Trucks & SUVs

Stay Far Away From the 2003 Lincoln Aviator

Being No. 1 at anything is impressive. Being No. 1 on a list of worst vehicle models, not so much. While it may not have made Consumer Reports all-time worst models tested list, The 2003 Lincoln Aviator was named the worst model year of the vehicle by Car Complaints. When there have been so many reported issues with a vehicle, do consumers ever overcome the distrust?

The laundry list of complaints should be a cautionary tale. Just check out some of the most common and decide if it is even worth dealing with. While there were a total of 206 reported issues with the 2003 Lincoln Aviator, according to Car Complaints, the most commonly reported grievances had to do with the transmission, engine, and body/paint.

When the top complaints involve the most expensive parts of the vehicle, that doesn’t inspire confidence in those seeking a quality pre-owned car to save dollars. Even those with an emotional connection to this model should take note before taking the plunge. So, let’s break down the trifecta into the details.

Powertrain woes

Transmission problems showed powertrain/automatic transmission malfunctions as the chief complaint about the 2003 Lincoln Aviator. Since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported most of these, there isn’t a good breakdown of costs. Car Complaints does, however, show the transmission curse kicks in around 42,020 miles on average. Unfortunately, the NHTSA reported that at least one crash happened as a result of this, giving it a severity rating of 10.

The next most frequent repair in the transmission group was the shifter rod with a severity rating of 8.7. The typical repair cost was $1,300, occurring around 98,350 miles on average. There is also one recall for “Ford/Transmission Shift Cable.”

Topping the hit parade in engine complaints was engine cooling. It occurs on average at about 66,000 miles, but Car Complaints shows the severity as negligible, and there are no details on costs. The next item in the list of engine maladies that has any repair costs listed is leaking valves on the cylinder, coming in with a severity rating of 10. The repair costs average about $3,000 and happen around the 85,050-mile mark.

Body/paint issues

In the body/paint category, the most common Lincoln Aviator malfunction was a crack in the rear panel below the window with a severity rating of 7.2. The costs to repair are around $1,500 and seemed to happen at about 89,700 miles.

To wrap this up, you may want to know that there are a total of 76 technical service bulletins. Is this necessarily outlandish for a 17-year-old vehicle? Maybe not. But it does give you an idea of how prevalent certain repairs were to cause the automaker to issue repair instructions to their dealerships.

Was the 2003 Lincoln Aviator just a fluke?

RELATED: The 2020 Lincoln Aviator Received High Praise from Road and Track

A fluke or a canary in the coal mine? Let’s dig a little deeper to find out. It seems that in 2004, Lincoln Aviator owners reported more problems, but we can only assume that the severity of the issues didn’t quite meet up to the ones submitted in 2003 since it wasn’t listed as the worst year. It still included the crack in the rear panel and transmission problems, though. The Aviator was discontinued in 2005, the lowest year for complaints, before being revived in 2020.

Should you take a hard pass on the 2003 Lincoln Aviator?

This decision is really up to your tolerance and budget for unplanned repairs. Is it possible to pick one up with 100,000 original miles that had all the original design fails fixed? Possibly. But when it comes down to it, with the history it’s had, do you really want to risk it?