Ball bearings in automotive wheels play an important role in a vehicle. They enable an automobile to run and simultaneously support the vehicle. Once faults are generated, even if they are small, they often grow fast even under normal driving condition and cause vibration and noise. Therefore, it is critical to detect faults as early as possible to prevent bearings from generating harsh noise and vibration. How early faults can be detected is associated with how well a detecting method finds the information of early faults from measured signal. Incipient faults are so small that the fault signal is inherently buried by noise. Minimum variance cepstrum (MVC) has been introduced for the observation of periodic impulse signal under noisy environments. We are particularly focusing on the definition of MVC that goes back to the original definition by Bogert et al. in comparison with the recently prevalent definition of cepstral analysis. In this work, the MVC is, therefore, obtained by liftering a logarithmic power spectrum, and the lifter bank is designed by the minimum variance algorithm. Furthermore, it is also shown how efficient the method is for detecting periodic fault signal made by early faults by using automotive ball bearings, with which an Automobile is equipped under running conditions. We were able to detect incipient faults in 4 out of 12 normal bearings which passed acceptance test as well as in bearings that were recalled due to noise and vibration. In addition, we compared the results of the proposed method with results obtained using other older well-established early fault detection methods that were chosen from 4 groups of methods which were classified by the domain of observation. The results demonstrated that MVC determined bearing fault periods more clearly than other methods under the given condition. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.