Some drivers would rather park in the next street than attempt parallel parking; but this is a skill you really need to master.
If you need to carry out the parking exercise on test, the examiner would not normally ask you to manoeuvre into a space between two cars. You would only use one vehicle, and your examiner will ask you to complete the exercise ‘within about two car lengths’. You may use this method to begin with if you wish to get used to the idea of parallel parking. But you should progress on to using a space between other vehicles at some stage. This will give you more realistic experience and practise.
While practising this manoeuvre, do be careful not to continually use the same cars. Some owners are a little sensitive about this and may come out to complain.
You will need to look for a fairly large space to begin with, perhaps about two and a half times the length of your vehicle. Find a quiet side street where the road is preferably flat. Pull up well before your object car and plan what you need to do.
Steps for Reversing Into a Parking Space
You need to pull up parallel to, and about halfway past the car you are going to use. Give a signal if necessary before you stop. Select reverse gear straight away so that anyone behind will see your reversing light; then make your usual checks all round.
When it’s clear, go back very slowly until the rear of your car appears to be almost level with the back of the other vehicle (A). Make sure at this point that it is clear to the front and behind because when you begin to steer, the front of the car will swing out. If anything is approaching, wait if necessary for it to pass. Providing it is safe you will need to steer quickly towards the kerb. How much steering you will need depends on the size of the gap and the vehicle you are trying to get behind – in most cases it will be full left lock.
Leave the steering on until you appear to be about halfway past the corner of the other car, and then quickly straighten up the wheels (B). Continue very slowly, until your rear wheel is quite close to the kerb. Remember to keep glancing to the rear to make sure you don’t get too close to the second car.
When the rear wheel is close to the kerb, check the bonnet to make sure you are clear of the car in front and then steer sharply away from the kerb to swing the front in (C).
Finally, when the front wheel comes near to the kerb, straighten up your wheels again (D). You may not be perfectly centred in the space at this point so you may have to shuffle back and forth a bit to tidy things up.
When you are in between two cars like this, it is a good idea to apply the parking brake, or at least keep your foot on the brake before changing gears. If your foot slips off the clutch there will be no danger of bumping the other vehicles.
Practising Parallel Parking
For your first attempt at parking, it is best to stop for a moment at each of the important points. This gives you an opportunity to check the position of your car. It will also help ensure that you keep things under control at a low speed; and give you time for observation checks. This is especially important where the road is cambered, (sloping); as once the back of the car is turned into the gap it will start to run downhill. If your car does begin to roll back at some point, dip the clutch and use the footbrake to control it.
If you start to go wrong, make sure it is safe, and then pull forward a little to correct it.
Once you have got a good grasp of the exercise, the spaces you choose can become progressively smaller. But the minimum should be a gap of about one and a half times the length of your own car.