Parallel Parking can be intimidating, we agree. It is one of the most difficult parts of driving even for the most seasoned drivers amongst us, especially in our ever expanding and congested cities. Dread not, we have here for you a simple guide on how to parallel park in four easy steps.
The foremost thing to do is finding a proper space in which you can park safely and with a peace of mind. Initially, you should start with wider spaces until you get better at parking in tighter spots. More importantly, check whether it is legal to park in that area. Look around for ‘no parking’ boards, sometimes you’d see boards marking odd and even dates on when you can park there, or some may have single lane parking signs. Pay attention to these boards. Also look for open gutters, big rocks or any other obstacles before parking around the available space. There might be a good reason as to why of all the places, you found only that space to be vacant.
Now, to judge whether your car will fit in the available space, we recommend at least 3-4 feet of space in addition to your car’s length, or one and a half times your car length to park comfortably. Later on, you can park in even smaller spaces once you have perfected this art.
1. Position your car
Drive up to the car parked in front of the available space. Align it in such a manner that there’s a minimum one arm’s distance between the two cars. However, this distance depends on the length of your car, the available space and the turning radius of your car. So one arm distance is the least, but do not spare more than half of your car’s width between your car and the car parked in front. Some would recommend aligning the rear wheels of your car with the rearmost part of the adjacent parked car. And some insist on aligning the mirrors of your car and the parked car in a way that they are adjacent to each other from the driver’s point of view. The latter is easier to view from the driver’s seat while the former is a bit more difficult to look out of. If the parking space is large enough, even placing your rear tyres beyond the rearmost part of the parked car could do the trick.
Things to look out for in Step 1-
- Don’t be sceptical if you could not judge the exact position before turning/reversing in, you’d surely get a hang of it when you keep practising.
- Since there is a relative difference owing to various factors like – length of the parked car, length of your car, turning radius, etc – it is recommended to double-check before you start turning in.
- While at it, keep checking your mirrors, turn on the indicators, and double-check your mirrors. You should also adjust the ORVMs to see the area around your wheel while backing in.
Now, time for reversing in.
2. Reversing in
Now what you got to do is lock your steering wheel and start reversing in. The parking spot should be on your left, so lock the steering to the extreme left (and vice-a-versa if in case it is on the right). Engage the reverse gear, check the mirrors, and start backing up. You’d need to keep an eye out to the car at the back through the IRVM, and the rearmost part of the car parked ahead as well. It is recommended to look over your shoulder towards where your car is reversing in by shifting in your seat and holding the passenger side seat for better support. Keep reversing until the front wheels of your car are aligned with the rearmost part of the front car, although it could be difficult to judge this at first from the driver’s seat. But while at it, keep looking into your driver side ORVM, and you should see the entire front of the car parked behind.
Things to look out for in Step 2-
- This is the most important part of parallel parking, mind you. So if you make a mistake at this step, you’d have to go back and try it all over again.
- You also set various reference points for yourself here – fixing a point on the curb for example.
- The tail of your car (or around two-third of your car) should have entered the parking space and your car should ideally be at an angle of around 45 (give or take) degrees in reference to the parking space.
- There’s no perfect mathematical formula here. You’d have to fall back mostly on your judgement, and your steering inputs to make sure you are in a perfect spot to make the next move.
3. Straighten up and turn it back in
The next move is to turn your steering wheel back into the middle position. Keep reversing as the rear of your car starts approaching the pavement and the rear parked car while the nose of your car is clear of the front car. It’s better to watch the passenger side ORVM – which must be tilted enough for you to see the surroundings – and where your car is moving among the parked cars. And right at this point, start cutting the steering wheel in the opposite lock. While at it, you’d still need to keep an eye out for the front of your car turning in the space behind the front car; while also maintaining enough distance between your car and the car at the back.
Things to look out for in Step 3-
- When reversing in, get a reference of the rear car through the window and ORVMs. Also, it might appear closer than it actually is.
- Apart from that, you can also take reference of the curb, so that your car is parallel to it when aligning in place.
4. And the final aligning
Finally, when the car is in the space, you might need to straighten up the steering and adjust the car. There are a few indicators here like – the license plate of the front vehicle aligned to the centre of your windshield, or you’d only be able to see some part of the rear car through your ORVMs. Look back over your shoulder and outside the window and adjust the mirrors if you want to survey the space around your car once in the space. Don’t worry if it is not parked straight in the first attempt, keep adjusting until your car is aligned in the space perfectly.
Things to look out for in Step 4-
- Remember to leave enough distance between your car and the ones in the front and at the back.
- This space between the cars should be enough for all three cars to pull out of the parking space without bothering the other parked vehicles.
Moreover, the other two cars between which you are parallel parking might not have been parked properly, keep an account of the same when parking
Modern vehicles do come with reverse sensors, reversing camera, dynamic guidelines and more. Some cars can even Parallel Park on their own. But nothing beats doing it yourself and the satisfaction watching a perfectly parked car after getting down. Therefore, follow these instructions and keep practising to master the art of parallel parking. It isn’t that difficult when you get a hang of it. And it can save precious time when you are in a hurry and the parking space is scarce.
We’ll like to remind you again, perfecting parallel parking needs practice, lots and lots of it. You’ll have to be in full control of the vehicle, and all four limbs and all six senses need to work in conjunction, at all times, for that deep satisfaction of getting out and seeing a perfectly parked car. Also, don’t be ashamed to ask for help if you need one, it is better to be safe than sorry here.
Dos and Don’ts of Parallel Parking
- Try to park in a place where the roads are empty and you aren’t blocking the flowing traffic while attempting to park.
- And if you do not find a place like in the above point, be patient until the traffic is clear before you start parking in.
- Find a place which is well lit, clean and is legal to park. If it is a pay-and-park, make sure you pay the correct parking fare.
- Make sure everything is visible around the vehicle before and after parking. You might be parking on or around an open manhole cover if not paid proper attention.
- Do not harm the surrounding cars while parking in any way possible. If in doubt, always keep more space between the cars than you anticipate.
- Align the car so that it doesn’t stick out of the space and cause a hindrance to other road users.
- Be careful with your controls when behind the steering wheel, one small mistake could end up being very costly.
- Use the indicators correctly before, while and after parking.
- Also, use your mirrors, do not solely rely on parking aids like rear sensors, rear-view camera et al.
- Do take help while parking if you still aren’t confident. There’s no shame in getting help.
- Avoid parallel parking on a curved road, it would be much difficult and unruly.
- Don’t park on the corner of the curb, it creates a blind spot for both drivers and pedestrians.
- Make sure the wheels are straightened and not turned out after you have finished parking as they may cause problems to other road users.
- Do take a picture of your perfectly parked car on your phone before walking away.
Pictures by - Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi