How to Check the Wheels for Play

In order to check the wheels for play (loose movement on the steering axis), you first have to have something which can lift the car high enough to get the wheels (that you wish to check) freely off the ground, safely, and without touching or getting in the way of wheel movements (which would defeat the purpose of getting them off the ground).

With the wheels hanging freely, grab one with a hand on each side of the wheel, and try to shake/rotate is along the steering axis (try to turn the wheel in the same way turning a steering wheel would. After that, grab the top and bottom of the wheel and try to move it around. If there is play in the wheel, it will have moved around a small amount quite easily. If that play occurs with both angles that you tried, it is likely a worn out wheel bearing (a bad wheel bearing usually makes noise while driving, too). If it only occurs when you tried to move it along the steering axis, the problem is likely a loose steering component. If it only moves at the top and bottom, the problem may be a loose suspension component.