything else.

    2. Absolutely no crank with the key. With the starter wired to a push button it will start and run all day. Ive checked for the obvious, i mean i know my way around cars but this one is beating me down. We checked the interior fuse box and it had a ridiculous amount of voltage. Now im talking about getting a reading of above 30 volts,i thought my meter blew but it tested out 12 volts at all other points. I looked in the trunk to see if mine had an inline fuse and ive just got one lead off each side of the battery.

    3. Also there is no aftermarket security system or anything on the car.

    4. 30V WTF??? That shouldn't be possible. Is that with the car running? (bad voltage regulator in the alternator?) I'd start by tracking that down. It's not 30mv is it? (I've done that before)

      Almost everything on these care runs through the computers, It's possible it's something weird wrong with one of them. I'm very reluctant to blame the computers, as I've been burned on that diagnosis before, but I'm stumped.

      If you don't have access to schematics, etc you can sign up for a Autozone account (free) and get a lot of info under Repair Help - Vehicle Repair Guides. Unfortunately they don't have 2004/5, but they do have 2006/7. You might find a FSM floating about the interwebs too.

    5. You get dash, radio, lights, etc with the key on engine off right? I'm wondering if you've got either a back feed or battery power to the starter, but only alternator power to the fuse box (still wondering about the 30v thing).

      I'm guessing here. You've got a really weird problem.

    6. I get dash lights, all guages work and it starts fine with a push button. Ive got power to the switch.

    7. You may have checked this, but have you tried jumping the starter relay? (the connections are diagonal corner to corner) 2 are the winding (should get power across them when cranking, but you probably won't) the other 2 are +12v and starter solenoid. Jump them and it should crank. If it does you can eliminate that wiring.

      It might be worth checking your clutch switch on the off chance you got a bad one.

      Have you pulled /reset the codes from the BCM? that may take a special scanner. My grandparents 06 Ion's rad fan disassembled itself and blew the fuse. I replaced the fuse and fan but it was cold and I couldn't get it to come on. (I later learned that turning the A/C should force the fan on regardless of temp, it didn't, but I wasn't sure if it was always on or temp / pressure controlled at the time) It was running a little hot so they brought it back and the fan still wouldn't come on. It had set a code and apparently will let you overheat rather than try to turn the fan on again. I cleared the codes (this was ECU) and on came the fan.

      I don't know if the clutch switch (BCM, I think) employs the same (flawed) logic? Usually disconnecting the battery will do this so you're probably already covered. (If you have a friend with a BCM capable scanner it's worth a try though)

  6. It seems everything is leaning back towards the bcm i think for now it will just be push to start

  7. I have a 2006 Saturn Ion. A few things have happened w this car, but i dont know if theyre related. Since i bought the car a year ago, there has always been a relay clicking sound behind the dash where the fuse panel is. Usually hear it while the car is idling, but have never had a problem w the way the car runs when i hear it. Then over this past summer, the vehicle would start missing, ck engine lt would start blinking & i would rev up the rpms & it would clear itself engine lt would go off, & the car would run fine. It was very sporadic, & it seemed to happen while the ac was on...if i turned the ac off, the problem would go away. That hasnt happened now in quite some time. But this morning the vehicle would not crank, would not start...everything was working fine though, so i knew it wasnt a battery. It eventually started, & seemed to run fine, except 6 times on the way to work it just lost power for a split second, then was fine again...the ck engine lt would just flash once when it happened, but no other lts...again, very sporadic when driving this morning. I have not tried to start the car again after i got to work. Could these 3 issues be related? And what do u think the no start is?

    1. I don't know if the 2006 model has that wire / fuse holder, might be worth checking. It was in the trunk near the battery.

      It's been a long time since I worked on one of these, so this may or may not be helpful. I'll post more if I think of anything. Hope this helps!

      You could try to track the relay noise down, without knowing what it controls not much we can do. (could be inside the BCM and we'll never know) These Ions have tons of electrical stuff in them.

      As for a no crank is it suddenly much colder where you are? The ignition switches are a known problem, the anti-theft system can go out of spec and the symptoms are a no crank with a flashing security light once you try to crank and go back to run. I think there was a recall on the ignition switches for a different reason, so you may have a new one already.

      A blinking check engine light usually means lots of misfires happening.(enough that you don't need a light to tell you somethings wrong) There are lots of things that could cause this. Probably better to look up how to diagnose a misfire than get into it here. They can be aggravating, especially if you can't get it to do it on command (they always works fine for the mechanic don't they?).

      Anyway, it sounds electrical, possibly a bad wire, relay, fuse or something. 90% of the time it ends up being something stupid like a wire rubbed through. Usually takes forever to find it...

      Have Fun! Hope this helps / Gives you some ideas.

    2. I found the problem. There was about 3 inches of water in the trunk pan where the spare tire & battery is housed, & it correded the wire for the ECM. Was getting no signal to ECM. Spliced it & it starts fine. Drilled a couple of holes in the trunk pan to so it drains in the future. As far as the missing that i experienced over the summer goes, i spoke w a friend of mine who works for GM, & he told me the fuel injector harness, where it wraps around the valve cover, goes bad. Said the wires start to get brittle & breakdown as the engine torques, & can cause an injector misfire. Said if theres not too much damage to them already, they can be rerouted or secured to prevent further damage or misfiring. If theyre too far gone, replacing the harness is recommended.

  8. Steve i have a question about another vehicle. 96 ford explorer 4.0. The vehicle will crank but not start after running for awhile. If you drive it for lets say 20-30 minutes, shut the vehicle off to run into the store, then come back out, it wont start. Cranks fine. Vehicle needs to sit for about 30-45 minutes or so, then will start up just fine. The one thing i also noticed, is when the temperature is frigid out (below freezing) this problem occurs less often. Happens moreso in warmer weather. Ive read that the EEC & Fuel pump relays can cause this, but doesnt it seem more like an ignition module or coil pack problem? Fuel pump seems to be working fine