Sharpening Your Parallel Parking Skills

Published: 21st January 2010
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For teenagers, when first taking their driving test, parallel parking is often considered the strongest challenge. For adults, this doesn't change much, especially if you aren't in the practice of parking this way.

What is parallel parking? Parallel parking is a method of parking a vehicle in line with other parked cars. Cars parked in parallel are in one line, parallel to the curb, with the front bumper of each car facing the back bumper of the adjacent one. Parallel parking requires driving the car in reverse gear into the parking space. Roads that facilitate said parking have an extra lane or a large shoulder for parked cars. It is also employed anytime parking facilities are not available - usually in large metropolitan areas where there is a high density of vehicles. Driving forward into a parking space on the side of a road is typically not possible unless two successive parking spaces are empty.

If you have forgotten the rules of parallel parking or it has been a while since you have had to try it, this is how it goes:

1. Make sure the space you are looking to park in is big enough for your vehicle. A large SUV will obviously need more room than a Mini Cooper. Typically you will want to park in a space that is about one and half times longer than your vehicle.

2. Check the traffic beside you and behind you, then signal your wish to pull over and stop. Drive alongside or parallel to the vehicle ahead of the empty space, leaving about a three feet between the vehicles. Stop when your rear bumper is in line with the other vehicle.

3. Look out for the rear corner of the car in the side window. While reversing, begin turning your steering wheel to the right toward the curb when the front of your car passes the rear of the car you are next to.

4. When you can see the outside rear corner of the vehicle in front of your space, straighten your wheels as you continue in reverse.

5. Making sure the nose of your car will clear the car in front of you, begin turning the wheel to the left.

6. Turn the steering wheel fully toward the road to bring your vehicle in line with the curb.

7. If your vehicle is not parallel to the curb, drive forward to straighten.

Once you are properly parked, set the parking brake and put your car into park or if you have a manual transmission, shift it into reverse. Of course you want to check traffic before opening your door.

If this sounds intimidating, try practicing in an empty parking lot with cones or trash cans with flags sticking out of them. Perfect parking takes practice and practicing on cones rather than somebody's vehicle may be the wisest solution.

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