How to parallel park

If you’re a new driver, you might find parallel parking a little intimidating. I know what you’re thinking: How am I ever going to learn how to do this? This is so hard to do. What if there are cars behind me? What if I hit the car in front? What if I hit the car behind? What if I don’t do it fast enough and someone steals my spot?

With proper instruction and the right technique, parallel parking doesn’t have to be scary.

There are many methods on how to parallel park depending on who you speak with. Every driving instructor has their own unique style in teaching this skill. In this blog post, we’ll go over the general steps to give you a better idea of how to handle this seemingly daunting task.

The basic steps of parallel parking

The following steps are how we teach parallel parking with and without a back-up camera. (Yes, you are allowed to use a back-up camera during your road test, but it is still ultimately up to you to look around and ensure it is safe before you proceed.)

1. Identify a spot where your car can fit in. Typically, you want to have at least one-and-a-half car lengths in space.

2. Signal between 3 to 5 car lengths before you arrive at the spot you want. Communication is key—if you don’t signal early and give the car behind you enough warning, they will stop directly behind you and not give you enough space to back up.

3. Pull up side by side with the car you want to park behind. You want to be three feet away or 1 meter away from the other car. Pull up until you’re mirror-to-mirror with the other car (if it’s a similarly sized car), but ultimately your back bumpers need to be evenly aligned.

4. Turn your wheel 1 rotation to the right.

5. Put the car in reverse (or “R”) gear.

6. Do a 360-degree check.

7. Roll until you get to a 45-degree angle. (If you’re using a back-up camera, look for the outer corner touching the curb.)

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8. Turn your wheel 1 rotation to the left.

9. Back up until the curb disappears in your right side mirror. (If you’re using a back-up camera, look for the second blue line touching the top edge of curb.)

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10. Turn your wheel all the way to the left.

11. Roll the car until you are parallel with the curb. By law, you need to be within 30 cm of the curb. The best visual cue is the following: When you see both your door handles “kissing” the curb in your right side mirror, you’ve hit the ideal distance of about 15 cm.

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12. Turn the wheel back to straight.

13. Test for the hill. That is, put the car in neutral (or “N”) to see if the car rolls. (We will cover this in more detail in a future blog post.)

14. If the road is flat, then you can put the car in park and pull the e-brake.

How far or close should you be from the car in front of you? 

Before you park the car, you need to pull closer to the car in front of you. The perfect placement is where you, the driver, can just see the bottom bumper of the car in front. If you see the tires, then you are too far back.

I know this seems like a lot of steps but as you practice parallel parking more and more, it will become easier and second nature.

Pro tip: When you are driving backwards, ICBC expects you to look behind you a majority of the time. At SenSen Driving School, we recommend doing your 360-degree check when you reverse. Look behind you through the back window at least 50% of the time, 25% at your rear view mirror and 25% at your right side mirror. If you have a back-up camera, then look at your back window 45% of the time, and allocate 5% to your camera.

Parallel parking is a not a skill you will be able to master in one day. This can take many years to really master. Keep at it. Keep practicing, and eventually you will be great at it. Of course, make sure you’re practicing with the right guidance.

Every driving instructor will have their own way of teaching parallel parking. I have found that the steps I’ve provided here to be most effective. Give it a try for yourself. Let us know in the comments below if it worked for you. If not, get in touch with us so we can help you improve your parallel parking skills.

As you get better and better, challenge yourself to park in different situations. What if I’m too far after I’m parallel? What if I keep hitting the curb? We recommend working with your supervisor or driving instructor through these different scenarios.

Even with all these steps, you probably still have lots of questions. Feel free to contact uswe would be more than happy to assist you.

Stay safe out there!

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