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I once went to get my tires replaced on my '03 Honda Accord after not having rotated them in a while. One of the front tires seemed to be more worn than the other front tire. An employee at the tire center made a comment that the one front tire was more worn than the other because it was the "drive tire". Or something along those lines.

My understanding was that with an open differential on a front wheel drive car, the torque is split evenly between the two front wheels. I don't understand why one of the front tires would wear faster than the other unless there some kind of problem (bad alignment, etc).

Is there a reason that one of the front wheels would wear faster during normal operation?

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Okay, you've got it a bit backwards; Let me explain.

An Open Differential has what is commonly referred to as "spider gears". These in combination with clutch packs allow one wheel to apply more torque or rotate quicker for better traction so your wheels don't bind up during sharp cornering or if you lose a lot of traction to one tire.

A Closed Differential is locked in place so that any axle or wheel gets the same amount of torque applied to it; These are common drag racing setups since cornering isn't really vital.

As far as your Drive Tire being the reason for wear on the tread.... not likely. I've never in my life heard the term Drive tire used the way you described it. It could possibly have been a VERY misinformed individual that had no idea what he was talking about. Older Honda's did have single wheel drive transmissions, but definitely not an '03. I know this because I worked on their transmissions regularly for years.

It could be possible that someone modified it, but doubtful.

A test you can do is put the car up on a lift (SAFELY). Start the engine and put in Drive or 1st gear. Once this has been done, use a long handled pry bar to push your caliper into the closed position. PLEASE be very careful when doing this!!

The results should be as followed:

  • If one wheel stops but the other keeps spinning, you have an open differential.
  • If you stop one wheel and they both stop spinning, or you stall the car; It's a closed or sometimes referred to as a modified "welded" differential.
  • If you see that only one wheel moves, you have a single wheel drive-line.

Please do not try to hold the wheels with your hands, you will not have the strength to stop the wheels and you can get caught up in something. By engaging the caliper with a pry-bar you're basically hitting the brake pedal without your foot. This is also very common practice to weed out wheel bearing problems.

Your issue is most likely suspension or subframe related.

Hope this helps!

  • cloudnyn3 - I hope you don't mind me saying this, but @DanW was correct about equal torque to each wheel in an open differential. That is why if one wheel slips on ice (it has zero torque), then the opposite wheel stops moving (zero torque). – HandyHowie Nov 23 '15 at 10:01
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    The way he worded it made it sound like he thought that at ALL times each wheel has equal torque applied to it no matter what. I was just trying to make it clear that, thats not the case. The entire purpose of a conventional open differential is to supply torque to the wheel with the best traction. – cloudnyn3 Nov 23 '15 at 15:52
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    That is the point, an open differential always has equal torque to both wheels. One may turn faster than the other, but they will both have equal torque. – HandyHowie Nov 23 '15 at 16:03
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    There are various forms of LSD. Probably the simplest one to picture has friction plates like on a clutch between the outputs of the differential. If one wheel looses traction, the friction plates stop it spinning freely, in so doing keeps torque applied to the other wheel. – HandyHowie Nov 23 '15 at 17:12
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    Thank you both DucatiKiller and HandyHowie for the corrections you made! – cloudnyn3 Dec 28 '15 at 17:29

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