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How to Park a Car Perfectly? Easy Guide to Parallel Parking

What is parallel parking?

Parallel parking is a way of parking a car in a small space that drivers may not be able to drive straight into. Normally drivers position themselves parallel to the car in front of the space they want to park in, then reverse in.

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Put the car into reverse

To exit a parallel park, first put your car into reverse and back towards the car behind you. Back as close as you reasonably can without putting yourself in danger of hitting the other vehicle.

Helpful Comment from a Reader:

  • John Smith below 2 years ago. Very close but slightly different to the method I learned. This advice was given by a world champion racing driver from Scotland many years ago and works for any length of vehicle.
  • I used to work for a very large Provincial phone company in BC as a driver of a 6500 kg.. truck.
  • First you arrive at the space you intend to park in and bring your vehicle to a stop, beside the space between the 2 other vehicles, and you make sure your vehicle can fit the space plus some extra at both ends.
  • You then pull forward until the back of your vehicle is level with the back of the other vehicle, but not too close sideways (arms length)
  • You then begin your reversing right turn carefully past the front vehicle and using your mirrors (only when experienced) sight down the left side of your vehicle using your left mirror until you can see the right marker light of the vehicle behind you.
  • At this point you begin to turn the steering wheel fairly quickly the other way(left) in order to bring the front of your vehicle past the front vehicle (not too closely- do not hit) and into the space.
  • At this point you can sight the right kerb in your right mirror and straighten out and stop your vehicle before hitting the one behind.
  • If you are not perfectly parallel with the kerb you can make some quick corrections within the length of your space without the need to start all over again unless you badly misjudged the space.
  • Truck drivers cannot see through windows and have only their mirrors to guide them.
  • Trust me – with very little practice this works like a charm and served me well in over 45 years of professional driving.

Thank you Gordon for this helpful info!

Check

Check and see how it looks in your right-side-view mirror.

Since it is not very classy to wait until you hit the curb,…

…try to look carefully in the mirror and stop before you hit the curb if it looks like that is about to happen.

If all looks good, then let the car keep rolling backwards and hold the wheel where it is. Hold until the car is straight and parallel with the curb.

Again using the right side-view mirror as well as looking ahead and looking behind over your shoulder for safety.

Make sure you stop when the car is parallel.

If you keep going, you will hit the curb with the front tires, since they are turned all the way to the left.

If it looks good, then you can move the vehicle forward and straighten the wheels if you like. Although, there is no law that says you have to do this.

Generally, you want your car to be equally between the car in front and the car behind. This way, all vehicles can exit the parking spots as easily as possible and vehicles are not getting blocked in.

Step-by-Step Guide for Parallel Parking:

Parallel Parking is one of the ways to park your car perfectly, and it can be a tough cookie to crack. It is one thing to park in an open parking lot and another to squeeze your beloved vehicle between two parked cars on one side of the road while other vehicles are zooming past you. That’s pressure! But don’t worry. It is not impossible.

Car Parallel Parking can also be just as simple as parking in an open area, provided you get the basics right and have the confidence to pull it off. Here is the stepwise process to succeed at Parallel Parking. Assume that you are going to park your car on the right side of the road and there is a car in front of the vacant spot and one behind it.

Step 1 – Position:

Position your car parallelly along with the car that is in front of the vacant spot. Maintain a three to four feet distance from that car.

Step 2 – Mirror:

Check all the mirrors to avoid bumping your car. Hit the reverse gear and accelerate after you are convinced that there is no one near the vacant spot.

Step 3 – Reverse:

Turn the steering wheel to the right and reverse your car as you approach the vacant spot.

Step 4 – Straighten:

Straighten the steering as you enter the parking area. Keep checking the mirrors while moving backwards.

Step 5 – Steer Left:

After your car has entered the vacant spot and is close to the rear bumper of the vehicle in front, turn your car’s steering to the left and keep reversing.

Step 6 – Adjust:

You will have to move your vehicle a bit forward and a bit backward to get the right placement. Adjust your car accordingly.

Step 7 – Check:

Check for space between your car and the one in front and behind it. Make sure there is ample space for you and the other cars to move out of the Parallel Parking.

Also, read: Basic Car Maintenance Tips for Beginners

Getting in Position

Pull up alongside the car you will be parking behind. You may even wish to pull up alongside the car ahead of that, just to be comfortable.

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.

Adjust your position

Once you have your vehicle straight and as close to the curb as possible, you may need to shift into forward to position your car so that there is an equal amount of space in front and behind your vehicle.

Pull Alongside

Stop your car next to the vehicle you’ll be parking behind. Your vehicle’s front bumper should be about even with the bumper of the car to your side. Flip on your right turn signal (if the spot is on the right side of the street) to let the cars behind you know that you’re about to park. Now comes the hard part.

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.

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When to Turn

The rule of thumb is to begin your turn once you can see the back of the car that you’re parking behind. Cut the wheel so that you’re moving at a 45-degree angle.

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Getting out of Extremely Tight Parking Spaces:

Here’s a situation. You visit a shopping mall and park your car in a relatively vacant parking lot. When you are done shopping and having a meal at the food court, you exit the mall and enter the car park to find out that the parking lot is full. In some cases, it is overflowing with excess cars. You reach your car and it is surrounded by cars on three sides and there’s only one way out – reversing. This is just one example of a tight parking spot.

