Intro: How to Parallel Park
I am in the UK. We drive on the left and sit on the right.
If you insist on living somewhere foreign, where they do heathen things like painting taxis yellow instead of black, then you'll have to swap left-for-right and right-for-left.
When I say "left hand down", that means "turn the steering wheel anticlockwise". "Right hand down" means "turn the steering wheel clockwise", and "full lock" means "turn the steering wheel as far as you can.
Step 1: Setting Up Your Car.
Your car has mirrors. You need them.
Make sure that both your wing mirrors are adjusted so that you can just see your own car in them. Adjust the rear-view mirror so that your rear window appears central to the image.
Step 2: Find Your Space
What do you do when you see a spaceman?
Park in it, man!
The ideal space is on a straight section of street, and is around a third longer than your car. With practice, you will be able to park in slightly shorter spaces without problem.
When you find your space, indicate left, slow down and drive past it. Stop about half a length past the space, with enough space between your car and the parked car for two sets of wing mirrors (about 30cm / a foot). Keep indicating left, and engage reverse gear.
Step 3: Park.
Raise your revs slightly and ease off the clutch gently. Slow manouevers are accurate manouevers.
Check your mirrors and the road around you before you start.
As you start to move, turn left-hand down to full lock. The front of the car will start to swing out, and the rear will move only slightly into the space. Continue like this until the car is at and angle of 45 degrees to the curb.
Straighten the wheel, and reverse until the rear of the car is about in the centre of the space.
Right-hand down to full lock. The front of the car will swing into the space. Keep and eye on your front corners. Remember that there are a few inches of bodywork just past the point you can see. If you think you may clip the bumber of the parked car in front of you, straighten up the steering wheel slightly.
As the front of your car clears the corner of the parked car in front, check behind for pedestrians.
Switch your attention to the car behind, but stay aware of the angle between the car and the curb. Your car should become parallel to the curb just before you hit the car behind.
Use your curb-side wing mirror to check the distance between car and curb. If the distance is reasonable (anything up to 15-20cm / 6-8 inches), then simply straighten the wheel and pull forward until you occupy the middle of the space (maximising the probability of having enough space to pull back out later). Engage the handbrake, put the gears in neutral and switch off.
If the gap between car and curb is too large, engage full left lock and inch forwards. After only a few inches, straighten up and check the gap again. If the gap is fine, centre the car in the space as above. Otherwise, repeat again.
Do not feel emabarrassed if you have to shuffle several times. Nobody will watch you park unless you rev the engine loudly and make jerky, tyre-screeching stops.
Well done. You have parked your car.
- Animated GIF kindly prepared by ggiihh1
Step 4: Hints and Tips
Practice. Parallel parking is a skill, and you will not get it perfect every time, and certainly not the first time.
Practice first on an empty street, just reversing until you are parallel to the curb and the correct distance away.
Try practicing between dummy cars; my father stood wooden pallets on edge to represent the ends of parked cars. When I clipped them, they went down with an almighty bang, but did no damage to my car. If you cannot get pallets, try stacks of boxes with noisy object balanced on top.
Memorise where the curb is. Many car rear screens have manufacturers' stickers on them - does the curb line up with one of them when you are parked properly? If not, add a tiny piece of clear stickytape to your window as a marker (if your driving examiner asks why it's there, tell them it's where you took the for-sale sign off when you bought the car).