About a year ago (right after the warranty ran out on my Saturn) I went out to my car… put the key in… turned it… nothing. I’m a fairly mechanical guy and it was a cold day so my gut told me that it was the battery (or so I thought at the time). I got out the charger, hooked it up and waited. After about 10 minutes, I turned the key again and voila! The car started.
After this happened a few times I replaced the battery. To my surprise, the problem persisted, and not only that, but I started realizing that it only happens when its cold! I checked over all of the power connections and everything looked good, so I turned to the All Knowing… Google!
I searched a bit and found out the real problem. Apparently there is what I consider a design flaw in the anti-theft system. The ignition measures the resistance of the key and if it doesn’t match the resistance that it was calibrated to then it triggers the anti-theft system and you can’t even attempt to start the car for another 10 minutes… yikes! In extreme cold (or heat), the resistance of the key/ignition changes and the security system thinks that you are a thief! I took the car to Saturn and they told me that it would cost some hundreds of dollars and I refused! This isn’t just any abnormal malfunction! From reading the amount of people that has this problem on the internet this is a problem that GM should have fixed years and years ago… I guess that’s why GM is in trouble and Saturn has gone out of business.
The Solution? For older models, I remember reading that there was a work-around that includes starting the car and modifying some wiring, but for a newer model like mine (2006 Ion), I was out of luck.
I tried various things until I found one that worked: I started bringing a lighter in the car with me and warming up the key and ignition before I tried starting it the first time (see disclaimer below). The other important part is to turn the key very slowly (such that there is an even amount of tension on it) until the car starts.
I’ve even gotten to the point of breathing heavily on the key (the same way you do when you warm your hands up on a cold winter day) and then turn the key very slowly (such that there is an even amount of tension on it) until the car starts…. this seems to do the trick.
Not the most elegant solution, but it will save you some money.
DISCLAIMER: I take no responsibility for you starting yourself, your car, or any of your stuff on fire!