What Is a Door Actuator?

Lori Kilchermann

A door actuator is an electronic device used to release a passenger vehicle door latch and is typically programmed to activate by a manual button or switch, as well as by a radio signal. The door actuator can allow a vehicle owner to open a vehicle door via a wireless remote. Mounted inside of the door framework, the door actuator operates on a push or pull principle, depending on the latch operation method. While the unit used to operate a door latch is commonly larger than the actuator used to lock and unlock a door, it is typically the same size as a trunk release actuator.

A door actuator may allow a vehicle owner to open a vehicle door through use of a wireless remote.
A door actuator may allow a vehicle owner to open a vehicle door through use of a wireless remote.

On some better-equipped vehicles, an automatic door opening system is a valued option. This system uses a door actuator device to release the door latching system. Also common with this option is another device, known as a popper button, that pushes the door open slightly once the door actuator has been activated. On some vehicles, the door opening actuator will also power the door locks so a single push of a button will both unlock and open a vehicle's door. On other vehicles, the door lock is operated independently of the door-opening feature.

Many customers find it more economical to purchase a new vehicle without a door actuator and then have it installed later.
Many customers find it more economical to purchase a new vehicle without a door actuator and then have it installed later.

This feature is also available as an add-on option for many vehicles and is also popular among custom automobile owners. Whether installed at a new vehicle dealership, an automobile customizing shop or as a factory option, the feature works in the same manner. Power activation from the push of a button in the vehicle or by a radio wave sent from a wireless remote control switch provides the actuator with the energy to move an actuator rod to open the door latch mechanism. A solid steel rod or a chain/cable attached to the door latch at one end and to the actuator at the other is pushed or pulled as the door actuator is energized, thereby opening the door.

When deciding whether to add power door-opening devices onto a new vehicle purchase, many customers find it is more economical to purchase the vehicle without the option and have it installed at an aftermarket dealer. The automobile manufacturers often wire the vehicle with the correct wiring harness already installed inside the door. This is to offset the additional cost of having individual wiring harnesses for all option levels. In some vehicles, the door actuator itself is installed with the door and all that is required to use the door opener is the installation of an upgraded switch panel and an aftermarket, wireless remote control.

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Discussion Comments


Automatic doors are used everywhere else so using them on cars seems like the next step. For people in wheelchairs or people who have problems with their hands, such as arthritis, this is really good. For people who don't have any physical reason for needing the door actuator, it is still a nice convenience.


I like technology and new gadgets, so this door actuator sounds cool to me. All I have to do is hop in my car and close the door. However, I wonder how much trouble this could get to be.

I can remember my mother getting a car with electric door locks when I was kid. Before then, she had a car with manual locks. After a while, she started having trouble with the locks and the electric windows. Sometimes you could not get the doors unlocked to get out of the car, and you couldn't get the windows closed after you had lowered them.

So, as long as the door actuator is more reliable than the electrical doors and windows on some cars, I am all in favor of it. Otherwise, I don't really need it.


The last paragraph of this article talks about the cost of the door actuator on new cars. Sounds to me like this is just another one of those options car dealers use to increase the price of vehicles and make more money for themselves. This is along the same lines as the stain resistant floor mats and and super protection undercoating.

For the average person, how difficult is it to pull a door handle or press a latch button and then pull the door open? Is it rally worth the extra money to have the door already open?

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