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Explorer to Aviator front brake upgrade


Well-Known Member
November 23, 2010
Reaction score
City, State
Greenville, SC
Year, Model & Trim Level
'04 EB
Has anyone upgraded the front brakes on your explorer to the 13" rotors and slightly larger calipers from an aviator? I am about to do my front brakes and it looks like it should be bolt in as long as there are 17" or larger diameter wheels. The advantage would be going from a 12.07" to a 13" rotor and a twin 48mm piston from twin 46 mm pistons. The rear calipers are the same on aviator and explorer but aviator has larger rotors. Problem with the rear is the caliper bracket is part of the knuckle which would mean I would need an aviator rear knuckle (too much work and probably not much improvement). The fronts to me looks like it should be an easy and reasonably priced factory upgrade. I know the master cylinder is the same between the explorer and aviator. The only thing I don't know is if the knuckle on the front is the same between the two. If they are the same then it should work.

If my calculations are correct I would need to purchase the following:
Aviator front calipers
Aviator front caliper to knuckle bracket
Aviator front brake pads
Aviator front rotors

And this shouldn't be any additional work then changing calipers and rotors.

Let me know if anyone has any experience?




Yes, this conversion does work!!!! Must also have Aviator Front Knuckles

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I haven't heard of anyone do it yet, but I am due for new rotors/pads and have given this some thought.

I most likely will stick to stock, just get good pads and flush the brake fluid out with a higher quality one and be done.

If you do move forward with this, do a writeup with lots of pictures :thumbsup:

Another "quick" upgrade is braided steel brake hoses. Not sure if anyone makes a direct replacement for our ploders. There is a company here that will make em to what ever length/fittings you want. :) That's what I plan on doing as soon as my hoses need changing.

So I did some more research and found the front knuckles are indeed different on the explorer and aviator. However, I don't know the exact differences. I am going to still try it out and worst case I could return or sell to an aviator owner here or on eBay.

Just purchased the parts

list of Aviator front brake parts to be installed on the Explorer.

$78.92 - EBC Greenstuff 6000 pads DP61675
$56.54 * 2 - Centric Premium Rotors with E-coating 120.65093
$88.28 - Rebuilt Aviator Caliper Front Left w/ bracket
$88.28 - Rebuilt Aviator Caliper Front Right w/ bracket

Total Cost: $338.56 (plus brake fluid, cleaner, etc.)

I will do a write up after the install with photos. I could have gotten cheaper pads and rotors, but I really like EBC pads I have now, and the centric premium rotors are worth the few dollars extra.

Bummer, my calipers were backordered. I purchased from Amazon. The new shipping date is by the end of October.

Keep us posted when they come in, very interested in this swap as well.

Just get loaded calipers and a set of rotors from an auto parts store and see if they fit. Then return them and wait for the good stuff to come in...

So I did some more research and found the front knuckles are indeed different on the explorer and aviator. However, I don't know the exact differences. I am going to still try it out and worst case I could return or sell to an aviator owner here or on eBay.

The steering knuckles in the Aviators are aluminum, instead of the cast iron knuckles explorers got. Also aluminum is the lower control arm of the Aviators, with ball and socket type sway bar links, rather than a bolt and bushing style used on explorers.

Benjam :D

Edit:Explorers got aluminum steering knuckles as well. Thanks for the correction gentlemen.

My 2004 as a aluminum steering knuckle, not a cast iron one.

So does my 2003.

One of my calipers arrived and I have verified this will not bolt in. The bolt hole spacing is different on the caliper brackets. The explorer is ~6" apart and the aviator is ~4 7/8" apart and uses bigger bolts. The aviator brake setup is a bit larger and beefer. I posted some pics on my Flickr page here http://www.flickr.com/photos/96263294@N08/sets/72157636780053594/

I really want these brakes installed and I still have some pad material left so I am going to figure out the best course of action. I am thinking of sourcing some used front knuckles and then put new wheel bearings as mine are original, and whatever bushings I can replace while I am there.

So, you're going to try to modify the avi brackets?

So, you're going to try to modify the avi brackets?

It appears as though he's going to just swap in an Aviator knuckle, so that the Aviator brackets and calipers require no modification.


I just purchased avaitor front knuckles for $75 each from local junkyard. Boy are they light. I am going to replace front bearings while I am in there as well. I am still waiting on my passenger side caliper. I looked at trying to machine the explorer knuckles, but it would take most of the strength out of the upright portion as the aviator knuckle is about a half inch closer to the center of the vehicle. There is no way to modify the aviator bracket as I would have to again remove all of it. I will post some pics later ashy will make more sense. Plus all that work would probably cost me more with an inferior product than oem aviator knuckles. I am keeping the original lower arms to prevent anymore scope creep. I would have to buy new anti roll bar mounts just to lose a couple pounds of weight.

