Parallel Parking for Dummies

Parallel parking tips

Our parallel parking tips can help you get to grips with parallel parking in the shortest possible time, while ensuring the experience stress-free.

  • Start at the beginning. Do not attempt to learn parallel parking until you are comfortable with car reference points, backing up in general, angle parking and 90-degree parking. Without these skills, you will be in over your head.
  • Take your time. You may feel rushed when parallel parking next to real cars for the first time, but it is important to take things slowly. Moving slowly will let you utilize your reference points more effectively and stop without damaging other vehicles, if you maneuver incorrectly.
  • Ask for help, if you need it. If you know a licensed driver who is confident with parallel parking, ask them to accompany you while you are learning.
  • Practice regularly. This is the best advice you will receive. You will learn much faster attempting to parallel park than reading guides and watching videos. You will make mistakes – but this is all part of the process! Each time you go wrong will take you one step closer to doing it right.


Step 5: 3

When the front of the car has swung into the space, the rear of the car should be aligned with the front of the car behind.  

Check how close you are

Continuing to inch backwards in reverse and while beginning to straighten your steering wheel, look into your rear view mirror to see how close your vehicle is to the car in the parallel parking spot behind you.

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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.

Start backing up

Slowly begin to reverse your vehicle along the side of the parked car. Begin to turn your steering wheel to the right.

2. Determine if the space is big enough

Drive up next to the open space and determine if the space is large enough for your car. The space should be longer than the length of your car and have a few additional feet to allow you to properly position your car into the space.

Common Parallel Parking Mistakes

As you practice, you may find yourself repeating the same mistakes. Here are some of the most common mistakes that occur when parallel parking.

Aligning yourself too close or too far away from the front vehicle

You will want to position your vehicle to within about 3 feet of the front vehicle. Too close and you will have difficulty swinging into the spot while avoiding the front car. Too far away and you will have trouble coming close enough to the curb.

Hitting the curb

If you find that you continue to hit the curb when you back into the parking space, you are likely doing one of three things:

  1. Backing up at an angle greater than 45 degrees
  2. Not fully turning the steering wheel after clearing the rear bumper of the front car
  3. Not turning the steering wheel soon enough after clearing the rear bumper of the front car (backing too far into the space)

Going too fast

There is rarely a situation where you need to quickly parallel park a car. You may feel rushed or nervous while parallel parking – the best thing to do in that situation is to pause, take a breath, and assess your situation. Think about the steps that you learned, and form a plan in your head for executing those steps.

Not practicing enough

Practicing is easy with the help of a tape measurer and some traffic cones. Refer to your state’s requirements for parallel parking – most states have different requirements and testing methods, but will generally require that you fit your car into a space with a length of 22-26 feet and a width of 8 feet.

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The length of the space may also be determined by the length of the vehicle that you use during the road test times 1.5. So, if your car is 16 feet in length, you will need to parallel park in a space with a length of 24 feet.

Once you determine the allotted space, you can measure out the determined space in your driveway or in an empty parking lot and set up traffic cones. You can also set up empty trash cans, or other lightweight but tall objects to represent the cars in front or behind you. That way when you are getting to know the spacing in front of and behind your vehicle, inevitably bump into these imaginary cars, you won’t do any permanent damage.

Practicing this way will make it much easier when taking your road test, as you will be familiar with the spacing requirements.

If your road test requires that you parallel park with a car in front of the space, be sure to do some practicing with a car involved. This can also help you practice the steps outlined above.

A life in reverse

So what is it? Basically, parallel parking takes advantage of your vehicle’s ability to manoeuvre into tight spaces in reverse gear. It’s a really useful technique to get the hang of – particularly when you’re in town and looking for somewhere to park.

Before we begin, there are two rules to add to your ‘Really Important Rule’ book:

Really important rules

  • When you’re attempting to parallel park, you may become a hazard to other drivers, so make sure you maintain good levels of observation and do not start the manoeuvre until you’re sure that it’s safe.
  • To give yourself a fighting chance of completing the manoeuvre successfully, choose a gap that you’re sure your car will fit into – to be on the safe side, let’s say about one-and-a-half times the length of your vehicle.

Once you’re sure it’s clear and there’s enough room for your car, follow these steps for parallel parking success:

  1. Stop your vehicle reasonably close to, and parallel with, the parked vehicle ahead of the gap. Your vehicle should be about level with, or slightly ahead of, the parked vehicle.
  2. Apply the parking brake if necessary.
  3. Show your brake lights by pressing the footbrake, then select reverse gear. Your reversing lights will warn other people of your intentions. Check all around.
  4. Bring the clutch up to biting point and, if it’s still safe to move, release the parking brake if you applied it.
  5. Ease the clutch pedal up just enough to start to move, keeping it steady at, or just above, the biting point.
  6. Depending on whether the space is on the left-hand or right-hand side of the road (and which way your vehicle is facing), you’ll need to get your steering wheel on either left- or right-hand lock.
  7. Reverse slowly, but watch the corner of the parked vehicle. Make sure you do not forget to look round as you begin to reverse into the space (the front of your vehicle could swing into the path of passing traffic).
  8. Straighten up and keep a careful eye on the position of your vehicle – there’s a danger of ‘clipping’ the vehicle in front at this point.
  9. When you’re sure that the front of your vehicle is clear of the parked vehicle, use enough lock (left or right, depending on which side of the road you’re on) to gradually bring your vehicle parallel with, and close to, the nearside kerb.
  10. Straighten up by taking the lock off and adjust the position of your vehicle as necessary.
  11. If your car has reverse sensors, they'll be beeping at you as you approach the car behind. Often the beeps change in tone and frequency the closer you get. You may need to ignore the early warning sounds, but do take notice of the critical ones that are very close together.

If you cannot see clearly, follow the advice in Rule 202 of The Highway Code and get someone to guide you into position.

Step 3 Back Up And Crank The Wheel

Put the car in reverse, and slowly start backing up. As soon as you start backing up, crank the steering wheel all the way to the right (for a right-hand space – opposite for a left-hand space). Turn the wheel until you can’t turn it anymore

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Step 2: Turn the Wheels and Begin Backing

Turn the wheels fairly sharply and begin backing, but how sharply?  Notice the yellow arrow.  The next step explains its significance.  It is what makes parallel parking easy.

Choosing A Space That Is Too Small

Sometimes you just can’t fit. Feel free to give it a try, but if you find the space is just too small, move on. It happens

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.

How to Parallel Park with Cones

It’s a good idea to start practicing parallel parking using two cones so you don’t damage other cars. Here’s how you do it:

  • Find a street with little-to-no traffic
  • Get two cones and place them about fifteen feet apart to create an area the size of a real parking spot
  • Practice until you get the gist of the maneuver and feel confident in your ability to parallel park. You can then move on to real-life situations with real parking spots.

If you need to learn additional driving tips, go into the Zutobi Drivers Ed course for your state to learn more. We’ll cover everything you need to get your driver’s license.


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