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How To Parallel Park In 4 Easy Steps

I’ve Gotten This Far Without It, Why Do I Need To Learn Now?

Yes, it’s possible to avoid learning how to parallel park. Yes, you could have your friend do it. No, you likely won’t ever be forced to prove you still know how to do it by the DMV. But hear me out: It’s important.

Many Americans directly associate knowing how to parallel park with passing the driving test as a teenager, but having that skill is crucial to understanding how to handle and control your ride. It doesn’t matter where the car needs to go or how it gets there, you should know how to maneuver your car into a space where it can physically fit. The more you know about your car, the more you understand its physical attributes, the better driver you will be. And the better drivers we are, the safer the roads will be. It’s a win-win.

Parallel parking can be frustrating because we forget the steps or don’t have a good grasp of the limits of our cars — not speed limits or cornering g-forces but the literal physical dimensions. If we don’t know where our cars start and end, we’re essentially trying to park blind. Parking blind sounds terrifying. It’s no wonder the term parallelophobia has been coined.

By mastering simple tasks like parallel parking, drivers have a better awareness of how cars interact with their surroundings. We can navigate parking lots and parking garages easier, sneak through traffic quicker and generally know where our cars will or won’t fit. 

Learning how to parallel park connects us to our cars and makes us better drivers. So, let’s dive in. 


Issues while Parking Car Closer to the Curb:

The major issue with parking too close to the curb, or any barrier in front, is that you will have no space to move (turn or create an angle) your car. This can also lead to paint scraping or cause damage to the car’s tires if the car accidentally moves ahead even a bit while starting the engine.

2. Line it Up

A good trick to help you back into a spot is to line up with the vehicle, directly in front of where you want to park. It will allow you to determine the proper angles to enter. It will also allow you to get close enough to the curb you’re approaching, without hitting it, or surrounding obstructions. Make sure you don’t get too close to avoid scraping the other vehicle. This tip can also help you with alignment, and distancing your vehicle when you’re ready to back into the parking spot. 

Parallel parking / Reverse Parking Tutorial

Alongside this tutorial, you may find the parallel parking reference point guide of benefit. Reference point help to establish where the car is in relation to the road and kerb. See:

Once you have completed reading through the tutorial, test your knowledge with the:

Reverse parallel park: Diagram A
Reverse parallel park: Diagram A

parallel park: Diagram A

During the driving test, the examiner will ask you to park on the left. This may simply be to test your ability at parking on the left safely, or it may be for the reverse parallel parking manoeuvre.

The examiner will provide a briefing that they wish you to demonstrate the reverse parallel park on the car in front, which in diagram A is the yellow car. Whilst moving off to get position for this manoeuvre, move off slowly so as to get an ideal and accurate position. The examiner allows plenty of time for manoeuvres, so no need to rush. As you are about to pull alongside the yellow car, check your interior and left mirror. If there are approaching vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians, indicate to the left.

Ideally, stop a little ahead of the yellow car (around half a car length) and for the distance away from the side of the yellow car, around half of a metre up to 1 metre maximum. Once stopped, remember to cancel your indicator if you applied it. Now select reverse gear regardless of any approaching traffic as your reverse light will provide them with your intention to reverse.

Reverse parallel park: Diagram B
Reverse parallel park: Diagram B

parallel park: Diagram B

Before you start reversing backwards, it is essential you take all round effective observations. If there are any approaching vehicles or cyclists, wait till they have passed. Also remember pedestrians. If they are close or approaching your car at any point throughout this manoeuvre, stop and let them pass.

Once you are happy it is all clear, look in the direction that the car is travelling, which is out of the rear window, then proceed to move the car backwards. Keep the car very slow. Think of a slow walking pace to give you an idea. Good clutch control is required to keep the car this slow. If your car permits, just use the clutch to move the car and cover the brake in case you need to stop quickly. Not all cars allow this feature however.

