Replacing a Linear Actuator

So, you may remember that I removed a section of the bar that opens the manual door and replaced it with a linear actuator, which was then attached to a remote unit that meant that the door could be opened and closed by the use of a remote fob.  And the system worked really nicely for a couple of years.

The broken back plate from the Firgelli 8-12-12 actuator.
The broken back plate from the Firgelli 8-12-12 actuator.

Unfortunately, it was subjected to stresses that I hadn’t foreseen.  While I had looked at the 300 lb holding ability, and the 8 lb press (not 150, I came to find out – a labeling error) power as sufficient, I hadn’t prepared for a teenager who was trying to pull closed the accordion door while the hand-control was locked closed.  The back plate of the actuator snapped under the stress.

Faced with this situation, I obviously had to fix this, so that the door could be closed and secured, but still usable.  As a temporary solution, I had a piece of 2×10 that just fit in the bottom stair that would block the door from opening, and I could still climb in and out of the rear door which has the deadbolt lock.  I then set about trying to find a replacement plate.

The new end case for the ill-fated actuator.
The new end case for the ill-fated actuator.

Firgelli Automations no longer made the model that I had purchased, so had no parts for it available.  I then attempted to fab up a ‘sheath’ to enclose the back and secure the engine/shaft casing.  As I was finishing this up, the engine finally failed, which was very frustrating.  As I did some research, I found that many of this model had had the engine fail, and it was a usual end-of-life situation for it.

While this was disheartening, I contacted Firgelli’s support about getting specs on the engine to see if I could find a replacement somewhere, but no luck.  They make all their components themselves, so it was a special run.  They were able to point me toward a different model that was more rugged and had a more powerful (and durable) engine than the model I had.

Firgelli Mini Linear Actuator 15lbs Force – 12 Inch Stroke


List Price: $139.99 USD
New From: $139.99 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

The new actuator in place.
The new actuator in place.

This model is much more rugged than the original unit, and about twice as powerful.  And the connectors are an eighth of an inch bigger in diameter than the original, which meant that not only did I have to undo all my sheathing welding, but I had to fabricate new sockets too.  As we were right near the limit of when the inspection for the bus would run out, they’re, unfortunately, rough and unpainted.

New arm socket (note removal of stop-nut from threaded end).
New arm socket (note removal of stop-nut from threaded end).
The new handle-end socket. (Well, okay, to be fair it still has some old paint on it).
The new handle-end socket. (Well, okay, to be fair it still has some old paint on it).

It’s also an inch longer when fully retracted, and I was able to compensate for about 1/2 an inch with the adjustment threads at the door, but it means that the door doesn’t open quite as wide as the old unit allowed – but that’s just me being picky.  (It’s also cheaper to buy directly from the company’s site than through Amazon …)

While I’ve not got to painting the new unit, I do have to admit that the works are much smoother than the old unit. Check it out in action:

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