How to Replace an Actuator

How to Replace an Actuator

Adam Morissette
Adam Morissette
PA Engineer

Electric linear actuators are used in many applications. Chances are, there are a few of them around you right now. As an important component in many products, some of the actuators will eventually fail. When that happens, it would save you a lot of money if you can find a replacement for the actuator instead of replacing the entire thing. In this article, we will give you a few tips on how to find a suitable replacement for your actuator.

Type of Actuator

When finding a replacement for your current actuator, it is important to identify the type of actuator you have. The three main categories include electric, pneumonic, and hydraulic. Pneumonic and hydraulic actuators are generally more difficult to come by. They tend to have pressurized air or liquid cylinders on or around the unit. They are more dangerous to operate and harder to maintain. However, they can still be replaced with electric actuators with the appropriate specifications. Electric actuators are easy to identify, you should be able to tell by its electric motor and power cord attached to the unit.

Actuator Force Rating

The next thing you need to find out is the force rating of your unit. How much can the unit push or pull? It is important to find an actuator replacement that is capable of handling the load of your application. This information is usually located on the unit’s label. The units are typically in LBS or Newtons, and it is always a good idea to overshoot the force rating for some extra safety margin.


The distance you want your actuator to travel is the next thing you need to confirm. How far does your application require the unit to move? This also can be found on the product label, but in case the label does not tell you this specification, you can always measure it yourself. Just measure the old linear actuator you have when it is fully extended and subtract the length of the unit when it is fully retracted. The difference in dimension will be the stroke length of your linear actuator.

Install Distance

The installation distance or it is also known as the mounting distance and hole to hole distance, is the dimension between the two mounting points of your actuator. This is usually the mounting hole at the rod end and the mounting hole at the motor end. You can measure this from either the actuator itself or the application the actuator is installed in. The correct dimension is vital for fitting the replacement actuator into your application.

Electric Power Rating

This one is simple, what powers your actuator? It could be a power supply or a battery, maybe it is just an adapter plugged in your wall. The information for this can be found in the power source itself. It is important to distinguish between AC and DC power sources. The common AC power source is 110VAC 220VAC, whereas the standard DC power is 12VDC, 24VDC, and 48VDC.

IP Rating

The IP rating determines what kind of environment the unit can operate in. If your application is in an enclosed area or is located indoors, then it will probably have a low IP rating around IP20 to IP54. Then most of the units you find on the market can be used to replace it. However, if the application is located outdoor where the unit is exposed to the element or it is operated in a harsh environment with lots of dust and moisture, then you would need a higher IP rated unit going from IP65 to IP67M.

Unit Speed and Noise Level

These two specifications can be hard to locate in some units. The most common place to find them is in the unit’s datasheets. If you do not have access to that, then the next best thing to run the unit and measure them yourself. If they are not critical in your applications, an estimation will work fine as well.

At Progressive Automations for every actuator on our website, we provide a datasheet that includes all the necessary specifications and dimensional drawings you need to set it up. You can also filter by Force, stroke, speed, feedback, and IP rating making it easier to find the actuator best suited for your application.

Feedback Sensor

The last thing you want to look for from your old unit is to see if there is any feedback sensor installed. It can be a potentiometer or a Hall effect sensor. The easiest way to determine this is to check the out-put cord. Typically, units without feedback sensors would only have two wires from the motor, if there are more wires coming out of the unit, then there may be feedback sensors installed internally.

Contact Progressive Automations

After you have gathered all or most of the information from your old actuators, you can reach out to us at Progressive Automations. One of our very experienced product engineers will gladly help you select one our actuator to replace your old unit.