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Get another person to help. Jack up the front of the car. get the helper to put one hand on the top of the wheel, and the other on the bottom. You should put your hands where the ball joint joins the A arm. Get your helper to pull the wheel in and out, while you feel for play at the ball joints. Another way is to put a lever, like a long piece of iron pipe under the front tire, and lift it up and down while you look carefully at the ball joints to check for play.

That should help you figure it out.
 

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Now THAT sounds like a bad wheel bearing.

Just tryin' to make sure you didn't go spending money on something that was not bad.
 

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Without meaning any disrespect a couple of points weren't mentioned. It is important to note whether the ball joint is under compression load or tension load before attempting to check it. If the forces of the spring and the weight of the car are trying to pull the ball joint apart, you have to apply a load that compresses the ball joint, while lobserving the free play. This would be the case if the ball joint was between the steering knuckle and the a arm. The compression would be achieved by putting a long bar under the tire, and levering the tire upwards while watching the ball joint.

If the ball joint is in compression, the idea is to try to force it apart, while watching. But this is already a long post.
 
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