This paper is concerned with actuator fault detection in nonlinear systems in the presence of disturbances. A nonlinear unknown input observer is designed and the output estimation error is used as a residual for fault detection. To deal with the problem of high Lipschitz constants, a modified mean-value theorem is used to express the nonlinear error dynamics as a convex combination of known matrices with time-varying coefficients. Moreover, the disturbance attenuation is performed using a modified $H_∞$ criterion. A sufficient condition for the existence of an unknown input observer is obtained using a linear matrix inequality formula, and the observer gains are obtained by solving the corresponding set of inequalities. The advantages of the proposed method are that no a priori assumption on the unknown input is required and that it can be applied to a large class of nonlinear systems. Performances of the proposed approach are shown through the application to a diesel engine model.