You will now need to get the rear of the cars level. Set yourself some reference points to help. For example, if the cars are facing the same direction and are a similar size, line the side mirrors up.

Another reference point that may work is to line the rear of the yellow car into the centre left rear window of your car. It is better to go a little too far back than not enough. Not going far enough back may result in your car turning into the car you intend on parking behind if you are not careful. Establishing and getting confident with your reference points is important and certainly will help with this manoeuvre.

Keep the car very slow as you will need to constantly look around in all directions and be accurate with your reference points. Once you are happy the cars are level, stop the car. Your car is now at it’s point-of-turn. It is likely just for information purposes, that the examiner will ask you to reverse parallel park behind a single car and not in between 2 cars.

Reverse parallel park: Diagram C
Reverse parallel park: Diagram C

parallel park: Diagram C

In a moment, whilst reversing you will be steering to the left. This is called the point-of-turn and the front of your car will swing out into the road. This is the most hazardous part of the manoeuvre. Before moving the car or steering, take all round effective observation. This includes your right blind spot in case there maybe cyclists you can’t see in the mirrors for example.

If you are happy it is all clear, look in the direction the car is travelling (out the rear windscreen) and very slowly move the car backwards. Just as you move the car, steer 1 complete turn (360 degrees) to the left. By turning the wheel 1 turn to the left instead of left lock, it will make the turning angle slightly shallower at around 45 degrees. This will eliminate the possibility of your car turning into the car you are parking behind.

You will now need to establish the next reference point. This is the point in which you steer to the right to straighten the car.

Whilst reversing to this reference point, you will need constant all-round observation and likely needing to stop if any vehicles approach at this point. Also if you are reversing towards pedestrians, stop, allow them to pass before proceeding. Don’t forget to make frequent checks out the rear windscreen.

This reference point can vary from car to car, but to give an idea of what usually works is to line the left corner of your car up with the right corner of the car you are parking behind. At this point, steer full right lock. Another example may be to use your left mirror and when the kerb in the mirror gets to a certain point (usually about to disappear from view), that’s the time to right lock the steering. Whichever reference point you use, or your instructor demonstrates, once you reach it, stop. By stopping at each reference point, it breaks down the manoeuvre, allowing you to look around more and slowing it down.

Reverse parallel park: Diagram D
Reverse parallel park: Diagram D

parallel park: Diagram D

It may be an idea to choose a reference point that may ultimately leave too much of a gap from the kerb to eliminate hitting it. Don’t be fooled into thinking the reverse parallel park has to be completed in one single perfect move. It’s better to adjust than hit the kerb as this may result in a test failure.

At your reference point, steer full right lock. This will bring the car in parallel to the kerb. As you are slowly reversing, keep looking all around but also make frequent checks in your left mirror to assess:

  • if your car is parallel from the kerb and a suitable distance from the kerb (around 30cm) to stop.
  • if your car is too far from the kerb and needs adjusting

If you feel the car is a suitable distance from the kerb and do not need to adjust, just before you stop, steer your wheel to the left 1 turn to straighten up the front wheels.

If you are too far from the kerb, then essentially you will need to repeat the point-of-turn procedure as in diagram C. This time however, as you start to move backwards you can left lock the steering wheel as the car in front is not a hazard.

For this second point-of-turn, you may need to establish a different reference point. One that often works, is as you are reversing on full left lock, in your left mirror, there is a triangle formed between the kerb you can see in the mirror and the side of the car in the mirror. Keep reversing until the triangle has disappeared. Once it has, right lock to straighten the car. As the kerb and your car look parallel in the left mirror, steer 1 turn to the left to straighten the front wheels.

Once stopped, apply the handbrake and select neutral. There are potentially many reference points to remember in this manoeuvre. With a lot of practice you will remember them all and it will become easy.

Upon finishing parallel parking, if you there is a gap of a cars length or more between you and the target car that you parked behind, pull forward to decrease this gap. Ensure however that you leave sufficient room from the car in front so that you can move off (when the examiner says) without the need to reverse again.

