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How to Parallel Park

Louise Kirkpatrick owns a driving school in the East Midlands region of England.

Parallel Parking Tips

Reverse parking (often called parallel parking) is one of the manoeuvres that the examiner may ask you to do on your practical driving test.

The aim is to show that you can reverse the car safely to park it in a space behind another parked car, close to and parallel with the curb. You need to demonstrate smooth coordination of the controls and good observation throughout the manoeuvre.

Here, you will find step by step instructions, video tutorials, and tips to help you learn how to do it!

Why Bother With Parallel Parking?

  • It is a VERY useful skill which will enable you to park quickly and easily.
  • To park in many spots, this skill is required.
  • It's far easier than trying to nose into a parking space, and while it looks difficult at first, once you get the hang of it, it's very straightforward!
  • It may be required on your driving test.

The Driving Test

You may be asked to reverse park behind a single vehicle or between two vehicles—don't worry if the examiner chooses the latter, as you won't be asked to squeeze into a too-tight gap! The examiner will look for a space of one and a half to two car lengths at the bare minimum, probably longer.

The examiner will usually ask you to pull up on the left and then say something along the lines of:

"The vehicle ahead of you is the one upon which I would like you to perform the reverse / parallel park manoeuvre. Please drive forward and stop alongside the car ahead. Then reverse in and park reasonably close to and parallel with the kerb. Try to complete the exercise within about two car lengths."

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here's a summary of what's required for the parallel parking exercise.

For those who prefer visual instructions, there are some tutorial videos further down the page—some with an audio commentary for those who like to listen to what they need to do!

What If I Mount the Kerb?

If your wheel pops up onto the kerb during the test, it will count as a serious fault and you will fail.

  • For UK drivers: Start with your left door mirror in line with the front bumper of the target car (the one you are going to park behind!) and about an arm's length away. Your handbrake should be on.
  • Before you move your car, look all around you, left and right, checking for pedestrians as well as other vehicles. If there is a pedestrian at the side of the road, wait until they are out of the way before reversing—it's safer!
  • Take your handbrake off. Looking over your left shoulder, reverse slowly back using clutch control until the back of the target car is visible in the back near-side door window.
  • Keeping the car moving slowly, turn the steering wheel one turn (360 degrees) to the left.
  • Look once over your right shoulder and then over your left shoulder as you continue to move slowly in reverse.
  • When the left door mirror is pointing at the back off-side of the target car, turn the steering wheel two full turns to the right (720 degrees).
  • Keeping the car moving, look again over your right shoulder and then over your left shoulder.
  • Once the car is straight and parallel to the kerb, turn the steering wheel another one turn to the left to straighten the wheels.
  • Put your handbrake on and gear lever into neutral.
  • Remember the steering pattern used: One turn to the left, two turns to the right, and one turn to the left—1 2 1!

Parallel Parking Dos and Don'ts!

  • Keep your speed SLOW.
  • Be aware of what's happening in every direction throughout the manoeuvre.
  • Keep the car moving—don't "dry steer" (turn wheel when car isn't moving).
  • Remember the "1 2 1" steering pattern.
  • Keep within 2 car lengths of the vehicle in front, parallel to & reasonably close to the kerb.
  • Don't hit the kerb!

What If I Make a Mistake?

Keep your speed slow and watch out for other road users and pedestrians at all times.

If you need to go forward again because you've got your positioning wrong, this is perfectly okay—it's better to start over than hit the kerb!

Common Mistakes

Mistakes that could result in driving test faults when doing the parallel / reverse parking manoeuvre:

  • Poor coordination of controls.
  • Scrubbing, brushing, or mounting the kerb.
  • Unnecessarily shunting backwards and forwards.
  • Getting too close to the target car.
  • Turning the steering wheel the wrong way.
  • Parking too far from the kerb.
  • Stalling.
  • Not completing within two car lengths.
  • Finishing at an acute angle to the kerb.

Parallel Parking Video Tutorials

It's sometimes easier to understand when you see something done rather than just read a set of instructions! The following videos will give you visual instructions.

Video Tutorial 1

Video Tutorial 2

Video Tutorial 3

Can You Take Your Seatbelt off When Reversing?

Yes, you can take your seatbelt off when carrying out any of the reversing manoeuvres on your driving test, but it's not advisable! It's very easy to forget to put it back on afterwards, which won't impress the examiner at all!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2009 LouiseKirkpatrick

Comments or questions? Ask here!

Ale on October 19, 2014:

This is what I wanted to learn ! Thanks.

LouiseKirkpatrick (author) from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom on August 04, 2012:

@Craftypicks: LOL - but this page is specifically about UK drivers and the UK driving test...and we do need to know how to parallel park here as we are a tiny little island with not much room and we have an ever increasing population thus the need to be able to park properly in small gaps is getting more important by the day ;)

Lori Green from Las Vegas on August 03, 2012:

I have been driving for 30 years with no accidents or tickets. Never once have I parallel parked. I didn't even do it on my driving test. Oh and my father was a drivers ed instructor. They just took it off the drivers test in my state.

julieannbrady on June 18, 2012:

My dear, can we gals talk? This was the most stressful part of getting my driver's license SO many years ago! And, you know what? I seriously do not think that I have tackled parallel parking that many times in my entire life! Have you seen those cars that will parallel park for you?

editionh on February 03, 2012:

Frankly, I have avoided reverse parking for quite some time and got more and more out of exercise. These instructions are easy to remember and I will try it next time. I learned some tricks with the rear window, but with my new car that is pretty hopeless. So I hope the mirror method will do the job.

LisaDH on March 14, 2011:

In California, you don't have to parallel park to pass the driver's test, but it's definitely a useful skill every driver should know. I used to be good at it when living in San Francisco, but now that I live in the 'burbs and only parallel park once in a while, it sometimes takes me two attempts.

Ann-Marie LM on September 29, 2010:

Hi, I hate to admit this, but parallel parking has always been a problem for me. I would like to think I am a good safe driver: but this is my blind spot! Thanks for a very helpful lens.

Christene-S on September 02, 2010:

Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

VarietyWriter2 on April 28, 2010:

Nicely done. Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

roadroamer on March 23, 2010:

This is something I'm not very good at. I learned how to when I was going for my driving test, but the knowledge slipped my brain right after the test. I go to great lengths to avoid parallel parking. Thanks for the tips!

rockrat on February 14, 2010:

Excellent advise. Have favorited you!

GoodBug on February 14, 2010:

I NEEDED this lens! Never quite got the hang of parallel parking but your description of the process has made it sound much more doable.

Spook LM on November 05, 2009:

Now I'm getting older I'm finding it difficult. It depends which side I'm trying from, left no worries, right, I battle a bit. Blessed by an Angel.

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on September 27, 2009:

I have NEVER been able to parallel park. In every other way, I'd say I'm a good (and safe and courteous) driver, but this is one thing I've never been able to master. So when I go downtown, I often park a good distance away and have myself a nice (and sometimes rather long) walk. I'll have to re-read your instructions ... a couple hundred times! :)

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