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Hello and thank you for using just answer. Yes you are correct that this is a electronic steering unit, there is no fluid as found in most cars, this was the first car to get electronic steering before GM started putting it on many of their lat model cars.
Yes there is also a fuse, however if your steering went out and then regained power a fuse being blown is not the issue here, usually the fuse is blown if the car is jump started incorrectly. There are also a list of service bulletins for this concern. If you were excessively steering the car (turning the wheel a LOT and manuevering) you may have overheated the steering motor and caused the thermal limiter to shut down the system until it cooled.
Do be aware that if the power assit fails or shuts down this does NOT lockout ability to steer, it simply removed power assit and will make low speed turns hard to complete.
If this condition occurs again then it will need to be connected to a saturn scan tool to retrieve any trouble codes stored so that the problem can be pinpointed.
I was not able to move the steering wheel at all, and I am rather strong. True, I had been turning a lot although it I do turn a lot rather often. The car only has 22,000 miles!
Do you recommend that I should carefully drive in a straight line to the dealership tomorrow for a scan? I've read online that dealers sometimes don't know what's wrong, which seems quite strange.
Sorry to bother you but I am an extremely careful person.
Thank you for the reply, you are not bothering me, I am here to HELP! I enjoy doing this.
Steering failure at this mileage would be very uncommon, if you had been turning a lot then most likely the dealer will tell you that the thermal limit switch shut down the sysytem....basically you have a BIG electric motor inside the car on the steering column, this is what power the steering assist, when you use the steering especially at low speeds it puts a lot of load on the steering motor that creates heat, when the motor gets hot enough there is a thermostat switch that opens up to cut power to the unit until it cools down.
If you were driving at speed and could not move the steering wheel at all........I can't explain that one, this system has been carefully designed to have fail-safe features, yes you loose power assist if this happens but you still have manual steering and it takes a LOT of force to turn the wheels with no assist. IF you question the safety of the car I recommend you drive it around the block a few times, if the steering acts normally it is safe to drive to the dealer, if you question it or do not feel comfortable then have it towed.
Thank you! I had been turning a lot (being lost looking for a restaurant) so that must haev caused the problem.
Is there anything the dealer can do to actually fix this, like replace a fuse or something? Or is the diagnostic scan just to be sure that that indeed is the problem? I'm not rich, to put it mildly, and don't want to spend unwisely. The Ion has never caused me any trouble or expense so far. (Your help is well worth it, by the way!)
The dealer would do a diagnostic scan on the car, depending on your area around $100......if the car is working fine now there may not be a code stored.
Saturn has a service bulletin for this symptom and calls it "normal", there would be a code set for this condition and if this is the case they will only tell you it's normal and charge you the fee. If the car is normal now........if it was MY car I would just continue to drive it and see if it acts up again since you are out of warranty, keep that extra $$$$ in your pocket. The market is down, dealers are slow and looking for ways to create revenue, I work for one and know how it goes. We have a lot of overhead to support and nothing is free.
Thank you again for being candid, I like the "normal" explanation at this point. I plan to get the oil changed and just ask them without authorizing extra expense.
I do appreciate your help, Peter, and have accepted your enlightening answers. I'll use this site again if I have needs.
Also, FYI, I tried to enter a valid Visa and the site rejected it so I used Amex but perhaps there is a glitch with Visa or credit cards; Amazon has no trouble with it. (You don't want to put off confused potential customers)!