*Disclaimer - this is an amateur guide only and as such I won't be held responsible for any personal or property damage occuring by following it! If in any doubt, have the car checked by a professional. If you are not 100% confident in your abilities to follow any aspect of the guide, like jacking up the car, DO NOT DO SO.*

Tools/equipment needed:
  • Jack (trolley variety is best) - if you don't know how/where to jack up your car, don't attempt anything in this guide!
  • Axle stand - if you don't own at least one, don't attempt anything in this guide!
  • Four wheel chocks (wedges) to brace wheels - custom bought or hardwood substitutes

First and easiest check is to wait for a dry day, park the car on a flat, level surface preferably off the road so that you can all the way around the car - If you have a garage (you lucky sod) do it there. Then, get something to lie on, down on the floor and have a good look underneath the car to make sure that none of the rotating elements of the car - wheels & tyres, brake disks, drive shafts, etc have anything fouling (hitting against or otherwise interfering with) them, or if anything is hanging off the car.

If everything is ok, the next stage is to have a closer look – as we are interested in noise/wear that may be related to the tyres, the wheels stay on!

Starting with passenger side front (nearside or NS/F in garage notation), ensure the handbrake is on, wedge something like a chunk of wood behind, and in front of, both back wheels, then take the car out of gear. Jack the car up at this corner and put it onto an axle stand so that the tyre is off the ground by 10cm/4".

Although you shouldn't need to do so during the following tests, DO NOT work under car when it is only supported only by the jack.

Start by spinning the roadwheel with your hands and listen for any knocks and other bad noises. If the wheel doesn’t spin, go and take it out of gear or make sure the wheel is actually off the ground! Check for squeaks or parts of the revolution which slow the wheel more than others.

This is a good time to inspect the outer sidewall of the tyre for excessive cracking, gouges and then check the tread in relation to the wear-bands before looking for nails, rocks, etc (which can themselves be a source of irritating noise, not to mention a puncture hazard). Also check that the tyre is wearing evenly across the tread, otherwise you’ll have to get the steering geometry checked at a garage. Don't skimp on tyres - if they're not in good condition, your life is in danger. Simple as that. If in doubt, get them checked at a good garage and replace them if they need it.

Next, have a look up into the inner wing for stuff that may be touching the tyre when the wheel is up there when the car is on the ground (since the wheel is not in it’s natural position when the car is jacked up).

Next, grab the roadwheel at the quarter-past-three position and test for any play by pushing the one side of the wheel and pulling the other side of the wheel at the same time, as though trying to turn the wheels like the steering does. No need for massive force on your part, a fairly gentle approach is usually enough. Rock back and forwards in this motion a few times and have a look at the steering rack and rod - if the wheel moves while doing this, without or separately-from the rack, then there is an issue with the rack or steering rod/end.

After that, grab the roadwheel at the six o'clock position and this time test for any top-to-bottom play by pushing the top of the wheel and pulling the bottom of the wheel at the same time, and then in the other direction, as though trying to rotate the wheel towards the engine. If there is play here, suspect wheel bearing.

This is also the opportunity to take a close look at the shock-absorbers for oil leakages, as the suspension will be fully extended (if you've not jacked it up using the bottom arm that is!). Also have a look at the springs - first of all, make sure they are there, check that no bits have broken off or that the rust on them is causing

Take the car off the axle stand and lower it to the ground. As is touches the ground, listen-to and watch-how the suspension loads; if there is any noises or unusual movement as it comes to the ground. Repeat these tests with the driver's side front (offside or OS/F in garage notation), ensuring you put your blocks around the back wheels are still in place.

After that, put the car in gear, put your blocks around the front wheels and then release the handbrake. Repeat the tests with the back wheels - jack up and axle-stand the back corners of the car one at a time.

Spin the roadwheel one way and then the other and check the "six o'clock" or "quarter past three" play any play you feel here is wheel bearing related as there are no steering components at the back! also try pulling the wheel towards you and pushing away (although don't pull the car off the axle stand!). Although each manufacturer specifies a tolerance here, any excessive play, called end-float, can also be wheel bearing related.

After all these checks are done, return the car safely to the ground, engage the handbrake, leave the gear lever in your preferred position and then remove the wheel chocks (no, I am NOT going to say "chocks away"). If you found anything, even if you're not sure, get it checked by a professional - the safety of you and your family may be at stake here and get it sorted if need be.

All done with the checks! - well done with that and thanks for reading.