Tips for Parallel Parking

Parallel Parking Steps

Whether you’re just learning how to parallel park or consider yourself a seasoned pro, the following tips from Solomon may help ensure you’re following the proper technique and safety measures. Keep in mind that, while some one-way streets may have parallel parking spaces on both sides of the road, these steps are a guide to parallel parking on the right-hand side only.

If you’re a beginner, Solomon recommends locating a parking space on a low-traffic street that is at least 4 to 6 feet longer than your vehicle. You should also visually inspect the parking space for any debris, such as trash or broken glass, so you can help avoid potential damage to your car’s tires, says Solomon. And, while you’re learning, you may want to practice parallel parking behind one car at first (rather than between two cars) to help minimize the risk of striking another object.

Step 1. Line up Your Vehicle After you’ve located a parking space, use your right-hand turn signal to alert other drivers that you’re about to park. Solomon says lining up the rear bumper of your car to the rear bumper of the vehicle that will be parked in front of you is key. You should also allow about 3 feet of distance between the passenger side of your vehicle and the driver’s side of the car next to you. Once your vehicle is properly lined up, shift the vehicle to reverse and use your car’s mirrors to verify there is no oncoming traffic. Then, look over your right shoulder. Stretch your right arm over the back of your car’s passenger seat to help turn your body so you have better visibility as you prepare to reverse, says Solomon.

Step 2. Turn the Wheel Start with your left hand on the top center of your steering wheel, and turn the wheel tightly to the right. It’s important not to turn your wheel too far, says Solomon — if you can’t turn the wheel any further to the right, then you’ve gone too far. He recommends being a half-turn away from the steering wheel’s maximum rotation.

Step 3. Begin Reversing Slowly ease your foot off the brake pedal, with the wheel still turned, and let your vehicle begin entering the parking space. If you need to use the car’s accelerator to get your car moving, use only very light pressure on the gas. When your right rear bumper is halfway into the parking space at a 45-degree angle, stop the vehicle, says Solomon.

Step 4. Straighten the Wheel and Reverse Again With your vehicle at a stop, straighten out your steering wheel. Slowly ease off the brake again, and let your vehicle reverse into the space until your car’s front right bumper has cleared the left rear bumper of the vehicle in front of you. Solomon recommends stopping again at this point. If your rear tire has hit the curb, it may be difficult to correct the alignment of your vehicle — Solomon recommends starting over when it’s clear to pull out of the parking space.

Step 5. Turn the Wheel and Finish Reversing Next, turn your steering wheel to the left using the same technique from Step 2. Ease your foot off the car’s brake pedal to complete reversing into the space. Your vehicle should now be entirely in the parking space.

Step 6. Straighten Out Your Car Center your vehicle between the cars in front of and behind you, and ensure your vehicle is 6 to 12 inches away from the curb, suggests Solomon. This may make it easier for vehicles to exit and enter the parking spaces and, if it’s raining, allow water to move past your vehicle and into sewer drains. Otherwise, water may hit your vehicle’s tires and divert it to the road, potentially causing puddling and water hazards on the road for other drivers. If your parking space is marked, you should always park your car between the marked lines, adds Solomon.

Step 7. Exit Your Vehicle Use caution when exiting your vehicle and check for hazards prior to opening your car door. Solomon suggests using what he calls the “cross-body-reach method” by taking off your seat belt, checking your car’s mirrors for other vehicles and pedestrians, and then reaching over your body with your right arm to open the door. Solomon says opening the door with your right arm turns your body in a way that may allow you to see things that were not visible in the mirrors. You may also want to ask your passengers to use the same method, as bicyclists or pedestrians on the passenger side may be close to vehicles parked on the street.

Reverse psychology

Of course, practice is the key to improving any skill, so try not to put yourself under too much pressure to get it right first time. Start by picking a quiet street and reversing behind one car only, then gradually build up to parking between two cars once you’re feeling more confident.

For more official DVSA advice about improving your driving skills, head over to the Safe Driving for Life shop and pick up a copy of The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills.

Video

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.

