Major automotive actuators

Always evolving, the automotive sector usually offers numerous drive solutions aimed at improving the comfort and safety of the members of a vehicle. Automotive actuators are perhaps the least known pieces but the ones that most have influenced the emergence of new movements. In this article we will review all of those little engineering movements that find in the gear motor their best ally.

In such a competitive industry, any small detail can influence the purchase on the final consumer. Large car brands are aware of it and trust TIER 2 suppliers, able to design the movement they’re looking for their model. The challenge arises when finding an engine for that movement that’s able to offer the highest quality, safety and durability. All this, also facing harsh working conditions, space limitations and the high wear these mechanisms suffer.

Automotive actuators, as tools that print a force to move a mechanical device, can exert their strength with a hydraulic, pneumatic, magnetic or electrical dimension. In small movements that do not require the displacement of heavy elements, just an electromechanical device or actuator driven by a small gear motor. Yes, the gear motors are essential in many of the movements that are designed and projected for both the interior and exterior of a vehicle.


Some CLR's automotive actuators
Some CLR’s actuators

How can the actuators in automotive be?

– Pneumatic: they generate a force or resistance through air pressure. We could find them in the systems of tailgate lifting.
– Hydraulic: they are actuators that generate the movement from the displacement of fluids (valves of a variable suspension system).
– Electromagnetic: those based on electromagnetism, either through a magnet or an electromagnet. These are usually used in those mechanisms of the vehicle operating with electric current.
– Gear motors or electric: drives where a motor intervenes: brushless, broom, step by step…



Actuators in automotive for the vehicle interior

Once commented the main actuators, we begin our particular review of their most popular applications.

Steering wheel

The regulation of the steering wheel position according to the driver, is a widespread movement which improves the comfortableness of driving. Through a linear actuator, is possible to draw the steering wheel closer or further in search of the most suitable position.


Rotational actuators for the automatic adjustment of the headrest.


Here we can find rotational actuators for the lumbar regulation of the seat and actuators for the automatic regulation of its height and position.



Automotive actuators present in the bodywork

Rear view mirrors

  • Actuators for the folding of the mirror in a space as small as a rear view mirror, is necessary to design of a gear motor able to offer potency of more than 4 N-m at an angular velocity of 18º per second.
  • Actuators for the movement of the moon of the rearview mirror. Here we can find, for example, solutions based in electromagnetism.

Regarding this point, CLR has been providing gear motors to the leading manufacturers of rearview mirror systems (Ficosa, Magna or GMR Automotive). In the present, great vehicles brands such as Audi, Ford, Nissan, Volkswagen or General Motors count with the solution of CLR to start the movement of their folding rear view mirrors.


Rearview mirror system prototype
Rearview mirror prototype


Automotive actuators for opening and closing the sunroof or roof panel. We are talking about movable panels coupled onto a moving flap that allows, through a translational movement, to move the roof. The mobile panel moves driven by two control cables located on the sliding shoe. This movement of the sunroof is once again provided by the gear motor.


Headlights washing systems: lineal actuators that allow the displacement of the cleaning mechanism of the lights.
Height regulation systems: gear motor that performs an angular movement. This adaptative headlights can be used a for the regulation of the height of the lights or for the orientation of the blades of the air conditioning.

Lid of the gasoline deposit

Electric actuator for opening and closing the lid of the deposit.

Engine block

Automotive actuators for activating control valves of gases and fluids. This drive mechanism can be found on the windshield and tends to have an internal relay inside its engine. This mechanism closes or opens the contacts that provide voltage to the wiper’s motor. Some wiper systems have intermittent relays that relay on a timer to help manage the movements.


The number of brands that incorporate automated drives for opening and closing the tailgate is increasingly growing. To operate this movement, it is usual to opt for mechanical transmission from hydraulic actuators. These products offer superior durability, since there is no wear by friction between its components.

On the other hand, some automotive manufacturers opt for pneumatic conveying for their tailgate opening systems. Here the energy from the air pressure is in charge of starting the up and down movement.


As you can see, there is a whole universe around the use of gear motors in the automotive sector. With proper design, you can get the energy for your small automotive engineering projects. At CLR we have solid experience in providing the necessary support for these projects to become a reality. Our engineering team is able to adapt to the harsh quality demands of manufacturers and regulations; providing a solution that is tailored and based on a philosophy of continuous improvement.

Do you want to develop one of these movements? Do you have a new drive project for the car? Tell us what you need and we will work together to get you an integral solution.  

Automotive Supplier Mnagement guide


1 thought on “Major automotive actuators”

  1. Dear Madam or Sir,

    As a TEAR 1 supplier in automotive industry, our company Siliko d.o.o. is compeeting for a developing project for motorised self lifting Charging pot for electric car, developed by one of the european’s major car manufacturers from Germany. I would hereby like to ask You for information regarding suppliability of an actuator with 2-4Nm @ 4-10 RPM. Dimensions for motor-housing max: 40x40x40mm. If possible, Your return e-mail should also include separated informational offer for 10000 and for 80000 parts/Y. For ara 2021-2026. I would like to ask You for urgent return with answer, as the offer for our customer needs to concluded until March 5th (Tuesday). I Will be available via telephone from Monday morning (00386 1 364 80 78).


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