Be honest: Do you get sweaty palms just thinking about parallel parking?
You’re not alone. Many drivers feel pressure when faced with squeezing their car between two others. But that doesn’t mean it’s difficult, says Joe Giammona, the CEO of 911 Driving Schools, where police officers and first responders teach this maneuver, along with other basics. “It’s just a matter of learning how to do it right,” he says. So consider this your crash course on how to parallel park correctly—every time.
- Find a Parking Spot
- Signal and Assume the Position
- Check Your Surroundings
- Start Reversing and Turn the Wheel
- Straighten Out and Turn the Wheel the Other Way
- Straighten and Align
- Admire Your Work
How To Parallel Park
Step 1: Find the right fit.
Don’t try to parallel park in the first spot you see. Giammona suggests looking for something that’s roughly one-and-a-half times the length of your vehicle.
As you approach a space, he says, remember this handy acronym: MSMOG. Check Mirrors, turn on the right Signal, check Mirrors again, look Over your right shoulder, and Go when safe. Then pull up next to the car you’re going to parallel park behind, keeping a safe distance (two to three feet away) from its side.
Step 2: Put it in reverse.
Before you start moving, get into the proper backing position for parallel parking. For Giammona, that means sitting up tall and turning your shoulders 90 degrees from the back of your seat.
Next, reverse slowly until the middle of your car lines up with the other car’s rear bumper. If another car approaches from the rear, Giammona recommends remaining in position with your signal on and your car in reverse. “That way, the driver approaching knows your intention,” he says.
Step 3: Head toward the curb.
When the coast is clear, cut the steering wheel sharply toward the curb to approach at a
45-degree angle; continue until you can see the headlights of the car behind you in the driver’s-side wing mirror.
For most cars, when the passenger’s-side wing mirror is in line with the rear bumper of the car in front of you, that’s your cue to turn your wheels back the other way. Continue backing until your vehicle is aligned with the cars at either end, and parallel to the curb or road edge.
Step 4: Straighten and align.
Always center your car between the two other vehicles, as it “allows both cars room to exit the spaces,” says Giammona. Though proper distance from the curb varies by state, typically your car should be between 12 and 18 inches from the curb, he says.
If your right rear wheel taps the curb, most of the time you can put the vehicle in drive, turn the wheels all the way to the right and move forward until the vehicle is parallel, says Giammona. Then do one last check on your distance from the curb.
Happy parallel parking.
Next: Parking can be a stressful part of driving, but it doesn’t have to be. Read more to find out how to handle stressful driving situations.
By Danielle Blundell