How can I get Saturn to take this potentially dangerous car off my hands.
January 25, 2008 8:35 PM   Subscribe

Car systems randomly shut down a week and a half after purchasing it. How can I get the dealership to take it back?

On January 15 I bought a used 2003 Saturn ION from my local Saturn dealer. Tonight my fiance and I were driving it back to our home town (an hour and a half drive) when suddenly all of the systems in the car just shut down. The gauges all went down to zero, the antilock brakes and power steering stopped working, all the various lights came on- oil light, seatbelt light, emergency brake light. We were on the highway and so we took the next exit and thought maybe turning the car off and on might help. (It works with computers and this seemed to be a computer issue). However, when we tried to turn the car back on it wouldn't start. The engine would turn over, but it would immediately die. After about five tries we were able to get it started again by hitting the gas at the same time as turning the key.
We took a chance and drove it to the nearest Saturn dealer. On the drive over the systems kept turning off and on. For most of the drive the gauges weren't working, but they would randomly turn back on. The garage was closed but the sales floor was open. They had us pull the car into the garage and said they'd check it out tomorrow morning. However, despite the extended warranty we purchased, we were told we are going to have to pay diagnostic fees and perhaps other fees. When we had brought the car in, the guy didn't seem that surprised by the problem. He was more surprised that the car didn't just shut off because apparently the 2003 model will just randomly shut down without warning.

I plan on taking a trip to the Saturn dealership where I bought it (both my parents and my fiance's parents offered to come with). We had a 150 mile/3 day window where we could have returned the car no questions asked. Basically I'd like for them to expand that window and just take the car back. What is the best way to get the results we'd like in this matter?
posted by Becko to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Read this: Lemon Law
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:14 PM on January 25, 2008

what state are you in, lemon laws could apply

tho such laws could, theoretically, apply to every saturn ever made
posted by Salvatorparadise at 9:14 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Becko, I can't address the Lemon Laws or how to go about getting them to take the car back, but I'm willing to bet that's a bad alternator. I had the EXACT same symptoms with a failing alternator in my 2002 Subaru about two months ago. I'm sure they will run diagnostics on the electrical system and find the issue, but if you can't get a return to happen, make sure they test the alternator, and if it's bad it needs to be replaced along with the battery. Good luck to you.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 9:32 PM on January 25, 2008

IANAM, but this sounds like a problem with the alternator, which isn't that severe of a problem. It seems freaky when your car starts having strange electrical issues on the middle of the highway at night, and you start wondering if there are UFOs overhead, but problems like that usually indicate alternator issues. I grew up w/ GM cars, and helped my dad replace alternators on the majority of them. Still, with a car purchased this recently, I'd be pissed and want to return it too.

I don't have much advice about returning the car, but I can say if they refuse to take it back, let them know you'll never do business with Saturn again, and you won't be recommending any Saturn vehicles to your friends. You don't need to be angry or yell, just let them know you are seriously unhappy.

And don't pay their stupid diagnostic fee. Either fix it yourself (this thread has some information and links to checking alternator problems with a $10 multimeter) or find a trustworthy mechanic in your town.
posted by formless at 9:49 PM on January 25, 2008

However, when we tried to turn the car back on it wouldn't start. The engine would turn over, but it would immediately die. After about five tries we were able to get it started again by hitting the gas at the same time as turning the key.

This is not an alternator issue, This is spurious advice. If it was a charging issue (all the alternator does) while the 'dying' symptoms would be correct, the car would not have turned over or restarted, regardless of what you did with the throttle, as the car would have stopped from running out of battery charge.

It does sound like a serious electrical fault (faulty earth, perhaps, or possibly much more complicated) but it is not an alternator issue, that's for sure.
posted by Brockles at 9:56 PM on January 25, 2008

Your profile says you're in Illinois. The Illinois Lemon Law doesn't cover used cars, unfortunately.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 10:21 PM on January 25, 2008

I thought alternator first too, but if you started it, that rules out alternator.

You're only a week out, make your complaint, document everything. If you do find out what's wrong and it costs an arm and a leg, and it's a forseeable thing (not wear and tear, like there's much on a 2003 model anyway) make them pay. If they don't, pay it and then sue for rescission. They get the car back, you get your money back plus what you paid in repairs. Unless it's a completely unforseen incident, which an alternator probably would be, you should be fine. Also IANAL*
posted by sanka at 10:22 PM on January 25, 2008

I'd bet the ignition switch is faulty.
That is based on my experience with other cars, not Saturns in particular. If that is the case, it shouldn't be a major expense and you should consider keeping the car.
Sorry to hear about that scary experience.
posted by artdrectr at 11:31 PM on January 25, 2008

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