NHTSA expands investigation into Saturn Ion power steering failures

Over 380,000 Saturn Ions could be affected by the same power steering fault that led to the recall of 1.05 million Chevy Cobalts and Pontiac G5s.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced today that it will increase its investigation into certain Saturn Ion models into a full-blown engineering analysis.

The issue in question is the vehicles' power steering systems, which have been reported to fail and create an "increase in steering effort could result in some loss of control and a crash," according to the NHTSA. 382,474 2004-07 Saturn Ion sedans are affected by the problem.

Just last year, the NHTSA investigated the loss of power steering in 2005-10 Cobalt models, which ultimately led to the recall of 1.05 million Cobalts (and mechanically identically Pontiac G5s) to fix a flaw with the electric power system assist motor.

That fault, specifically the failure of the electric power assist motor due to the buildup of brush debris mixed with oily material, is the "same problem" found in the Saturn Ions. The NHTSA reported that it has "duplicated this failure in both a Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion" at its Vehicle Research and Test Center in Ohio.

General Motors has received 3,489 complaints and 17,385 warranty claims stemming from the issue. 16 crashes have been reported, including two which resulted in injuries.

Owners, be warned: multiple complaints stated that the dashboard power steering warning light illuminated prior to or during the loss of power steering assist.

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