The thermal stabilization stage of polyacrylonitrile (PAN) fibers is characterized by a steady and continuous reduction in fiber diameter and linear density values together with color changes from reddish brown to shiny black with increasing stabilization time. Thermally stabilized PAN fibers acquire infusible and nonburning characteristics prior to the carbonization stage. Structural characterization of thermally stabilized polyacrylonitrile fibers was carried out using an in-depth analysis of equatorial X-ray diffraction traces. Curve fitting of X-ray diffraction traces provided accurate peak parameters which were subsequently used for the evaluation of apparent crystallinity, apparent crystallite size and X-ray stabilization index. The results showed the loss of crystallinity due to the amorphization processes together with a steady and continuous decrease in lateral crystallite size with increasing stabilization time. With the progress of thermal stabilization, a new amorphous phase with a crosslinked and aromatized structure is formed which is expected to withstand high carbonization temperatures. Mechanical properties of the thermally stabilized PAN precursor fibers were found to be adversely affected with the progress of stabilization time. Due to the influence of thermal degradation mechanisms heavily involving chain scission along the fiber axis direction, tensile strength and tensile modulus values were found to decrease by significant proportions with the prolonged stabilization times.