Linear Actuators And Vehicle Customization

Automotive Linear Actuators for Vehicle Customization

Nathan Bong
Nathan Bong
PA Engineer

Electric linear actuators are popular in OEM and aftermarket vehicle customizations due to the significant improvements they can offer in operational convenience and aesthetics. Aside from their versatility of being available in many different sizes and specifications, most standard DC electric actuators also operate from 12 VDC which is a voltage found in standard automotive batteries. If you were looking for project ideas and recommendations for automotive linear actuators to customize your vehicle, this is just the article for you! We will be looking at use cases for car linear actuators and highlighting the important aspects that need to be considered when integrating them into your application.

Browse all of our electric linear actuators, ranging from micro to industrial!

Use Cases

There are many ways to implement auto linear actuators into cars and other motor vehicles. Just to name a few examples, electric actuators have been used to provide linear motion when changing the positions of:

  • Hoods
  • Doors
  • Trunks
  • Storage compartments
  • Light bars
  • Windows
  • Wheelchair lifts


Automatic Hood

Car shows are the perfect place to share your car customizations and projects with fellow auto enthusiasts. The team at 427Naja demonstrates this with their DIY automatic hood project using our electric hood actuators!

When multiple actuators are required to travel synchronously, we recommend actuators with hall effect sensors. This is because they have hall effect feedback that goes to a control box which would then be able to make the needed corrections if one side travels at a different speed from the other. Differing speeds can sometimes happen from slightly unequal weight distribution or the speed tolerance from the DC motors (+/- 10%) in the actuators.

The products our customer used can be seen working in synchronous motion below:

The PA-04-HS is the only standard actuator we sell with hall effect sensors from off the shelf, however, this application required electric hood actuators that were more compact. Custom ordered PA-09 actuators were selected since they are the most compact option we offer that can still be customized for hall effect sensors. Our customer was then able to synchronize these actuators with the PA-40 control box which comes with wireless remotes.

Choose the right control system for your actuator from our large selection!

Automatic Trunk

In some cases, there may be car components that can automatically move in 1 direction using a spring but require manual operation by hand for the other direction of travel. Although this is an improvement from being completely manual, auto linear actuators offer more convenience since they can move in 2 directions to open and close automatically.

An example by Nathan Bong shows how car linear actuators can conveniently open and close a car trunk by the simple push of a button.

By wiring our PA-31 control box to a PA-14 actuator, Nathan was able to gain wireless control of the actuator. The actuator was then mounted into his Camry using the BRK-14 as mounting brackets. If the full stroke of an actuator was not required, wiring an external limit switch like the AC-24 can be done to cut power to the actuator once the desired limit is reached. The AC-24 when depressed only cuts power in one direction to allow the actuator to reverse when needed.

Wiring diagram for Single Channel Control Box with External Limit Switch:

Pickup Truck Wheelchair Lift

Pickup trucks have plenty of capacity for storage, however, it can sometimes be exhausting to manually move the heavy loads in and out. In some cases, moving heavy loads like a wheelchair may be something that has to be done on a regular basis rather than being on rare occasion. Utilizing automotive linear actuators can allow for a wheelchair lift to be integrated with a pickup truck. An example of this can be seen below by our customer using the PA-04-12-400 actuator.


We recommend actuators with sufficient Ingress Protection rating if they are used outdoors. The IP66 rating found on PA-04 actuators have sufficient water and dust protection to be left stationary while there is rain. Although we carry heavier duty actuators that can handle heavier loads, their speed will be noticeably slower. Decreasing the amount of time taken for the wheelchair to be ready was a bonus for this project. The major benefit of using our PA-04 actuator is that it has a good balance of speed while still having enough force for the application. We also have an article on calculating linear actuator force and our linear actuator calculator tool which you may find helpful as references for your future projects.

Height Adjustable Light Bars

Lightbars are used on vehicles to increase their visibility and provide visual warning lights for the awareness of other drivers around them. The light bars can sometimes be elevated higher to make its presence more prominent to oncoming traffic. In some cases, lowering light bars are required to pass trees with low branches or when going through underground parking with low heights. Manually adjusting a light bar’s height can get inconvenient and repetitive, however, auto linear actuators allow for easier, faster, and more convenient adjustments to the height of light bars.

One of our case studies shows an example of our customer’s success using the PA-03 actuator for lowering light bars on utility trucks.

Our customer’s usage of the actuator in dry environments ensured that the IP43 rating of the PA-03 was suitable. By using just one PA-03 actuator that has the basic two-wire operation, the light bar system also conserves space because there is no need for a control box or an additional actuator. Wired control using a DPDT rocker switch is all that was required for an operator to cycle this actuator.

Below is a video example on how to wire a DPDT rocker switch:

Mobile Barbershop with Linear Actuators

A mobile barber van by Anthony Martin, the founder/owner of BarberDasher Club demonstrates how electric actuators can be used for storage compartments inside a vehicle. Anthony has successfully designed and built Vancouver's first mobile barbershop (based on Mercedes Sprinter van) and utilized some of our PA-14 linear actuators in the process.

The use of our PA-14 actuators allowed the TV and Espresso machine to securely retract into Anthony’s custom-built cabinetry. With the compact size of our PA-14 actuators, Anthony can take advantage of the product’s space efficiency while still ensuring his TV and Espresso machine remains protected during the drive from client to client.

Want to introduce automation into your home? Take a look at our Home Automation products!

In Summary

Electric linear actuators offer great versatility for vehicle customizations as they are available in many different sizes and specifications. Whether it be for automating hoods, trunks, lift mechanisms, or other car compartments that were manual to operate in the past, automotive linear actuators offer you endless possibilities! Their high level of capability, durability and ease of use are what makes electric actuators very popular in both OEM and aftermarket use in the automotive industry.

We offer many different actuators with customizable options to meet your needs. If you have any queries or wish to discuss our products further, please do not hesitate in reaching out to us! We are experts in what we do and want to ensure you find the best solution for your application.