Tight parking spots can happen on the road, in your residential complex, etc. The way out of it is to be patient and think logically. You must stay calm and focus your energy on finding the way out instead of focussing on the negatives. Have a good look at the setting. Play out scenarios in your head and check out different angles that can work. Enter your vehicle and begin driving slowly – do not speed up to leave in a hurry. If you have company, you can ask the other person to assist from outside the vehicle. If you are alone, you can request someone else for help regarding the angles.

In any case, if you cannot get out of the tight parking space, do not let your ego go wild and try to burst out. Be practical. Seek assistance from the parking attendant or a supervisor if it is a supervised setting. If you are on the road, you will just have to wait it out till the other vehicle moves and gives you space to exit.

How to Parallel Park

Parallel parking diagram
Parallel parking diagram

Selecting a suitable space

As you should do whenever you are parking you need to make sure that you identify a place that is a safe, convenient and legal position (known as the SCALP routine). To find such a place you can draw on your knowledge of road signs, road markings, and The Highway Code as well as your common sense.

The other essential thing you need to consider is if you can control your vehicle in the environment you have selected to park in. For instance, if you are going to need to reverse downhill into the space you need to make sure that you can control the car with confidence.

To summarise here is what you need to ask yourself before selecting a parallel parking space:

  1. Is it safe?
  2. Is it convenient?
  3. Is it legal?
  4. Can I control my vehicle here?

In your driving test if you are asked to parallel park the examiner will select the space for you and ask you to pull up before the car you will reverse either behind or in front of. When you are driving independently after passing your test, make sure you select a space that is at least one and a half times the length of your vehicle so that you can fit into the space without difficulty.

Position

Approach the space slowly and check that it is suitable. Go through the Mirror Signal Manoeuvre (MSM) routine and, whether or not there is anyone around, signal if you need to. Make sure you use your nearside mirror to judge where to stop and pull up just in front of the gap. Your position should be parallel to the vehicle you are parking behind and around a metre away from it.

Prepare

now you need to prepare the car to reverse, do this by putting the clutch down, putting the car in reverse and finding the biting point. If you are reversing into a space downhill make sure you use brake control.

Observe

check all around you ensuring all of your mirrors and blind spots have been observed and that it is safe to start reversing. Make sure that you have identified anything you need to keep a close eye on during the manoeuvre – such as a pedestrian walking on the pavement or a car reversing out of a drive. Once your observations are complete look out of the back window as this is the direction the car will be moving in, this will be your main focal point but make sure you keep checking around throughout the manoeuvre.

Manoeuvre

Reverse slowly until the back of your car is level with the back/front of the car you are reversing in behind – this is known as the point of turn. The view through the back left window will help you to find this point of turn, and if you can see daylight past the rear of the target vehicle you know that you have reversed enough.

  • At the point of turn have a pause and check all around you once again – check for pedestrians and other vehicles that are moving or potentially about to move. Make sure you are aware if vehicles are going to drive past you while you are parking or are going to wait for you to finish. At this point in the manoeuvre, the car is about to swing out into the road so it is essential that you are confident that the coast is clear.
  • Slowly reverse and apply a full left lock on the steering wheel. Your focus needs to be on the back window, but keep looking around. Keep going until the kerb disappears in the back window and make sure that your car points out at 45 degrees. If it is at this position take off the full lock to straighten your wheels while slowly moving.
  • Reverse straight back slowly while being close to the kerb, use the door mirror to find a reference point to follow. You will find your own reference point that works for you, but generally frequently checking in the mirror will help you to find the final point of turn.
  • Now steer the wheel full lock to the right so that the front end of your vehicle moves towards the kerb as you continue to move slowly. Continue to look out the back window and keep an eye on the left mirror to ensure you are not going to catch the kerb.
  • When you are almost straight in the space swiftly remove the right steer lock.
  • If you are not happy with your position you can slowly move forwards and backwards to adjust the vehicle until you are satisfied with your parking.

How to pull out from parallel parking

Thankfully, pulling out of a parallel parking spot is much easier than getting in to start with. Though, it can still be a challenge. Follow these guidelines to drive out of a parallel parking spot:

  1. 1Make sure your wheels are straight.
 Slowly rever

    Make sure your wheels are straight. Slowly reverse toward the vehicle behind you while looking in your mirrors and over your right shoulder. Take care not to back up too far.

  2. 2Turn your head and use your mirrors to check all a

    Turn your head and use your mirrors to check all around the vehicle for approaching motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

  3. 3Signal your intention to move into the traffic lan

    Signal your intention to move into the traffic lane, using your rear-view mirror to keep an eye out for hazards.

  4. 4Turn your head to look over your left shoulder, st

    Turn your head to look over your left shoulder, steer left and begin to drive forward when it is safe. Look toward the front of your vehicle to make sure you can clear the car ahead of you.

  5. 5Check again for hazards by turning to look over yo

    Check again for hazards by turning to look over your left shoulder. Drive forward and align yourself in the traffic lane when it is safe.

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