I was going to do this exact same swap last year. I bought all of the parts and ran into the same stupid problem you did with the bolt spacing. I am going to try to get a spacer bracket to move the explorer caliper out farther and use the aviator rotor. Have not got around to it yet though. My 4.0-4.6 swap is coming first.

Great news!!!! My explorer is now converted to Aviator Front Brakes. I haven't done any 70-0 distances, but I can tell a huge!!! improvement.

I did some research, Car and Driver tested a 2002 Eddie Bauer 4x4 V6 3rd row, rear climate control tow package (4,646lbs), 70-0mph distance was 201ft. They tested a 2003 Lincoln Aviator AWD v8 (5,122lbs) 70-0mph distance was 181ft. I have a V8 Eddie Bauer 4X4, tow package, no 3rd row, no rear climate control, so according to the book it should weigh at min 4,339lbs, add a few lbs in dirt to 4,400lbs I am still 722lbs lighter than the Aviator. So I feel I should be well in the 170 ft range. I have EBC Greenstuff pads all round so probably could deduct a few more.

These Aviator front brakes were a much larger improvement over than just swapping to the EBC Greenstuff pads. These feel much better than my parents 2006 Hemi Durango brakes, which I feel are excellent for the class (186ft)

I will post a How to shortly, in the meantime check out my Flickr page. In short you need the minimum to convert your explorer front brakes to the larger aviator front brakes:

17" or larger wheels
Aviator Front Rotors
Aviator Front Brake Calipers
Aviator Front Brake Caliper Brackets
Aviator Front Brake Caliper Bracket to Knuckle Bolts (4x)
Aviator Front Brake Pads
Aviator Front Knuckles
Front End Alignment

In terms of skills, anyone who has replaced brake calipers and ball joints will be capable of upgrading to the Aviator Front Brakes.



New (can't fit anything bigger under 17" wheels, maybe 0.050" clearance):

Aviator Knuckle on Left, Explorer Knuckle on Right

New Aviator Knuckle, Rotor, EBC Greenstuff Pads, and Calipers

PS: My Explorer Knuckles, Front Wheel Bearings (120K), Front ABS Sensors (120K), Approx Half Worn Out Explorer EBC Greenstuff Pads (38K), Front Calipers (120K), and Front Caliper Brackets are for sale. PM me if interested, rather them go to another explorer forum member than sit in my garage.

I think I'm going to price this out and do it as well. Thanks and looking forward to your "how-to" thread!

Edit: Be sure to post where you purchased your parts from.

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Due to the massive snow storm today, I found some time to write up the How-to for converting a 2002-2005 Ford Explorer to 2003-2005 Lincoln Aviator Front Brakes. WARNING: I take no responsibility for any problems related to this conversion or failure of your brakes.

The reason for the upgrade is significantly better braking, through larger rotors, calipers, and brake pads. The rear brakes between the two vehicles are the same except the Aviator has knuckles which reposition the caliper for 1” larger diameter rotors. Also not these vehicles use the same brake master cylinder.
The comparison between the front brakes of the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator:
2002 -2005 Explorer: 12.06” Diameter, twin 46mm calipers, min 16” wheel, 5 ¼” long pads
2003-2005 Aviator: 13” Diameter, twin 48mm calipers, min 17” wheel, 6” long pads

Must use the Aviator Knuckles for this conversion due to the spacing of the bolt holes for Caliper Bracket and the backspacing of the Bracket and Rotor :
Silver Bracket is the Aviator Bracket, Black one is the Explorer Bracket

Tools Needed for Conversion:
1) Standard metric socket set
2) Large metric sockets, specifically 22mm for aviator caliper bolts, and 24 mm for lower balljoint (I bought this set from Amazon http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000NIKA4U/ref=ox_ya_os_product )
3) 30mm socket ( for the Axle Nut, I got mine on amazon for $8.74 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000NPR36G/ref=ox_ya_os_product )
4) Some form of Spray Nut release stuff (PB Plaster, etc.)
5) Torque Wrench
6) Jack
7) Jack Stands
8) Ball Joint popping tools (two different styles) ( I got a set that included the ones I need from Harbour Freight, see pics below for the necessary tools)
9) Clamps for backing out caliper pistons (if using used calipers)

