A door lock actuator is the behind the scenes mechanism which locks and unlocks your car door. With a push of a button, the actuator can move from an open to a closed position. An actuator usually includes an electric motor, gears, linkage, and a cable which can extend and retract.
When you press the button on your keychain or the inside of your car, your actuator will activate and unlock or lock your car door. Let’s take a closer look at your actuator.
In old cars, you used to have to pull up or push down a cable and rod to lock and unlock your car door. Now, everything is electronic.
The actuator is usually located below the latch in your car. A rod connects the actuator to that latch. Another rod connects the actuator to the knob which sticks up and down by the window.
When you click the button and activate the actuator, the actuator moves the latch up and connects the opening mechanism of the door to the door handle. Now, when you use the door handle, you will be able to open the door. When the mechanism is not connected, the handle will not work to open the door. The handle will move but, as it is not connected, you will not be able to open the door.
The Actuator Motor
Actuators are small and utilize gears to move the rods in the door. When the actuator is powered, a series of gears are moved to generate the force needed to lock and unlock the door. A rack and pinion gear set will connect to the actuator rod. This rod generates the torque to lock and unlock the door.
What Triggers The Actuator Motor?
There are many ways to lock and unlock a door which uses an actuator. The simplest option is to use your key. Stick the key in the door, turn it, and you turn the gears in the actuator motor. You do not need any power for this method to work.
Pressing the unlock button on your keychain will have the same effect. Some cars also have a combination lock on the exterior of the door which will activate the motor when the correct combination is entered. From the inside of the car, pressing the lock/unlock button will have the same effect.
You can activate the actuator manually by pulling up on the knob on the door or pushing it down. The final option is to have the car signaled from a control center. Each method is different, but the result is the same.
Has Your Actuator Failed?
Are you having problems using your actuator? The locking mechanism may still work with keyed entry, but there are a couple of ways to check if the actuator motor has failed. If the unlock button on the inside of your door does not unlock the door, then the problem is likely the actuator. The same is true if your keyless entry is not working (just make sure to replace the batteries in case that is the problem).
Why Would It Fail?
Over time, everything breaks down. The same is true of an actuator. There are times where an actuator can stop working completely. There are other times where an actuator can become loud or make weird noises. When this happens, it could be time to fix the actuator or replace it entirely.
There is an electric motor inside your actuator, and that can break or stop working. Buzzing noises or squeaking are common occurrences in an actuator motor. If the motor wears out, then the door could open slowly or lock slowly. You may also find that an actuator will unlock a door but not lock it. The opposite can also happen.
The cable which connects the actuator to the door handle can also snap. This may seem like an easy fix but, commonly, these wires are built into the actuator motor and will result in the entire actuator needing to be replaced.
What To Do
If your actuator is not working, you have two choices. You can fix the actuator yourself, or you can take it to a professional. If you are savvy with car repairs, you can fix it yourself. This means that you can save some money too. The good news is that you cannot make the problem worse like you can with some other car fixes. If you are ever in doubt, then we recommend consulting a professional.