The everything Aviator thread. | Ford Explorer - Ford Ranger Forums - Serious Explorations
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The everything Aviator thread.


April 27, 2009
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City, State
Pittsburgh PA
Year, Model & Trim Level
'03 Aviator AWD v8
I thought I would start a thread where I basically dump my knowledge about the Aviator for others to use and talk about. It's a unique vehicle and information is hard to come by. I've owned an 03 Aviator for 2 years now and have learned a lot about them. I've scoured the net for information and do all my own work on the truck. I'm not a professional mechanic by any means, but I think I have above average skills and knowledge, especially on the little known Aviator. AND I have a copy of the factory shop manual so i can post diagrams/schematics for any members in need, just post a request and I'll see if i can help.

Overall it’s been an excellent vehicle. There are not many vehicles on the road that you can take hunting and fishing during the day then drive to the opera at night and not feel out of place doing either. It has the power of the full size trucks and suvs but you can actually parallel park it and drive it comfortably. It has the interior and ride of a luxury car and just enough chrome outside to look classy without looking trashy. That being said, it isn’t without it’s share of trouble spots and problems.

If you have an Aviator or have worked on one, please share your comments and knowledge. This is a work in progress, I will continue to add to it as time goes on.

EDIT: New pictures! Now with TRUXXX lift! First ever lifted Aviator? tires are 265-70-17 Goodyear Duratracs - Awesome tires!

In process: Just the rears done. I just realized it looks like the rear tires are nearly touching the running board in the pictures. Must be the camera angle, there is a good 2-3" of clearance

(Photos have been lost from this post)

Grill Guards/ Bull Bars / Front End Protection:
When I was initially looking for a brush guard I didn’t have much luck. I could only find the Waag guards and they are crazy expensive and look like crap. Thus I decided to give an Explorer guard a try and was pleasantly surprised. I bought a stainless Hunter bull bar off ebay and it went on with only minor trimming. You need only trim a little out of those two ‘ports’ under the front bumper to allow the tube to bolt up. I found out while doing this if you look at at the side profile of an explorer and the side profile of an Aviator, the explorer is flat and the Aviator bumper juts out a few inches. Because of this my bull bar rests very close to the front bumper and in some places touches it. On the explorer the same bull bar has an inch or two of clearance before the bumper. I originally wanted a full grille guard that wrapped around the headlights but after I noticed this I don’t think one from the explorer will work without trimming the guard itself. I still may purchase one in the future and give it a try so stay tuned.

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Once I put the bull bar on the next step was to throw a couple lights on. Since it’s a Lincoln I had to step up and get a set of chrome KCs not cheap-o Chinese lights from pep boys or ebay. With the bull bar I used you need KC slimlites or equivalent. A light with a very deep housing will not fit. Not sure about other setups but mine did not have the room to fit a “normal” KC light. Overall the installation is easy and there is plenty of room to run wires. I went with the 130w long range lights as opposed to driving or fog lights. I can honestly say they are blinding! The lights project easily 2 to 3 times further than my highbeams and are excellent for seeing deer on the road far before you would normally see them. I only use mine on country roads or offroad when I’m using my high beams any way. In the city or on the highway they are so noticeably brighter then anything else on the road you will get a ticket in no time. I have mine on a switch to turn on and off manually. Some guys wire theirs into the fog lights or high beam control but I think it’s too much hassle. Use a separate switch and make your life easy. Not to mention, the low beams are HID and you don’t want to be hacking into that wiring do you?

As far as bulbs are concerned. My truck has stock HID low beams as I believe most of the Aviators do. They look awesome at night but the foglights and high beams are ugly yellow halogens and don't match. I went ahead and ordered Luminics bulbs off ebay to replace them. I went with their Pure Blue for the foglights and they look great. Not overly blue but noticeable. I was concerned at first about getting pulled over, but it's not an issue. They aren't that blue. I went ahead and replaced the high beams as well with the pure white 9005 bulb also by Luminics. I have tried the cheaper bulbs on ebay before and they didn't last long. do yourself a favor and get the Luminics the first time, they are quality.

