How to parallel park
Parallel parking is something that many drivers fear but it’s not that difficult.
I have developed an easy method for parallel parking over my 15 years of teaching people to drive. I’ve never met anyone that couldn’t park their car more easily after learning this.
As with anything to do with driving this takes practise but keep trying and you’ll soon be able to parallel park easily.
How big a gap do I need for parallel parking?
Firstly you need to find a space which is big enough to park in. This may sound obvious but most times that drivers have trouble parallel parking it’s because they’re trying to reverse their car into a space that isn’t big enough for their car!
The gap needs to be at least one and a half times the length of your car. It can be in less but it’s very tough so look for a good that’s one a half to two times the length of your car.
For the driving test you needn’t worry about this. The examiner will choose a car for you and it is very rare for them to choose a gap between two cars, there’s usually just one car. I’ve only ever had one pupil asked to park between two cars in 15 years of teaching learner drivers and hundreds of driving tests.
Once you’ve found a parking space, here’s what you do next. If you find any of this hard to understand then watch the video above where I teach the same method.
My easy method for parallel parking
- Pull up next to the car you want to park behind, wide enough so you could open your door fully without quite hitting it. You MUST be parallel not wonky. That’s why it’s called parallel parking not wonky parking.
- Line up your back bumper with the back tyre of the car you’re parking behind (their front tyre if their car is facing towards you).
- Put your left mirror down ready for later.
- As you slowly move backwards, quickly turn the wheel once left, a 360 degree turn. It might help to look at the logo on the steering wheel so you can tell how much you’ve turned. Imagine if you rotated the screen you’re looking at now by 360 degrees. It’d spin around once and then you could read it again, that’s what should happen with the logo on the steering wheel.
- Look out the back window until you see the kerb in the distance in the middle of your back window. If you have trouble seeing it try using the middle mirror.
- At this point turn the steering wheel once right so it’s back in the middle. You must turn quickly or you’ll lose the angle.
- Using your left mirror (which should be down) look for when your back wheel gets close to the kerb. If you can’t see the wheel or tyre then look for your front door handle on the passenger side. The kerb needs to be tucked right underneath that door handle.
- Turn the wheel all the way to the right quickly.
- When you can see your car parallel with the kerb in the mirror then simply straighten the wheel. It’ll be one and a quarter turns from full right to middle in my car.
Common problems when parallel parking
The trickiest part of parallel parking is getting used to finding the same 45 degree angle consistently but with some practise you’ll get it.
If there’s a car parked behind you then you won’t be able to see the kerb running into the back window. What you’re looking for instead is the middle of the back window to be on top of the part of the car behind you nearest the kerb.
You might get the middle of your back window lined up with the headlight of the car behind you. You might line it up with their mirror. Whichever part of their car is nearest the kerb is what you line up with. If you can’t see that part of the car then the gap is too small and you won’t fit in.
Common reasons for failing the driving test
Not looking around enough during this manoeuvre is the biggest reason for learner drivers failing their driving test when parallel parking.
If you park the car perfectly but haven’t looked around then you’ll fail. If your parking is poor and a bit off you’ll usually pass if you were looking around enough.
It’s no good being able to park if you find three pedestrians under your car when you get out!
Bad clutch control
This manoeuvre is all about clutch control If you have trouble moving the car slowly then work on your clutch control before attempting this manoeuvre.
Pupils often have trouble keeping the car moving at a low speed to allow them to turn. It’s more often that clutch control is what’s stopping you from parking than parallel parking itself.
Mounting the kerb
If your back tyre goes up the kerb then you’ll usually fail the driving test. It’s always up to the examiner though and that isn’t a fixed rule.
Not putting the mirror down
Many learner drivers think it’s cheating to put the mirror down and they’ll be marked down on a driving test for doing it. It’s not cheating – that’s why it’s made to go down! Why would the examiner mark you down for doing something that makes parking easier? In some cars the mirrors move down when you select reverse for that very reason.
Another thing learners often ask about is what to do if they don’t have electric mirrors in their car. It’s very hard to get a car without electric mirrors these days, even old cars have them. If not you can always lean over and push the stick to move the mirror or just sit up more in your seat. The closer your head is to the roof the better view you’ll have of the kerb when parking.
Lucy’s lessons – Parallel parking
This is the full two hour video showing the whole driving lesson that the clips above were taken from