You may have done a parallel park on your driving test but that was a few years ago. Now you dodge street parking and head for the multi-storey to avoid the nightmare of a fifty-point turn. But it doesn’t have to be like that – we have six tips to help you park like a master.
1. Know your car
It’s very easy to overestimate the length of your car and drive past spaces that you could fit into. When assessing a space drive right alongside it and stop to see if it fits.
Unless you’re lucky enough to have parking sensors fitted judging the extremities of your car also takes practice, so try taping some light garden cane to the front and rear bumpers so you can see them from the driver’s seat for a bit of practice. That way you can learn to accurately judge the front and rear when parking.
2. Get your car set up
Although you can look over your shoulder when parking you should find it easier to use your mirrors when parallel parking – if you’ve got them set up correctly. Your rear view mirror should be set up so you can see all of your rear window, while the door mirrors should be set so you can just see the top of the front door handles in the inside bottom corner of each mirror.
If you happen to have electrically adjustable mirrors you can dip down the kerbside mirror when parallel parking so you can see the rear wheel, allowing you to get nice and close to the kerb.
3. Get into position
Once you’ve found your parking space, getting the right start position is crucial. Stop your car so it is lined up parallel with the car you want to park behind; that gives you plenty of time and space to make the first turn. It’s especially important when parking to move slowly and carefully, checking your mirrors constantly for pedestrians and obstacles.
4. Easy does it
Start reversing slowly in a straight line until the nose of your car is slightly behind that of the car in front, then make your turn. Use one turn of steering lock and keep edging slowly backwards. Looking in you nearside mirror you should see a triangle shape formed by the kerb, the side of your car and the bottom of the door mirror; keep reversing with the steering lock still on until this triangle has almost disappeared.
5. The big turn
When the triangle has almost gone it’s time to swing the nose in so apply full lock in the opposite direction. If you’ve turned in at the right point the nose should comfortably clear the car in front, but do take care to ensure you don’t make contact. Once the car is parallel to the kerb straighten the wheel.
6. Neat and tidy
Before switching off make sure you’re completely in the parking bay if there are lines on the road, and also try and even up the gap between the car in front and behind to make life easier for everyone.
Don’t be ashamed to go and practice on a quiet street once in a while; many people find parallel parking difficult but once you’ve got it mastered it can be a pleasure to squeeze into a small space.