The Driving Test

You may be asked to reverse park behind a single vehicle or between two vehicles—don't worry if the examiner chooses the latter, as you won't be asked to squeeze into a too-tight gap! The examiner will look for a space of one and a half to two car lengths at the bare minimum, probably longer.

The examiner will usually ask you to pull up on the left and then say something along the lines of:

"The vehicle ahead of you is the one upon which I would like you to perform the reverse / parallel park manoeuvre. Please drive forward and stop alongside the car ahead. Then reverse in and park reasonably close to and parallel with the kerb. Try to complete the exercise within about two car lengths."

Becoming Flustered And Embarrassed

That leads to poor decision-making skills and bad judgment. If you screw up, don’t even worry about it. You’re not going to get it on the first try every time. Many people get into this “hurry up before anybody sees me” mode. Don’t do that. Just do your thing. If you keep screwing up, just pull forward and start all over. You’ll get it eventually. Everybody had to learn at some point. Yup, even the guy laughing and pointing at you.

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.

Angle parking

Angle parking not only minimises the length of space required for parking, but it also allows for more cars to park in a smaller space thanks to the nature of the angled bays. Generally, the bays are angled to make it easy for oncoming traffic to drive into them. 

Angle parking tips

It is far more advisable to drive in rather than attempting to reverse into an angled bay. If you are unused to angle parking, slow down and steer lightly; it’s easier to adjust understeering as you go than to correct oversteering when you’re halfway into the bay.

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Step 2 Get Set Up

If you don’t have a good set up, you’re doomed from the start! Pull up next to the vehicle that will eventually be in front of you. It’s best to line up as evenly as you can, bumper to bumper. Stay about 1 to 3 feet from the vehicle.

Is there a time limit for parallel parking during the driving test?

There isn’t a specific time length, but the examiner will be looking for you to make progress. You need to be reasonably prompt.

You can make small pauses to check you’re on track but you’ll be penalised if you start taking too long to do the manoeuvre, if other road users are affected, or you’re causing traffic jams.

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.

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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The parallel parking technique

  1. If it’s safe to do so, pull up alongside the gap you’ve spotted to park in and check it’s large enough for your car. You’ll need to leave a minimum 2ft gap (this is approximately the distance between your wrist and shoulder when your arm’s outstretched) at each end to give yourself some wiggle room – and enough room to pull out and drive away.
  2. Most instructors would advise choosing a space approximately 1 and a half times the size of the vehicle you’re driving. You’ll be tested on your ability to park within the space of 2 vehicles.
  3. Checking it’s safe to do so, slowly move your vehicle alongside the car that you’ll be parking behind. You should aim to leave about 1 metre of clearance from the parked car.
  4. Select reverse gear – your reverse lights should be illuminated, so everyone knows what you want to do – and take a good look at everything around you.Allow any traffic to pass before you start to parallel park, but remember that traffic may choose to wait.
  5. Look through the rear window and reverse slowly. When the back of your car is level with the car next to you, turn the wheel left towards the kerb and check your right blind spot before the front of your car moves behind the parked car.
  6. Turn so you’re at a 45 degree angle as you head into the centre of the space. Don’t rush or go too fast – and keep looking around you.
  7. Continue to keep an eye out for other road users and pedestrians; at this point the car will have swung out into the road, .
  8. Turn the wheel to the right away from the kerb when the front of your car is clear of the one in front.
  9. When you’re parallel to the kerb, straighten your steering wheel, and you should be parked. Use the space you’ve left in front and behind you if you need to make any small adjustments.
  10. Gently stop the car, put the handbrake on and the gear into neutral when you’re totally happy.

When you start learning how to parallel park, your instructor should let you practice in a quiet spot with lots of space. As you improve and become more confident, they’ll encourage you to manoeuvre into tighter spaces.

Can You Take Your Seatbelt off When Reversing?

Yes, you can take your seatbelt off when carrying out any of the reversing manoeuvres on your driving test, but it's not advisable! It's very easy to forget to put it back on afterwards, which won't impress the examiner at all!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2009 LouiseKirkpatrick

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