Wow that looks nice. Aviators are super cool. I have 2 Mountys and they say a Mounty is a X in heels and lipstick so what is an Aviator? I didn't know till recently they are long and wider than an X. I wonder if the Mounty is the same as the X or the Av.? Also I love the option of cooled leather, I have the heat but the cooling option would be nice too.


Lift Kits:
If you’re on this site and like me the first modification you probably want to do is a lift kit. I have some bad news for you, it’s not easy. I believe there are 4 options to lift the Aviator.

Option 1: Roadbully lift kit. I bought one of his 2/2.5” kits in May of 09 to experiment with and after waiting 6 weeks for it to be delivered decided not to put it on. First off, it looked homemade and pretty crappy in general. Not that I expected anything different, I fully understood that before buying it, but I guess when I actually had my hands on it, I realized just how poor it truly was. It just didn’t look and feel like something I want to put on a Lincoln and trust driving everyday on. I immediately sold it on craigslist and it was gone in a few days. A lot of people want these things apparently, so the good news is you can get rid of them fairly easily. This exercise prompted me to dig into the design and geometry of the Aviator’s front suspension a little more. First off the parts aren’t nearly the same as the Explorer and are shaped very differently. The Aviator has cast aluminum lower arms in the front and cast upper arms in the rear with heavier bushings and different sway bar links. On the Explorer they are all stamped pieces front and rear. The Aviator has a lower front end then the Explorer and the suspension is more car-like in that it is more squat and flat. My guess is this is designed to feel sharper and more luxurious to the driver but what it really means is that you can’t lift it much without screwing it up. Instead of the Road Bully spacers that are hard to get and junk anyway. I recommend getting the TRUXX spacers for the 2006+ Explorer. They will work on the 02-05 you just need to ream out the holes a little bigger on the rear spacers to make them fit. The fronts fit with no modification whatsoever. If you don't believe me just ask around. Several members on here are using them. Much better quality, and I would trust this company. If you're wondering why TRUXX doesn't just make them for the 02-05 it's because even with a slight lift, the upper ball joint is put at a sharp angle and regardless of how you drive, it will wear out prematurely. Though a spacer works on our trucks, it's not the correct way to lift it. No one in their right mind would make and sell a lift that ruins your suspension. Which is what a spacer will do (to our trucks. it works fine on others). You technically need a different spindle but this would make the kits very expensive...

I purchased a TRUXXX lift for the 06+ Explorers and was able to make it work on my Aviator! The fronts work as is, the rears just take a little drilling on the spacers and the truck to get them in. You also need to drill out the holes on the bump stops and reuse them. AS you can see in the pictures the studs pressed into the spacers are much thicker than the factory studs, therefore it does take a bit more drilling on the truck than on the spacers themselves.
Here are some pictures of an un-modified TRUXXX spacer sitting on my shock to show you just how close the bolt holes are before modification.

If anyone, Aviator/Explorer/Mounty has questions about getting the TRUXXX spacers to work just PM me. I did everything myself and can answer any question you might have.

Option 2: 883 Body lift kit. As you probably know this kit is for a Ranger but can be made to work on the Explorer and Mounty with a little bit of work. In my opinion a body lift is the only way to raise the Aviator because it does not alter the suspension but there are a couple issues to overcome. The thicker body mounts from the kit should work fine on the Aviator. I looked into it and all the mounts appear to be in the same locations as the Explorer/Mounty and look like they use the same bolts. The only minor difference here is the Aviator uses a 2-piece body mount that is half rubber and half urethane. This is to limit road vibration and make the ride more plush. The ones from the kit will feel rougher but it’s not a big deal. Though I’ve never taken it off the truck, my front bumper appears to attach the same as the explorer one so the front mounts from the kit should work too. The biggest obstacle I see in the body lift is the steering extension. The Aviator has an entirely different steering setup than the Explorer. It uses a complex variable assist ZF Servotronic II rack-and-pinion system. In a nutshell when you are moving slow the steering wheel is easy to turn, when you are moving fast it is stiff, preventing that “swimming” feeling you can get on the highway in a truck or suv. Though I can’t confirm it, I seriously doubt the extension from the kit will work on the Aviator. I’d like someone to give this a try and report back. If you can get the steering extended, I see no reason why a body lift couldn’t work.

