One of the most nerve-racking things about the driving test, apart from the multitudes of other drivers zooming past you on the road, is the part where you have to demonstrate parallel parking.
It looks easy when you see experienced drivers do it but when it comes to your turn it just doesn’t seem to make sense, there is never enough room and hitting the gutter seems to happen all the time.
Of course, the trick is to get lots of practice before your test for your licence. Knowing some easy steps to get it right can help as well.
How to do a parallel park
- The right spot:
When you choose the place, you are going to park, especially when you are new to driving, make sure that the cars on either side are not on or over the marked lines. If they are it will be a little harder to park as you have less room – depending on the size of your car, of course.
Move your car until it is parallel with the car at the front of the parking space – remember you always reverse to parallel park. Leave approximately 1 metre between your vehicle and the one you plan to park behind. Begin the process by lining up your passenger door with the BACK door of the vehicle beside you. In Australia, the parking space should be on the left. Turn your steering wheel as far as it can go to the left while remaining stationary (if the parking space on the right turn it to the right).
- From here, imagine you are sitting on a clock face with 12 o’clock directly in front of you and 3 o’clock at a 90 degree angle to your right hand side.
Find something outside that car that is in line with 2 o’clock and then move your car to the 2 o’clock position.
- Bring your steering wheel back to straighten your wheels: while stationary, keep your foot on the brake, move your steering wheel back to the center so that your wheels are straight. From here reverse back until your passenger side mirror lines up with the middle of the car beside you. Stop at this point and turn your wheel to full lock position on the right and reverse the car into the car space. Once you can visually see the gutter back down the street in the passenger mirror, you know the car is straight. Adjustments from here should be minor movements forward or back and are always done at a very slow and safe pace.
Note: If at any stage you think you are in a position to hit either the front or rear vehicle, or you hit the gutter because of a misjudged angle stop, turn your wheels and drive forwards out of the car spot to begin again from the start.
- Adjust as needed: it is ideal that your car is parked in the center of the car spot to give room to the other cars parked and for pedestrians to be able to pass between the cars easily. So, once you are in the spot adjust your position and move your wheels accordingly.
Why is it better to use reverse when parallel parking?
Trying to drive forward into a space between 2 cars is both impractical and extremely difficult to achieve a satisfactory result.
By following our 10 step guide and doing a little practice, it is very simple to learn to Reverse Parallel Park.
Here are the steps again:
- Indicate on to the left and stop with your passenger door in line with the back door of the car you wish to reverse behind.
- Select reverse gear.
- Turn the wheel to the left and reverse until the car is facing 2 o’clock.
- Turn the steering wheel back to the right until your wheels are straight.
- Reverse until your passenger mirror is in line with the middle of the car beside you.
- Turn your steering wheel fully to the right and reverse the front of the car into the space and stop once you can see the gutter fully down the street from the passenger mirror.
- Turn the steering wheel back to center so that your wheels are straight.
- Make any further adjustments if required and finish in the middle of the car space with even amount of room front and back.
- Select park or neutral and engage the hand brake.
- Turn the engine off.
One of the things that you may not have given much thought to is that you can only steer the front wheels – they are moved by the steering wheel. For the majority of cars – front wheel drives. Because of this, the back wheels essentially go where the front wheels tell them to when you are driving forward but when you are in reverse the front wheels tell the rear wheels where to go.
If you try to parallel park using the front of the car it is much more difficult to get the back of the car into position. The rear will be too far away from the gutter and you will need more space to be able to manoeuvre it into the car park.
So always reverse parallel park to avoid a lengthy parking process.
Use parallel parking car technology to your advantage
Luckily, many cars have additional technology that helps with parking and if you are lucky enough to have one of these you can use it to your advantage:
- Parking sensors – Initially sensors were created to help people with sight difficulties in the 1970’s. However, they were not used in cars until 2003 when they were installed in a Toyota Prius. They are positioned in car bumper bars and a warning beep sounds and becomes quicker the closer you are to an object.
- Cameras – reverse parking cameras were added to mainstream cars in 2000. High end car models often also have 360-degree cameras to help the driver see all around them while they are driving.
- Cameras combined with parking sensors help you to judge how far you are away from other vehicles when you are driving, overtaking and parking.
- Park assist – automatic parking systems that help you to park with ease. Uses a radar to scan the side of the road or potential spaces to identify whether there are any objects around. The technology can then take over the steering wheel and manouevre you into the spot. Most systems require you to still control the accelerator or brake for your safety.
Need help with your parking or want to master your parallel parking for your driving test? See our driving school packages today.