Parallel Parking

Parallel parking is a manoeuvre that you might be asked to perform on your practical driving test, so it is well worth putting in the time beforehand to get this right. It will also be an invaluable skill to have once you are driving independently. In this article, we will run through everything you need to know about parallel parking and how to find the technique that suits you best.

What is Parallel Parking?

Parallel parking involves parking your car parallel to the road, normally in a line of other cars or vehicles. When parking in this way it means that there are more spaces available to you as you can fit into a smaller space by reversing into it. It is one of the harder manoeuvres to get a handle on but once you’ve mastered it you will be able to get in all kinds of spaces.

How to Parallel Park

Parallel parking diagram

Selecting a suitable space

As you should do whenever you are parking you need to make sure that you identify a place that is a safe, convenient and legal position (known as the SCALP routine). To find such a place you can draw on your knowledge of road signs, road markings, and The Highway Code as well as your common sense.

The other essential thing you need to consider is if you can control your vehicle in the environment you have selected to park in. For instance, if you are going to need to reverse downhill into the space you need to make sure that you can control the car with confidence.

To summarise here is what you need to ask yourself before selecting a parallel parking space:

  1. Is it safe?
  2. Is it convenient?
  3. Is it legal?
  4. Can I control my vehicle here?

In your driving test if you are asked to parallel park the examiner will select the space for you and ask you to pull up before the car you will reverse either behind or in front of. When you are driving independently after passing your test, make sure you select a space that is at least one and a half times the length of your vehicle so that you can fit into the space without difficulty.

Parallel parking steps

Position

Approach the space slowly and check that it is suitable. Go through the Mirror Signal Manoeuvre (MSM) routine and, whether or not there is anyone around, signal if you need to. Make sure you use your nearside mirror to judge where to stop and pull up just in front of the gap. Your position should be parallel to the vehicle you are parking behind and around a metre away from it.

Prepare

now you need to prepare the car to reverse, do this by putting the clutch down, put the car in reverse and find the biting point. If you are reversing into a space downhill make sure you use brake control.

Observe

check all around you ensuring all of your mirrors and blind spots have been observed and that it is safe to start reversing. Make sure that you have identified anything you need to keep a close eye on during the manoeuvre – such as a pedestrian walking on the pavement or a car reversing out of a drive. Once your observations are complete look out of the back window as this is the direction the car will be moving in, this will be your main focal point but make sure you keep checking around as throughout the manoeuvre.

Manoeuvre

Reverse slowly until the back of your car is level with the back/front of the car you are reversing in behind – this is known as the point of turn. The view through the back left window will help you to find this point of turn, and if you can see daylight past the rear of the target vehicle you know that you have reversed enough.

  • At the point of turn have a pause and check all around you once again – check for pedestrians and other vehicles that are moving or potentially about to move. Make sure you aware if vehicles are going to drive past you while you are parking or are going to wait for you to finish. At this point in the manoeuvre the car is about to swing out into the road so it is essential that you are confident that the coast is clear.
  • Slowly reverse and apply a full left lock on the steering wheel. Your focus needs to be on the back window, but keep looking around. Keep going until the kerb disappears in the back window and make sure that your car points out at 45 degrees. If it is at this position take off the full lock to straighten your wheels while slowly moving.
  • Reverse straight back slowly while being close to the kerb, use the door mirror to find a reference point to follow. You will find your own reference point that works for you, but generally frequently checking in the mirror will help you to find the final point of turn.
  • Now steer the wheel full lock to the right so that the front end of your vehicle moves towards the kerb as you continue to move slowly. Continue to look out the back window and keep an eye on the left mirror to ensure you are not going to catch the kerb.
  • When you are almost straight in the space swiftly remove the right steer lock.
  • If you are not happy with your position you can slowly move forwards and backwards to adjust the vehicle until you are satisfied with your parking.

Conclusion

With parallel parking practice really does make perfect. Make sure you keep observing at all times throughout the manoeuvre and find your point of reference to allow you to reverse smoothly into the space. Follow these simple stages and you will soon become a parallel parking pro!