A valve actuator is provided in which a complementary set of pinions, each driven by a pair of racks, are located on opposite sides of the valve to be actuated. The racks are part of an annular bearing assembly and are coupled to one another through a hydraulic cylinder or some other displacement device. A pinion retaining sleeve is provided to shield the racks and pinions and prevents parts of the valve actuator from being thrown in operation. The piston retaining sleeve may include a maintenance aperture for installing or repairing a pinion and a second aperture for viewing the rotation of the pinion. The bearing assemblies each include a bearing housing and a bearing retainer that cooperate to shield the bearing assembly.