How to Parallel Park Guide

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Parallel parking is a technique of parking parallel to the kerb, in line with other parked vehicles on that side of the road. This manoeuvre can be required on the UK driving test and we often find it’s the manoeuvre that most of our pupils worry about the most.

But don’t worry, we are going to help you understand and achieve the parallel park with our step-by-step walk-through of what you need to do to successfully parallel park your car.

Now for driving test purposes, the examiner will ask you to pull over on the side of the road, they will then using the vehicle in front to carry out the reverse parking exercise. They will ask you to try and complete the exercise within 2 car lengths. For the driving test, they will only use one vehicle and will not expect you to parallel between two parked cars.

6 easy steps to parallel parking

  • Position your car.
  • Reversing to the turning position.
  • The point of turn.
  • Straightening up your steering.
  • Turning your steering to the right.
  • Straightening up your steering.

Step 1 – Positioning your car

When you have found a suitable place you would like to park, first pull up alongside the vehicle you want to park behind. Make sure you keep a good distance from the car, say about 1 metre (3ft) or at least the length of a car door. The reason for this is just in case someone is sat in the car and they decide to suddenly open their door. Being closer to the Parked vehicle can also make the next few steps more difficult.

Don’t forget before you stop in this position to check your mirrors to see what might be following you and decide if you require a signal accordingly. As soon as you stop, put your car into reverse gear, this will engage your reversing lights and allow other road users to know what you are intending to do.

With all reversing exercises, the slower the vehicle is moving, the more time you will have to spot and correct your position and any errors. Slow and Careful is the way to go

Step 2 – Reversing to the turning position

Before we can start turning the wheel left you have to make sure you are in a position where you would easily clear the back of the parked vehicle. To do this, look through your back door window on the left and you should be able to clearly see a small slice of the curb or pavement behind the parked car. If you cant see the slice of the curb or pavement, then you will need to reverse in a straight line first so you can.

Remember before doing any reversing, you need to carry out your observations, so your mirrors and both your blind spots. If you see any vehicles or people approaching you from behind, judge if you have time to reverse a short distance, if in any doubt, stay still until the vehicle/people behind stops or has gone around you.

Before you do any reversing exercise, always check your mirrors and blind spots for potential dangers. If in any doubt of someone’s intentions, then wait and see what they do.

Step 3 – The point of turn

If you are in the correct position you can start your steering, turn your wheel to the left one full circle as your car moves back. Remember to keep your vehicle moving slowly and try to avoid steering on the spot as this will wear down your tyres.

As always before you can start reversing and turning your wheel left, you have to make sure it is safe around you. Make sure you have carried out effective observations all around including your blind spots. And if there is a vehicle approaching from the front you should also let them pass before turning your wheel left as once you turn your wheel, your own vehicle will start moving out towards the oncoming vehicle.

Remember while you are reversing, you still need to be aware of other road users and you should try to look through the back window in the direction you are travelling as much as possible as well as keeping an eye on your mirrors. Mirrors alone will not be enough to keep you and others safe.

Step 4 – Straightening up your steering

As your vehicle swings out into the road because of your first left turn, you want to aim for approximately a 45 degree angle. When you are at this angle, a quick right shoulder check to make sure it is still safe behind you and then look back as you reverse and turn your wheel a circle to the right to straighten the wheels.

As your vehicle reverses back towards the kerb, make sure you keep your speed slow to a crawling pace.

Try and avoid turning the steering wheel when the vehicle is stationary, to do so will wear down your tyre tread and create bold patches on your tyres. Tyres can be expensive to replace

Step 5 – Turning your steering to the right

As you reverse towards the kerb, you need to keep an eye on your left door mirror, when the edge of your mirror reaches the middle of the parked car (often the centre of the number plate), you need to turn your steering wheel right one full circle.

Carry on reversing into the space while looking through your back window.

Step 6 – Straightening up your steering

Now you should be in the space, level next to the kerb, you just need to turn your steering wheel to the left one full circle to straighten up your wheels as you reverse. Make sure you give yourself enough room to easily get back out of the space without swinging out too far into the road.

If you are struggling to see the kerb as you swing in and get close to it, it is acceptable to lower the passenger door mirror so you can see, but be aware, that you must read just the door mirror afterward before you move off again. If you forget, you would pick up a serious driving fault on your driving test.

So what if it all goes wrong?

If after following the 6 steps above, you are too far or close to the kerb, you can do one of the following

Too Close to the kerb

Being too close to or touching the kerb is not a problem and can easily be fixed, if you have mounted the kerb then unfortunately you would pick up a serious fault on your driving test.

If you are too close and are unable to get the front of your car tucked in, put the car into first gear or (drive if automatic), and carry out all around observations before slowly moving forward and turning your steering towards the parked vehicle in front of you, how much steering is up to you but I normally find half a circle is enough. Remember as you reach the parked vehicle to straighten up your wheels ready to reverse.

Now put the car in reverse and carryout all around observations, reverse back slowly turning your wheel to the right to get yourself into an acceptable position.

Too Far from the kerb

If you have reversed into the parking area but find you are too far from the kerb, then you are allowed to reverse again a little further, remember the instruction from the examiner is, try and complete the exercise within 2 car lengths.

Put your vehicle in reverse, carry out your all around observations and slowly reverse turning your steering wheel to the left about half a circle, as the gap between your vehicle and the curb shrinks, turn your wheel to the right a full circle to straighten the car. once straight, a half circle to the left once more and you should be done.

Please note, if you have to adjust your position in this way on your driving test then a minor driving fault will be given.

This guide is just that, a guide that you can put into practice, but remember practice makes perfect and it’s not going to be perfect every time, even the very best drivers do make mistakes or misjudgments. So don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes practice before you perfect your parking skills, just remember to take your time, make sure you check it is safe around you before you carry out the manoeuvre and keep the car moving very slowly.

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