Option 3: Rancho Quicklift. This is by far the most expensive option ($700-$800) and I’m not certain it will work. Again, these are made for the Explorer but should work on the Aviator. The shocks on both look identical but you’ll notice different part numbers for each. I believe the Aviator shocks are tuned slightly differently but that’s about it. I’m not paying $700+ to find out if these will work but I have a feeling they will. Be my guest.

Option 4: Longer coilsprings. I know some members have gotten longer springs from and had mixed results. Sagging over time, rough ride, etc.. are all possible outcomes you should be prepared for… To summarize I’m confident the Aviator can be lifted but it would take some time and playing around to figure it out. Someone with an Aviator and some free time give it a try. I will probably do it one of these days…

My understanding is advance trac is basically an electronically controlled limited slip dif. when the computer senses a tire is slipping it applies the brakes on that wheel and transfers the power where it isn't slipping. works side to side and front to rear

I believe AdvanceTrac also de-powers the motor to aid traction. At least it certainly feels like it. I can be on gravel and floor the pedal and no tire spin, no shuddering wheel braking (like ABS modulating) just smooth acceleration.

I think it was in late '04 when they added RSC (Roll Stability Control) to the AdvanceTrac

Class III Trailer Hitch & Brake Control

One of the nice things about the Aviator is it's towing capacity. It can easily pull a 5000lb trailer and up to a 8000lb trailer if you use a weight distribution hitch setup. This is awesome for such a small SUV. By comparison a Lexus RX330 and similar competitors can only tow around 3500lbs. Unfortunately my Aviator did not come with a class III hitch setup, only the weak Class II up in the bumper with a flat 4 plug like most of the Explorers have as well. I want to be able to tow a car trailer with electric brakes so I had to step it up.

Brake Control. There are a million of them out there. Pick one. I went with the Hopkins Reliance because I wanted something cheap but with an LCD readout so there's no guessing and something I wouldn't need to cut wires to wire in. It runs about $50 plus shipping online, and about $65 local.

Nicest thing is you don't need to cut wires to hook it up. Just buy the adapter for FORD vehicles and you are set. Even if your vehicle came from the factory without a Class III hitch, the wiring is already installed by FORD. Trust me it's there. The correct harness will look something like this: The gray end (or in some cases brown)with the 6 pin holes plugs under the dash, and is the universal Ford plug. the other end will vary depending on what make of controller you buy.



It plugs in under your dash in a light gray colored plug that is a bear to locate. You need to really get down and look up under the steering wheel. It's near the radio side, about 2 inches up and it plugs in vertically.
Once you plug it into the factory connector just mount the box wherever you want with the screws and you are done. i mounted mine near my right leg on the center console so it's very easy to reach and adjust. Likewise in the rear I want the 7 pin round harness instead of the 4 flat plug so i can control trailer brakes. Fear not, there is a solution without having to wire a thing. You want to find online ford part : 3c5z13a576ba. write this number down. it's hard to find. This is the factory ford harness. MSRP is like $80-$100 dollars for this but you can find it online for less. I got mine on ebay for $45. Trust me buy it. Its worth every penny. All you need to do is unplug the factory flat 4 plug harness which is located behind the passenger side taillight, (under the truck, dont need to remove taillight)

and plug in the new 3C5Z13A576BA harness.
You need to find a place to mount the new wiring and you are done. I drilled a little hole in the bumper cover and used a little bolt to secure it.It's that easy. Spend the money and buy the correct parts. Towing is dangerous and the last thing you need to worry about is bad wiring. I found a class III/IV hitch online for $99 bucks and free shipping. It is a hidden hitch brand is is very heavy duty. Just like the explorer, when you install this hitch you leave the factory hitch on and this mounts underneath. Getting all the holes to line up is a pain but it got together pretty easily. The hardest part is there are 2 bolts that need to be fished into place through the holes in the frame. This can be a bit tricky. I actually just dropped them into the frame rails and just used a piece of coat hanger wire to wiggle them into place. done.

I believe AdvanceTrac also de-powers the motor to aid traction. At least it certainly feels like it. I can be on gravel and floor the pedal and no tire spin, no shuddering wheel braking (like ABS modulating) just smooth acceleration.

