A/C Actuator Buyer's Guide
- Actuators are small motors that move the temperature and air direction doors or valves inside the heater box/plenum. A/C actuators function as controls that switch HVAC mode settings such as temperature, floor, mid-vent, defrost, fresh air, and re-circulation modes.
- An A/C Actuator consists of a small electric motor and a plastic gear set that are placed inside a plastic housing. In most modern vehicles, A/C actuators are either electric or vacuum-operated.
- There are three different types of A/C actuators: dual-position, three-position, and variable-position.
- If your vehicle’s A/C actuator malfunctions, there are several signs that may give you a clue about the nature and location of the problem. Unusual noises and poor HVAC system performance are typical indicators, but other symptoms may manifest as well.
- The price of aftermarket A/C actuator replacements typically ranges from $17 to $98.
- CarParts.com has a wide selection of aftermarket A/C actuators that have gone through a battery of tests to ensure quality and durability. The site offers replacement actuators at an unbeatable price.
Air conditioning units were first used on vehicles in 1940. By 1969, around half of the vehicles in the market were equipped with air conditioning units. Vehicle heating and air conditioning systems have come a long way since then. In fact, vehicle air conditioning units used to rely on cables to adjust the temperature. Now, many vehicles have modern heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that are equipped with actuator-powered blend doors. These blend doors control the temperature and airflow to the passenger cabin.
An air conditioning (A/C) actuator is a crucial component of your vehicle’s HVAC system. While an A/C actuator problem might not affect your vehicle’s drivability, it does affect your driving comfort. Learn more about this component with this short but informative guide.
What is an A/C Actuator?
An AC actuator consists of a small electric motor and a plastic gear set that are both placed inside a plastic housing. In most modern vehicles, an A/C actuator is either electric or vacuum-operated.
Most HVAC systems have 3-4 actuator units in the HVAC plenum or box that control different modes of operation. Some examples of HVAC actuators include floor panel door actuators, blend door actuators, and fresh air door actuators. The number of actuator units in a vehicle depends on the year, make, and model of the vehicle.
What does an A/C Actuator do in a Car?
Actuators are small motors that move the temperature and air direction doors or valves inside the heater box/plenum. A/C actuators function as controls that switch HVAC mode settings such as temperature, floor, mid-vent, defrost, fresh air, and re-circulation modes.
Many modern A/C actuators are electrically-operated. Electric A/C actuators are fixed direct current (DC) motors and consist of stators, slip, rings, coils, and a rotor that contains a permanent magnet. Electric actuators operate the air distribution and blend doors.
Meanwhile, some vehicles use vacuum actuators or vacuum motors. These actuators control the air inlet and mode doors. Vacuum actuators are not all the same, though. On one hand, you have early vacuum actuators that are controlled by a vacuum control switch. This directs the engine vacuum to the corresponding actuator. On the other hand, you have modern vacuum control systems that use electrical switches to send signals to the HVAC control module. This, in turn, sends vacuum to the appropriate actuator.
Types of A/C Actuators
There are three different types of A/C actuator motors. Before purchasing a replacement A/C actuator, make sure that you know the type of actuator your car was using. You need to make sure both actuators match in order to avoid installation mistakes and potential damage to the rest of the A/C system.
Dual-position actuators can move valves to their open or closed positions. An example of this type of A/C actuator is the one used on a recirculation door. The HVAC control module activates the motor of this type of actuator to move from one position to another, depending on what the driver chooses.
Three-position actuators allow the door/valve to move in three positions. An example of this type of actuator is the bi-level door that gives the user the option to select defrost only, floor only, or a mixture of the two settings.
Variable-position actuators allow the valve or door to move in any position. This type of A/C actuator uses a feedback potentiometer. A potentiometer is used by the HVAC controller to detect the actual position of the door or valve.
Symptoms of a bad A/C actuator
If your vehicle’s A/C actuator malfunctions, there are several signs that may give you a clue about the nature and location of the problem. Below are just some of the most common symptoms you may encounter when dealing with a failing A/C actuator:
If you have a faulty A/C actuator, you may hear clicking or knocking noises from the center portion of your dashboard. This area is typically where the control knobs for the HVAC system are located. The sounds may be more prominent when you turn on the A/C, but you may also hear them when you adjust its temperature and fan settings.
These clicking and knocking noises might indicate an issue with the gears of the actuator. The teeth of the plastic gears may have worn off and started slipping, causing the said noises. Do note, however, that this may not always be the case.
Inconsistent passenger cabin temperature and airflow
Another symptom of a faulty A/C actuator is inconsistent cabin temperature and airflow. If the A/C actuator is malfunctioning, you might not be able to control the temperature on specific zones (i.e. driver’s side, passenger side, or both) inside the passenger cabin. In some cases, you may also be unable to control the airflow coming out of the vents.
A broken A/C actuator may also affect the performance of the HVAC system in general. You may notice that there’s little to no airflow coming from the vents. Hot air may also leak into the HVAC box and inside the passenger cabin.
Note that other symptoms that are not listed here may also manifest. You can consult a repair manual or database for more information about A/C repairs and diagnosis. These materials have detailed instructions and easy-to-understand diagrams and illustrations to help you get the job done. However, if you’re not confident in your diagnosis and repair skills, it’s still best to consult a certified mechanic or technician regarding the issue.
How much is an A/C Actuator Replacement?
The price of aftermarket A/C actuator replacements typically ranges from $17 to $98. The part’s compatibility with your vehicle’s year, make, and model plays a huge factor in the part’s pricing. Other factors may also affect the price such as brand, quantity, series, etc.
Finding the right fit
Finding a reliable A/C actuator replacement doesn’t have to be a difficult and expensive task. CarParts.com has a wide selection of aftermarket A/C actuators that have gone through a battery of tests to ensure quality and durability. Since replacement A/C actuators are available on the site for an unbeatable price, you can lower your A/C actuator replacement cost effectively.
To get started, go to CarParts.com and use the vehicle selector tool to indicate your vehicle’s year, make, and model. This lets you view A/C actuators that are compatible with your vehicle. After that, you can use the advanced search filters to indicate your quantity, brand, and price point preferences.