Parallel Parking 1-2-3

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Introduction: Parallel Parking 1-2-3

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

One of the more difficult skills to learn as a new driver is parallel parking.  Kiteman did an Instructable on it in 2007.  I wanted to add something I use to make it a 1-2-3 operation easier to learn.  Kiteman's Instructable was designed for the United Kingdom.  Mine is more for the USA, although basic principles could translate between the two. 

(The photo is from Google Images.)

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.

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.

Step 3: The Target

Make an imaginary line on the car behind your space that is just a bit toward the center of the car from the halfway mark between the headlamp on the street side and the manufacturer's emblem at the center of the car.  Another imaginary line that extends the street side of your car will aim for this imaginary mark on the car behind.  You can imagine this easily as you look down the side of your car in your driver's side mirror.

(The photo is from Google Images.)

Step 4: "2"

When you imagine a line running down the driver's side of your car that points at the imaginary line between the headlamp and the maker's emblem on the car behind you, straighten your wheels.  Continue backing until your right front bumper is even with the rear bumper of the car ahead of your space (yellow line), begin turning the steering wheel fairly sharply as if you were making a left turn.  In the graphic, the yellow arrow points a little nearer to the center of the car behind than it really would.  You can gauge how much to turn by watching your left rear fender.  It should begin to swing into line with the front left fender of the vehicle behind you. 

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.  

Step 6: Pull Ahead a Little

Straighten your front wheels and pull ahead to even the space in front of and behind your car. 

If a parking space is longer than necessary, adjustments to this process are pretty intuitive.  If the space is a bit shorter than normal, aim initially closer to the center of the car behind and turn the wheels more sharply when your bumper clears the car ahead of yours.

With only a little practice, you can zip into a parallel parking space in three easy steps without jockeying to make the car fit the space.  It is rather impressive to watch.  People riding with you will be amazed.  People stopped behind you as you park will be appreciative.

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    42 Comments

    This was so informative...I thank you and I feel more confident now that I read and studied the diagrams. I got it!!! I take my test 10/15/14...Wish me luck!

    2 replies

    Thank you for your comment. I am glad the graphics are clear to you. I keep thinking about ways to improve upon them, but have not come to the magic solution, yet.
    What I described is much less complicated than what I was taught. That seemed to depend on heavy doses of magic fairy dust applied randomly. If you can get a little practice on a quiet side street you will build your confidence and become very comfortable with a sense of how to make it work just right with one try every time. You will "Wow!" anyone watching you. I wish you well. Please report back on how it goes for you.

    As a new pilot I think that leaning to park properly is the hardest thing you can learn.

    3 replies

    That is a surprise. A friend used to take me flying, and I would come home to practice things we did on a Microsoft Flight Simulator. I always have trouble lining up with the center line during a landing, even though I look along the length of the runway, not just at the near end. Thank you for your comment. I can parallel park pretty well, but do not get much practice.

    Hahaha, when I said "pilot" I meant that I am learning to drive the family minivan. Still, I have not learned to park properly :)

    Another friend with years of flying experience encouraged me to pursue a pilot's license. He claimed you can fly a plane if you can drive a car. That is why I thought you were making a comparison between flying and parallel parking.

    But, it is still the same process. My recommendation would be that a new learner not attempt some of the tighter spaces until he or she has some practice. garry-potter-7

    1 reply

    New drivers will naturally want to give themselves plenty of extra room. A friend told me about when he was taking instructions to become a private pilot. He was giving himself a lot of extra space away from the runway as he was setting up for his landing approach. His instructor urged him to get a bit closer in his approaches, and he did with practice, not to mention more confidence.

    What is the purpose of the garry-potter link above?

    now remember... UCLA "Uphill-curb-left-always" for which way to turn your wheels.

    Source: Driver's Ed --Current and TONIGHT!

    Its easy to parallel park after you've done it a couple times in your vehicle. My friend wondered how I fit my pickup in a spot where I had 2 inches in front and back of me. Took like two times backing up and forward. A pain is when a trailer is attached because the trailer moves different to what you think.

    The theory's great, where people struggle is in the spatial awareness & coordination involved in doing the maneuver in reverse...
    What angle of entry do you recommend - 45o?

    L

    8 replies

    You said it, if you dont train your spatial awareness then all the theory in the world wont work.

    I have not given any thought to the entry angle.  I just sight down the side of my car and aim for the spot between the street side headlamp and center of the car behind.  That pretty well takes care of it, along with turning my front wheels when my front bumper just clears the rear bumper of the car ahead.  Even doing something in reverse is not a problem when doing things in these steps.   But, doing things in reverse gets to be a challenge when trying to back a trailer or a farm wagon.  Thanks for commenting, Lemonie.

    You've brought up another helpful tip in "aim for the spot between the street side headlamp and center of the car behind", I think. If a person has markers or targets (e.g.) a sticker on the glass, they can use these visual references. Although these would be specific to the car.

    L

    True, markers help.  What I am suggesting is to use a driver's side mirror to look down the side of your own car as aiming a rifle by looking down the barrel with the mark on the car behind your parking space as the target.  That process eliminates the need for a mark  specific to your car.  It works pretty well with all cars, so long as the length of the car is not highly unusual, nor the parking space greatly unusual.

    Yes that's making perfect sense, stretched limos would be a pain I'm sure...

    L

    That makes me smile.  I doubt I will ever drive a stretch limousine. 

    Maybe you could follow this with reverse-parking articulated-vehicles though?

    L

    I have no experience with those, either.