Parts needed for conversion:
1) 17" or larger wheels -> Your choice, I kept with my stock 17” wheels
2) Aviator Front Rotors -> I purchased Centric Premium Rotors with E-coating 120.65093 $56.54 each on Amazon
3) Aviator Front Left Brake Caliper -> $98.79 see note below list
4) Aviator Front Right Brake Caliper -> $98.79 see note below list
5) Aviator Front Left Brake Caliper Bracket -> mine came with caliper but if purchased separately A-1 CARDONE Part # 141057, $23.16
6) Aviator Front Right Brake Caliper Bracket-> mine came with caliper but if purchased separately A-1 CARDONE Part # 141056, $23.16
7) Aviator Front Brake Caliper Bracket to Knuckle Bolts (4x) 14mm X 45mm 2.0 thread pitch-> Mine came with my Aviator Motorcraft HUB-115 Front Wheel Bearings
8) Aviator Front Brake Pads -> Your choice, I went with EBC Greenstuff, and got a set with my calipers
9) Aviator Front Knuckles -> I purchased mine for $75 each at my local junkyard
10) Front End Alignment
11) Brake Grease
12) New Cotter Pins x 6
13) Brake Part Cleaner
14) Brake Fluid

I ended up purchasing all my parts on amazon since I have an amazon prime account (free 2 day shipping), The main reason for this taking so long to install is I never received the right caliper due to it being continually backordered on amazon. I ended up purchasing it through RockAuto.com. Just scroll to a 2003 Lincoln Aviator, http://www.rockauto.com/catalog/x,carcode,1410691,parttype,1704 . I purchased the A-1 Cardone Part # 18B4865 for the Left and Part # 18B4864 for the right, these came with the Caliper brackets and brake pads (I ended up using the EBC Greenstuff pads on mine). Since you won’t have a core to return, each caliper assembly will cost $98.79. There are lots of other choices for calipers but my 2 bits are to get ones that come with the caliper bracket.


Total cost for conversion with new/rebuilt parts and used knuckles is ~$460.66 + alignment. My total cost for everything I did was ~$800 (had a little Scope Creep). If you use all used stuff you could do it for around $200 + alignment

Other Items that are easy to replace while doing this conversion (ie Scope Creep)
1) Front Wheel Bearings/Hubs -> I purchased the Motorcraft ones which use Timken Bearings HUB-115 for $134 from Amazon, (The Aviator and Explorer parts are the same except the Motorcraft ones come with new bolts, which are different between the two)
2) Upper Balljoints
3) Lower Balljoints
4) Tie Rod Ends
5) Shocks/Springs

Time: Took myself 6 hours to swap everything out.

Step 1: Jack up vehicle, remove wheels

Step 2: (Note 4WD/AWD Only) Spray some PB Blaster on the Axle Nut for both sides, and let sit for a little bit. Using the 30mm socket loosen each Axle Nut in the center of the hub. If it is rotating, have a buddy apply the brakes. I used my impact gun and had no problems. Note: I have already removed caliper in the photo, do not remove caliper prior to removing the Axle Nut, or you will have a really tough time trying to loosen it. You will want to remove the Axle Nut for both sides prior to moving on to the next step.

Step 3: Disconnect the ABS Sensor Cable from inside the engine compartment. On the brake line there is also attached the abs sensor cable. You will need to follow this up into the engine compartment and disconnect it and unclip from the brake line.

Step 4: Remove Caliper from Caliper Bracket, there should be two small screws on the back. Do not disconnect the brake line yet, we will do that after the Aviator caliper is installed to minimize the amount of brake fluid you lose. Using a clothes hanger, bungee cord, etc. hang the caliper on the upper control arm.

Step 5: Remove the Caliper Bracket. There are two larger bolts going from the Caliper Bracket to the Knuckle. Remove these, and set the bracket and Bolts aside, these will no longer be used.

Step 6: Remove the Brake Rotor. On my rotors there were small retaining washers, I ended up cutting them off to remove them. Depending how rusty the car is, you might have to fight with the rotor to get it off.

Comparison of the Old Explorer Rotor and New Aviator Rotor:

Step 7: Remove the Cotter Pins from the Upper Ball Joint, Lower Ball Joint, and Tie Rod End. These are the 3 linkages attached to the Knuckle. Loosen each one of the castle nuts for these pieces, and leave the nut at the end of the threaded portion. You will use this nut to apply pressure to pop them out.

Step 8: Pop out each ball joint and the tie rod ends. On the upper ball joint and tie rod end use the tool on the top, the lower ball joint use the tool on the bottom as shown in the next picture down. Be careful not to ruin the boots. If you ruin the boots you will have to replace these parts. You should still have the castle nuts attached to the threads

Step 9: Remove the Castle Nuts from the Upper Ball Joint and the Tie Rod End. While holding the Knuckle and Hub, carefully remove the Lower Ball Joint Castle Nut. At the same time you will need to slide the Hub off of the Axle and loop the knuckle off the Lower Ball Joint. Once you are done it should look like this:

Aviator Knuckle on Left, Explorer Knuckle on Right

Below are the Pages out of the Explorer Manual for Bolt Torque Ratings which will be used during reassembly:

Step 10: At this point you can either reuse your old front wheel bearings/hub/abs sensor assembly or install new ones. Since I have 120K and the bearings are a common failure point, I decided to install new ones. FYI: it is super easy to replace these with the knuckle removed from the vehicle. There are 3 bolts holding the assembly to the knuckle. Make sure the mating surface is clean when installing on the Aviator Knuckle. Use Loctite when reinstalling the bolts. My new Motorcraft bearing/hub assembly came with new bolts with Loctite preapplied. Torque these 3 bolts to 83 ft-lbs.

