An important aspect of your vehicle’s engine that you might not be aware of is the actuator. In any machinery, including cars, the actuator is a device that converts energy into force. The energy could be air, electricity, or even hydraulics, but regardless, the actuator uses that energy to enable your vehicle to move.
When the actuator fails, it’s important to spot the signs quickly. But what are the symptoms of a bad electronic actuator? Learn more about spotting the signs of a failing actuator, the causes, and how it will impact your vehicle.
What Is an Electronic Actuator?
An actuator is a vital part of a vehicle that helps its primary purpose—movement. But many parts of our vehicles move, so you’ll find them all over your vehicle. They help move your seats, they open and close sunroofs, and help the air conditioner blow cold air.
Electricity powers most actuators, although some can be pneumatic. Electronic actuators operate by responding to requests from microprocessors. You press a button, and your seat slides back. Similarly, you press on the gas pedal, and the turbo wastegate actuator responds.
Importance of a Turbo Wastegate Actuator
The turbo wastegate actuator is an essential part of any vehicle. It controls the flow of exhaust gases that power the turbo, the piece of your vehicle that responds when you need to accelerate. The turbo is especially crucial in circumstances where you need a lot of torque, like in passing cars or merging lanes.
When the actuator doesn’t work, the turbo doesn’t receive the power it needs to operate, and some problems can occur with your car’s performance, ranging from minor to severe.
What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Electronic Actuator?
There are a few signs that you’re experiencing electronic actuator failure.
- Your vehicle has a complete loss of power.
- The engine warning light, or other warning lights, are on.
- You have low- or over-boost, meaning either your vehicle is lagging or overcompensating when you accelerate.
- There are odd noises, like a whining sound, emitting from the turbocharger.
- The electronic computer that controls your vehicle shows error messages.
If you notice any of these signs, you’ll want to take your vehicle in to see why the actuator is failing.
Causes of Electronic Actuator Failure
Like any car problem, there could be several reasons for a failing actuator.
The gearbox in vehicles is responsible for taking power from the engine and creating either one of two outcomes: less power and more speed, or more power and less speed. It’s located at the back of the transmission, and it’s an essential component of creating torque alongside the actuator and turbo.
Electric Circuitry Problems
Problems with the electric board of the actuator can also cause malfunctions. Wire connectors expand and contract throughout their lifespan, which can lead to breakages. Likewise, voltage spikes by power surges can also damage the actuator.
Water ingress happens when water enters the engine compartment, and the actuator is in an area where it is more susceptible to water damage. Water can cause it to rust as well as experience other damage, causing it to give incorrect signals and eventually fail. Constant vibration from the engine can also cause damage to the actuator, eventually causing it to fail.
Sometimes, a turbo connector will break loose as well. If this is the case, you’ll need a new actuator.
If the gearbox fails because of problems like a build-up of carbon called “sticky vanes” or stripped gears, you’ll see significant problems with your vehicle’s performance because it’s unable to provide the power needed to create torque. Then it can also cause a defense mechanism called limp mode.
Our vehicles can sometimes resort to self-preservation at times when parts of the car, like an actuator, are malfunctioning, at which point they enter the aptly named limp mode.
What Is Limp Mode?
Limp mode is a security feature that activates when the engine or transmission encounters a fault. After a problem is detected, the vehicle’s computer will turn off the less important functions of the car, such as air conditioning, and even slow the car down. But how does this help the car?
Limp mode ensures that whatever fault the car is detecting doesn’t cause severe damage but allows enough power for the car to limp home. If your car goes into limp mode, you should have it looked at as soon as possible.
What To Do in Limp Mode
If you’re car goes into limp mode, you’ll need to drive it to your home or a service center right away so a professional can diagnose the problem. What if you’re not near your home or a trusted mechanic? You’ll need to find a safe place to pull over, and either have a mechanic come to you or have your car towed to the nearest service station.
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Limp Mode
You shouldn’t drive your vehicle for any long distances while it’s in limp mode. Even though you might view it as inconvenient, you must remember that this safety feature is meant to protect your car from serious damage, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the repairs will be expensive.
Your vehicle can activate limp mode for as simple of a reason as too little fluid in your engine, which is an easy issue to solve. However, if ignored, this can lead to severe consequences that can cripple your car.
Find a New Actuator
Even though low fluid would be the best-case scenario for car troubles, there will be instances where your actuator is bad, and you’ll need to have it replaced. Once you notice the signs that your actuator is failing, it’s important to act sooner rather than later so it doesn’t affect your turbocharger. A bad actuator can cause permanent damage to the turbocharger, which can result in performance issues and expensive repairs.
Explore our selection of turbocharger actuators at TurboTurbos. We only sell turbo parts from reputable sellers. Contact us today to find the right actuator, turbo, and other parts for your vehicle.