I think it was in late '04 when they added RSC (Roll Stability Control) to the AdvanceTrac

Thanks for merging that over from my other post! If there is one thing I wish mine had it's Advance Trac. 99% of the time and in everyday driving it does not come into play. But there are times in the snow or in mud when i wish mine had it. On the brightside of things. Not having it allows for wicked AWD doughnuts in the snow...

Thanks for merging that over from my other post! If there is one thing I wish mine had it's Advance Trac. 99% of the time and in everyday driving it does not come into play. But there are times in the snow or in mud when i wish mine had it. On the brightside of things. Not having it allows for wicked AWD doughnuts in the snow...

shh! (you can turn it off!) :D

Power / Engine:

If you've read or heard that this truck is powerful than you heard correctly. I'm not just saying that because I have one, I'm saying that because it runs strong. Forget the v8 in the Explorer, the Aviator is on a different planet from it. The Aviator has the Ford Modular 4.6L V8 that Ford likes to put into darn near everything they make. This particular one is the 4 valve which is shares with the venerable SVT Cobras from 03-04 and the Mercury Marauder. The only differences being the Cobras had an iron block and a blower and the Aviator & Merc have an aluminum block. The ratings I found stated 302hp and 318ft/lb of tq. Keep in mind the 02-05 explorers with a v8 have the 2 valve variety which is rated at 239hp and 282ft/ln of torque. By my calculations the Aviator is approximately.... a h*ll of a lot more powerful!

To mine thus far I've added only a Jet Chip model 80317. It seemed to add a bit more pep and I did notice about a 1mpg gain on the highway only. Which for the Aviator is a big deal. You may have also heard that it sucks down fuel. This is also true. In city driving in my very hilly neighborhood I'm lucky to get 11-12mpg. On the highway it does slightly better but i always seem to average about 13.5 MPG at the end of the day. This is pretty bad when you consider more powerful fullsize trucks are doing far better now a days. Another gripe about the truck is that it has a small fuel tank for how thirsty it is. It is only 22 gallon. You do the math. 22 Gallon * 13.5MPG = about 297 miles per tank! That's downright horrible. I don't have a long commute but still I find myself filling up almost twice a week! Now the fun part - The Aviator is to be run on premium fuel 91+ octane. I've run it a good bit on 87 and notice it gets even worse mileage and I did the math and it about breaks even to spend a little more to run premium fuel and get the better mileage so might as well...

Heres a pic of the 4.6L from the Service Book. I'll try to add more of these as I go along. I always find these pretty cool and helpful.

Don't forget the dual length intake plenum. That's one of the reasons it makes 90% of its torque at or near 2000rpm's.

You can really feel it when it flips to the short track for high hp/rpm's.

And thicker glass, foam filled pillars, boxed frame, 13" rotors up front. :cool:

Your thread was moved into the Ford/Lincoln/Mercury section.

AviatorGuy, I been enjoying your Aviator review! Please keep it up and I'm subscribing. Thanks for your effort.

Problems/Issues Thus Far:

I feel I've been pretty fortunate with my Aviator thus far. Only minor issues, half of which I expected would come sooner or later anyway considering its an 03. Let's see.

My back hatch has the normal crack in it just like everyone else so that's no surprise.

I've had to replace the power door switch on the driver's side door. One day it just quit working all together. Didn't bother me much and I went a few months and never replaced it. Just used the keyless entry to unlock the doors from the driver seat. I was trolling on ebay one night and was able to pick up an entire driver door handle assembly from a junkyard for $40 so i went for it. It came with the power door switch, heat/cool seat switch, and power mirror switch. I figured it was a pretty good deal considering each of those switches alone go for $50 or so from Ford. I swapped out the power door switch and I was back up and running.

My brakes were completely worn out front and rear and needed replaced. I had a feeling they were getting bad because the pedal felt soft and I had to really stomp it to get the truck to stop. I let Monroe take a look at it for me and they confirmed the rotors and pads front and rear were about 90% gone. Here is the fun part. They wanted $400-$500 just for parts and another $400 for labor AND he told me they would need a week to get the parts... Ummm no thanks.