Step 11: If you are installing new ball joints or tie rod ends, now is the time to do this.

Step 12: Place some Grease on the Axle Spines and the Hub. This eases installation and prevents rusting down the road.

Step 13: Install the Knuckle, Hub, Bearing, ABS Sensor Assembly on the Lower Ball Joint and Axle. You will want to install the Lower Ball Joint castle nut at the same time to prevent it from falling off. Install the Upper Ball Joint Castle Nut and the Tie Rod End Castle Nut.

Step 14: Torque the Castle Nuts for the Upper and Lower Ball Joint and Tie Rod End. Upper Ball Joint is torqued to 38 ft-lbs, Lower Ball Joint is torqued to 129 ft-lbs, and the tie rod end is torqued to 52 ft-lbs. Each Nut should then be turned until a slot in the castle lines up with the hole in the bolt and place a NEW cotter pin.

Step 15: Using Brake Part Cleaner, clean off the Aviator Brake Rotors. Install the Brake Rotor onto Hubs.

Step 16: Install Aviator Brake Caliper Bracket onto Knuckles. These use two 10.1 rated flanged bolts 14mm X 45mm 2.0 thread pitch. They need a 22mm socket to install. Torque to 83 ft-lbs. Mine came with my new Motorcraft Hub/Bearing Assembly. Make sure to use Loctite and to place the abs sensor cable into the recess.

Step 17: Install the Brake Pads and place Brake Pad Grease on the portions of the pads which touches the bracket and the caliper. Failure to do so will result in an endless symphony of squeaks. WARNING: Do not place any grease on the actual friction portion of the pad.

Step 18: Install the Calipers. There are two small bolts which hold the caliper to the caliper bracket, torque these to 24 ft-lbs.

Step 19: Remove the Brake Hose from the Explorer Caliper which you still have hanging. Quickly Reinstall the Brake Hose onto the Aviator Caliper. Make sure to create the correct sandwich of pieces. You should have 2 new copper crush washers. These washers should be on each side of the hose and will seal up the hose. If the washers don’t seal properly you will never be able to properly bleed your brakes properly.

Step 20: Plug in your abs sensor and clip back onto the brake line.

Step 21: Do all of these previous steps on the other side of the car.

Step 22: Bleed the Brakes. You will want to bleed all 4 brake calipers. It is much easier if you remove the 2 rear wheels. You will need a friend to help you with this part. Have your friend crank up the car and lower all the windows (make sure you are in a well-ventilated area). I have never had any success bleeding the brakes with any of the hand vacuum pumps on this vehicle. I believe it has something to do with the abs system. You will not be able to bleed the brakes with the car turned off, again something to do with the abs system. You and your friend need to come up with some system to make sure that you don't have the bleeder valve open without them pressing in on the brake pedal. My wife and I use the following system: I will yell Brake when I am ready for her to press the brake pedal, she will then yell Braking AFTER she has pressed the brake pedal and continues to hold down the pedal. I will then open up the bleeder valve and close it (watching for air bubbles). After I close the valve I will yell Release and she will yell Releasing. Repeat until satisfied all the air is out of the system. Start from the farthest portion from the Brake Master Cylinder and make sure to keep the Master Cylinder Reservoir Full of Brake Fluid. Note: Failure to get air out of your brakes will cause them to fail, also Brake Fluid is an excellent paint stripper so be careful and clean up ASAP)

Step 23: Right now your brakes are now bled. Congrats

Step 24: (4WD/AWD Only) Install your Axle Nut. It requires a 30mm socket and must be torqued to 184 ft-lbs. Do not use an impact hammer to install. Might need a friend to apply the brakes so you can tighten the nut.

Step 25: Make sure no wheel weights are on the inside of the wheel if you are using 17” wheels. They will hit the caliper as there is very little room between inside of wheel and caliper.

Step 26: Reinstall Wheels and lower vehicle.

Step 27: Need to take vehicle for a test drive and bed in your new brake pads. Make increasingly faster hard stops and verify your brakes are not spongy. If they are spongy you have air in your brakes and you need to repeat the brake bleeding process.

Step 28: Get an alignment completed on your vehicle as you have affected the toe due to the different knuckles.

Step 29:Enjoy your newfound better braking ability.

More pictures and larger resolutions are available on my Flickr Page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/96263294@N08/sets/72157636780053594/