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How to Change the Oil Filter on a 2004 Saturn ION

by Tim Petruccio

The 2004 Saturn ION was produced with an option of two different engines. Both the 2.0-liter and 2.2-liter in-line four-cylinders in the 2004 ION were part of the General Motors "Ecotec" engine family. The oil filter on the 2004 Saturn ION is located on the upper side of the engine toward the front of the vehicle. Removing and replacing the filter requires special tools designed specifically for the 2.0-, 2.2-, and 2.4-liter GM "Ecotec" engines. The tools for this job are available at your local GM dealership and some auto-parts stores.

Step 1

Lift the hood of the ION and place the hood prop rod in the designated hole in the underside of the hood. Visually inspect and locate the oil filter housing in the top-front of the engine. The filter is located toward the driver's side of the engine and may be covered by an engine dust shield. If your "Ecotec" has the removable dust shield, pull the shield directly vertical by hand to remove it for this project.

Step 2

Install a minimum of a 9-inch extension onto a 3/8-inch drive ratchet. Install a GM "Ecotec" oil filter removal socket on the end. These sockets are specially designed for depth and exact fit onto the oil filter housing cap.

Step 3

Attach the ratcheting assembly onto the oil filter housing cap. The housing cap has a hexagon protrusion straight upward that matches the internal measurements of the GM removal socket. Turn the ratchet counterclockwise by pushing the handle with your right hand. Place your left hand on the head of the ratchet and push straight down on the assembly. Applying the downward pressure on the ratchet head will ensure that you do not slip off the filter housing cap and damage the expensive cap. Rotate the cap counterclockwise until it comes free of the oil filter housing.

Step 4

Pull the oil filter cap straight upward to remove it from the engine. Immediately place the oil filter cap over a drain pan. You will notice that the cap has the filter attached to its underside. There is a cylindrical center mast inside the housing cap, that hold the internal oil filter onto the cap for easier installation and removal. Pull the oil filter free of the cap and place it directly into the drain pan.

Step 5

Install the new oil filter onto the center mast of the oil filter housing cap. Push the filter until it pops into place. Insert the filter and cap assembly back into the oil filter housing and start threading the cap back on by hand. Turn the cap clockwise by hand, until you cannot turn it any farther.

Use the 3/8-ratchet assembly with the extension and GM tool, to tighten the oil housing cap. Tighten the cap so that it is snug, then turn the ratchet a quarter-turn farther. Do not over-tighten the cap or you can crack the expensive cap.


  • Your local oil change shop or auto-parts store likely has a used-oil return program to take the used motor oil off your hands for free.
  • It's alway a wise idea to change the oil when changing the oil filter and vice-versa.


  • This job deals with petroleum-based products. Petroleum-based products are known to be extremely flammable. Keep this entire project away from open flame, spark, static electrical charge, excess heat, and cigarette smoking. Failure to adhere to this warning could result in vehicle fire.

Items you will need

  • 3/8-inch drive socket, with 9-inch minimal length extension
  • GM "Ecotec" oil filter tool kit
  • Oil drain pan or drip pan

About the Author

Tim Petruccio is a professional writer and automotive mechanic. His writing combines more than 20 years of mechanical experience in automotive service, service management, automotive education and business ownership. He assisted in the automotive beta, which launched March 2011.

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