What If I Make a Mistake?

Keep your speed slow and watch out for other road users and pedestrians at all times.

If you need to go forward again because you've got your positioning wrong, this is perfectly okay—it's better to start over than hit the kerb!

Do I have to do parallel parking during my test?

You might not have to – but there’s a 33.3% chance you will. During your test, the examiner will ask you to do one of these reversing exercises:

  • Parallel parking.
  • Parking in a parking bay (either by driving in then reversing out, or reversing in then driving out).
  • Pulling up on the right-hand side of the road, reversing for 2 car lengths, then rejoining the traffic.

Backing Up, Part 2

As your vehicle’s front end clears the rear bumper of the car parked ahead, turn the steering wheel hard left, all the way, and continue inching backward. Let the nose of your vehicle swing slowly toward the curb. You’ll probably be close to the vehicle behind you, so be careful not to hit it! Here’s where you can steal a glance at your vehicle’s backup-camera screen. But also crane your neck and take a look to see how close you are. Your vehicle may still be at a slight angle to the curb at this point.

Step 1: 1

Find a space and pull alongside the vehicle at the front of your space.  I used red paper to represent vehicles.  The long green stripe represents the curb.  The smaller green rectangles are the front wheels.  Your vehicle should be away from the parked vehicles about the normal amount of separation you have when driving down the street.

Types of Parking:

Throughout your driving experience, you will be required to park your car in different places and different positions. You might be required to park in a garage, in a parking lot, near a road or somewhere else. This means you will have to adjust to the area where you need to park your vehicle. All parking spots will not be the same and you will need to exhibit different types of parking skills to achieve the objective. Here are a few points about the different types of parking.

1) Angle Parking:

In this type of parking, cars are parked at an angle. In most cases, the cars face one direction. It is easy to park in and move out of an angular parking setting provided everyone follows the rules. Since it is easy to simply accelerate and zoom ahead from angle parking, you need to be alert while accelerating. Give the right signals and be on the lookout for signals from fellow drivers.

2) Perpendicular Parking:

This type of parking is common in parking lots, where people park their cars for a longer duration. Such type of parking is like angle parking but the angle here is perpendicular to the curb ahead. Cars will be parked in a 90-degree angle. You need to ensure that the tires of your car are pointing straight ahead and the car is positioned at the centre of the allocated parking spot in a perpendicular parking area.

3) Parallel Parking:

Car Parallel Parking is usually seen on the roads – cars are parked parallel to the road. This type of parking requires a certain amount of skill as it usually requires the driver to park in between two cars – one ahead and one behind. Entering and exiting the Parallel Parking needs focus on the surroundings and control on your driving.

4) Illegal Parking:

You need to park your vehicle only in designated areas. Parking your vehicle in spots where parking is prohibited will lead to monetary penalties. Parking cars in No Parking Zones and areas is an example of Illegal Parking.

5) Lot Parking:

If you are parking your car in a parking lot, you need to follow the rules and regulations prescribed by that area. They might have different types of parking in different areas for efficient usage of space.

6) Bay Parking:

Bay parking often involves reversing your car in an allocated area. There will be cars around you or space for cars around you, therefore, you need to be considerate about them and park accordingly.

7) Between two Vehicles:

Irrespective of the type of parking, you need to be alert and attentive while parking between two vehicles. One of the most common issues faced when a car is parked between two vehicles is – dent on the adjoining car’s door while opening your door or a scratch leading to loss of paint.

Where can I practice parallel parking?

If you’re practising with a family member or a friend, try a wide residential road which doesn’t have much traffic. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can build your confidence by heading to slightly busier roads with smaller gaps in between parked cars.

You could also try parking on a slight hill, or at night – get out of your comfort zone and you’ll quickly become used to parallel parking.

If you’re thinking about taking to the road, we’ll get you behind the wheel. Book our driving lessons and you’ll get an instructor who’ll tailor their teaching to suit you.