This is another gem that any Aviator owner can attest to. Getting work done and finding any parts locally is pretty much impossible and/or extremely expensive. This is one of the bad things about having a rare vehicle. Don't plan on finding anything locally. I couldn't even get a pcv valve locally. I gave the guy at Monroe $20 for his trouble and promptly ordered the parts on ebay for $300 shipped. I could have gotten them much cheaper but I went with slotted and drilled rotors and ceramic pads. Putting them on was pretty straight forward and actually much easier than other vehicles i've done.

In the process of putting new brakes on I discovered the front passenger side hub needed replaced. I was lucky to notice it, as i was putting the wheel back on i noticed it had a good bit of play in it. When these things go bad they go 1 of two ways. Either they seize up the wheel and can cause to have a serious accident, or the hub separates and your wheel can fall off completely... Like i said, as soon as you notice one needs replaced don't wait too long or you're taking your life in your hands. The way to check is to jack up the wheel off the ground and grab the tire at 3 and 9 o clock and shake the h*ll out of it. Then try it at 12 and 6 o clock. If you hear it clunking or feel play in it, replace that sucker asap. Oddly this was the one part I was able to get locally because its the exact same as the mounty and explorer hub. Ran me about $160 locally but I bought the Timkin hub with a lifetime warranty. Putting it on is a nightmare just like the explorer. The hardest part is getting the 3 bolts out the prying the hub from the knuckle.

Other issues: The chrome on my wheels is flaking off really bad. In fact, the finish inside the wheel flakes off sometimes and scrapes against the caliper as there isnt much clearance inside the 17" wheel. It makes a horrible sound akin to a baseball card in the spokes of a bike tire... I often have to pull the wheels off and wire brush the flaking finish off. I'm not too surprised considering it is the northeast and they put millions of pounds of salt on the roads but it is annoying.

Lately I've noticed a slight bit of a rough idle and some vibration once the truck warms up. Since it's only when warm I'm thinking it's a small vacuum leak, a dirty maf, or 02 sensors. I'll probably work through these one by one til I nail it down, not too worried about it.

EBC Greenstuff pads

These are great brake pads, they actually stop better when they warm up. Dusting is very low. :thumbsup:

Where does the rear hatch usually crack? I don't see on on mine.

I've got the same flaking chrome issues. Partly due to only the outside of the rim is chromed instead of the whole rim.:rolleyes:

Where does the rear hatch usually crack? I don't see on on mine.

Mine is cracked about 1 inch left of the lincoln emblem on the rear hatch just under the glass. Here is a pic of a mounty cracked in about the same spot...

I'm planning on getting more pictures of my actual truck up on the site soon. If the weather is good this weekend i'll snap some photos.


Great thread AviatorGuy! In particular, thanks for the help on the brake controller, just got my installed in minutes. I have the factory tow package and Class III, making it really easy.

Have any of you guys towed with your Aviators? I'm hoping to tow my bronco on my car hauler...thinking its about 6k pounds. Just wondered what others have experienced.

Hey, I thoroughly enjoyed your Aviator review. I've been the proud owner of a '04 Aviator since I sold my '05 Explorer in November. I have the exact same problem with my chrome rims! I have to get under there and pick at the flakes quite a bit to avoid the baseball card noise. Modifications I've made so far are a K&N Air Filter (gave me +1 mpg), a Pioneer AVIC-U310BT (amazing!), and installed an 8 in. Rockford Fosgate sub with a Rockford Fosgate amplifier. I'm very into keeping a tasteful and practical stock look, so I picked up a OEM sub enclosure for $10 at the junkyard and installed the Rockford. (My Aviator had no OEM subwoofer)
I look forward to hearing more about your Aviator!

"I look forward to hearing more about your Aviator!"

I too would love to hear more about your Aviator. I think they shouldn't bury the info about the Aviator's here lost among "All other makes and models". It belongs in it's own heading or with the 2002- 2005 Explorers at least.

Great info, liked these since they came out. Mini Navigator.

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I did some towing with my Aviator last week. I was a little nervous but ended up being very very pleased with how well it did. Towed the Bronco II down to Moab, about 600 miles round trip, through some hilly mountainous terrain. Had her loaded up with wife and kids and all our camping gear.

The Aviator did great, I was very impressed with how well it handled the trailer.