Thermal effects on the precipitation stages in as-cast Al-0.70 at. pct Mn-0.15 at. pct Sc-0.05 at. pct Zr alloy were studied. The role of lattice defects was elucidated by positron annihilation spectroscopy (lifetime and coincidence Doppler broadening) enabling investigation of solutes clustering at the atomic scale. This technique has never been used in the Al-Sc- and/or Al-Zr-based alloys so far. Studies by positron annihilation were combined with resistometry, hardness measurements, and microstructure observations. Positrons trapped at defects are preferentially annihilated by Sc electrons. Lifetime of trapped positrons indicates that Sc atoms segregate at dislocations. Maximum fraction of positrons annihilated by Sc electrons occurring at 453 K (180 °C) suggests that clustering of Sc bound with vacancies takes place. It is followed by peak of this fraction at 573 K (300 °C). A rise of the contribution of trapped positrons annihilated by Zr electrons starting at 513 K (240 °C) and attaining maximum also at 573 K (300 °C) confirms that Zr participates in precipitation of the Al3Sc particles already at these temperatures. The pronounced hardening at 573 K (300 °C) has its nature in the precipitation of the Al3Sc particles with a Zr-rich shell. The contribution of trapped positrons annihilated by Mn electrons was found to be negligible. © 2015, The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society and ASM International.