Introduction: Parallel Parking 1-2-3

Picture of Parallel Parking 1-2-3

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"

Picture of "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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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"

Picture of "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"

Picture of "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

Picture of 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.


pswelsh41 (author)2014-10-07

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!

Hey how'd the test go?

Phil B (author)pswelsh412014-10-07

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.

I_StarkGuy (author)2013-12-30

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

Phil B (author)I_StarkGuy2013-12-31

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.

I_StarkGuy (author)Phil B2013-12-31

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

Phil B (author)I_StarkGuy2013-12-31

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.

sapar (author)2011-02-20

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

Phil B (author)sapar2011-02-20

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?

MatthewEnderle (author)2010-11-04

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

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

hackmattr (author)2010-08-31

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.

lemonie (author)2010-03-08

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?


hastalavista (author)lemonie2010-04-12

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

Phil B (author)lemonie2010-03-08

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.

lemonie (author)Phil B2010-03-08

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.


Phil B (author)lemonie2010-03-08

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.

lemonie (author)Phil B2010-03-08

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


Phil B (author)lemonie2010-03-08

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

lemonie (author)Phil B2010-03-08

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


Phil B (author)lemonie2010-03-08

I have no experience with those, either.

ac1D (author)2010-03-09
This method also work fine ;)

Phil B (author)ac1D2010-03-09

If you notice the Introduction, that is the very link I gave there.

ac1D (author)Phil B2010-03-10

True, I missed it!

Phil B (author)ac1D2010-03-10

I know Kiteman is a very well respected member of Instructables.  His instructions for parallel parking have you cranking the steering wheel over to full lock one way, trying to judge a 45 degree angle, and then cranking the steering wheel over to hard lock the other direction.  What I propose has you aim the side of the car at a spot on the car behind, back straight until your bumper is clear of the bumper on the car at the front of the space, and then swing the car into the space while watching for your rear fender to align with the front fender of the car behind.  What I propose involves a less severe manipulation of the steering wheel and more gentle adjusting as you watch things come into line.

Kiteman (author)Phil B2010-03-10

True, your method involves less wheel-turning, but it also requires a much longer space in which to park.

Fine for a learner, but not common in reality.

Phil B (author)Kiteman2010-03-10

A good first step is space selection.  Without being overly picky, I judge the size of the space to be certain it is at least as long as my normal length car plus a little buffer.  I do this by slowing as I pull alongside the empty space on my way to lining up with the car ahead of the empty space.  If the space is a bit short, but still workable, I make the target on the car behind my space much closer to the maker's emblem at the center of the car and make my turns a bit sharper.  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.  With a little practice they will have acquired some familiarity with the process and will be able to make adjustments that allow getting into a minimal space.   At the very worst someone might need to jockey back and forth once or twice to be parallel to the curb and as close to the curb as needed.

Phil B (author)Phil B2010-03-25

Most of my parallel parking experiences lately are at a busy downtown hospital where I occasionally visit patients from our church.  Yesterday I was there and the only space was quite short.  I decided to attempt parking in it.  I aimed for the center of the car behind me and cut my wheel to the left when my front bumper just cleared the rear bumper of the car ahead.  When I touched the bumper of the car behind, the line down my left side was aimed at the street side headlamp of the car behind.  I cut the wheel to the right and pulled ahead until my bumper touched the bumper ahead.  Then I cut to the left and backed up.  I was in and very, very neatly aligned with the other cars. 

rimar2000 (author)2010-03-10

In this regard, some time ago I had an idea, Phil, and I want to know your opinion: Why cars are not manufactured with the direction on the rear wheels? It would be much easier to do maneuvers like parallel parking, and because the predominant traction is frontal, the mechanics would be greatly simplified.Surely it would have to be considered side effects as possible skidding in curves, but that should not be difficult to solve with current technology. Will I have to get to make cars?
(Respecto a esto, hace un tiempo se me ocurrió una idea, Phil, y me gustaría saber tu opinión: ¿Por qué los autos no se fabrican con la dirección en las ruedas traseras? Sería muchísimo más fácil hacer maniobras como la de estacionar en paralelo, y dado que la tracción predominante es la delantera, la mecánica se simplificaría notablemente. Seguramente habría que tener en cuenta efectos colaterales, como posibles derrapes en curvas, pero eso no debería ser difícil de solucionar con la tecnología actual. ¿Tendré que ponerme a fabricar autos?)

Phil B (author)rimar20002010-03-10


There have been various proposals for moving the rear of the car toward the curb more directly.  Some have been steerable wheels that move the car sideways, like this link from 1932.  I have even seen articles about hydraulic pods that walk the car sideways, like stilts.  One article on these devices said their cost has kept them from more general use.

rimar2000 (author)Phil B2010-03-11

Remarkable that design in 1932, Phil. I had read of cars that had an attached system, one or two small wheels at rear and below, who came down to move laterally the tail of the car. My idea is different, it is to put directly all the steer mechanism on the rear wheels.

Phil B (author)rimar20002010-03-11

I would need to learn to drive again.

rimar2000 (author)Phil B2010-03-11

No, it woul be transparent to users. The car should be drived just like everyone else. So I say that perhaps unwanted effects will occur as a possible oversteer, tendency to skid, etc, which should be solved by the designers.

mole1 (author)2010-03-09

Thank you!

This is SO much better than the "...when you can see x in your interior rear view mirror..." instruction I got decades ago - back when cars were of more similar width and  height.  Maybe now I won't have to look for double spaces =D

Phil B (author)mole12010-03-09

I hope it is clear enough.  I always worry about that.  Go out and practice on a quiet street.  I think you will find the process described here makes parallel parking easier and quicker to learn.  Let us know how it goes.

Thank you for your comment.

dchall8 (author)2010-03-08

I've always targeted the headlight adjacent to the curb.  Every car has one and you don't have to guess where the center of the car is.  I'm teaching my daughter to drive right now with that method.  She got it the second time. 

Phil B (author)dchall82010-03-08

Do you target that curb headlight using the driver side of the car or something else?

dchall8 (author)Phil B2010-03-08

Yes.  Driver's side mirror looking down the side of the car.

Phil B (author)dchall82010-03-09

I will need to experiment with that on a quiet street.  Whenever I have targeted something too close even to the center of the car I end up with the rear wheel hitting the curb while the front end of the car is still pointed out into the street.

ac1D (author)2010-03-09

How to make a proper parallel:
Find a spot,
Try to struggle your car in the parking,
hit other ppl bumper,
Alway worked for me.

LoneWolf (author)2010-03-08

IT's about time somebody made this instructable :)

Phil B (author)LoneWolf2010-03-08

I think your profile indicated you at the age that you will soon be getting a learner's permit for driving.  I struggled with parallel parking until I noticed the imaginary lines I described.  My wife and I also got a lot of practice when I was in school and we lived on a street where we often had to park a full-sized car into a space left by a very small car.   When you get the chance, practice the scheme I described here and let us know if it helped you.  Thanks.

LoneWolf (author)Phil B2010-03-08

Yeah, I am going to be getting to do that soon :) That's cool, I'm sure in a little less than two years I'll be coming back to this instructable :)

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