How to Parallel Park in 6 Steps

This maneuver isn't as tough as you think.
by Rich Ellis

You’re still on the lookout for a parking space, and after the third trip around the block it’s beginning to feel like a futile search. Then you spy it just ahead – a parked car, left turn signal flashing, starting to inch out of an on-street parking space. You flash the lights to let them know it’s ok to pull out, and then you prepare to strike… and sweat. Really sweat. It’s a spot that requires parallel parking. 

Relax! You can do this, even if the last time you parallel parked was during the road test for your driver’s license. Follow a few simple tips and you’ll successfully parallel park your vehicle between two parked vehicles. Here’s how.

 

1. Choose Your Spot

Parallel parking

Choose a parking space you’re comfortable maneuvering into, based on your vehicle size in relation to the parking space, and your parallel parking abilities. Be realistic, even if you’re desperate.  
 

2. Ready the Attack

Use your turn signal to indicate your intention to claim the spot and alert the vehicles behind you. Look in your rearview mirror to ensure there aren’t cars directly behind you. Then forget about them; they’ve been in your position before and can wait for you to finish. No need to add stress by worrying about other drivers at this moment.  
 

3. Visualize the 'S'

Pull up even with or a few feet ahead of the rear bumper of the front car while leaving a two- to three-foot buffer between you and that car. It helps to visualize the maneuver you’re about to execute as an “S.”  
 

4. Time to Back Up

Put the vehicle in reverse, and assuming the parking spot is on your right, turn your wheels all the way to the right as you gradually move backwards, alternating your attention between the right side of your vehicle to ensure it’s not getting too close to the vehicle parked in front of you and the empty parking space your sliding into.  

When you are roughly at a 45-degree angle, the rear of the vehicle mostly into the parking space and the rear wheels nearing the curb, stop. You’ve just completed the first part of the “S.” 
   

5. The 'S', Part Deux

Now, turn the wheels all the way to the left. You’re about to complete the last part of the “S.” Back up slowly into the space, wheels still turned left, watching your vehicle’s front so it doesn’t hit the vehicle in front of you, and your vehicle’s back so you don’t bump the vehicle parked behind you. 
 

6. The Home Stretch

Stop. Straighten the wheels, and pull up a little to center your vehicle in the space. If you run into difficulties on your first attempt, don’t give up and drive away. Try again. Who hasn’t had their rear tires bump the curb or needed a couple of tries to parallel park?
 

Success!

Hooray! You should be parked and perhaps have even remembered to breathe again. Here are some additional tips that can help you slide into a tight space. 

  • You can always adjust your side mirror down so you can see the distance between your wheels and the curb as you park.
  • Be on the lookout for trees, trash cans, signs, and light posts that might be near the curb and avoid running into them.
  • Take some time to practice on quiet streets where there’s no pressure. 

Trying to leave? Make sure your wheels are straight and slowly back up until you can’t go any further without bumping the vehicle behind you. Turn your wheels all the way to the left, use your turn signal, shift to drive, check your mirror, and pull out, watching that your front bumper clears the vehicle parked in front of you. If it won’t, stop, turn your wheels to the right, back up a little, turn the wheels left, and now you should have enough room to pull out when the coast is clear. 


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