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How to Parallel Park - Parallel Parking is Easier Than You Think

Updated on August 14, 2012

You can get it right every time


No Longer Fear Parallel Parking

Parallel parking is one of those skills that we all know we should master, but it's a maneuver that many people fear. Some are so intimidated by the thought of parallel parking that they will do most anything to avoid it, and they would rather suffer inconvenience or pull into a parking lot that charges money than go through the pain of screwing it up.

But, like many life skills, parallel parking is a function of following a few simple rules. When you approach a parallel parking situation you should not have to think about it. Just try to tie your shoes while thinking about the task. Go ahead, try it. Chances are that you will have a hard time tying that knot that you learned a long time ago. The reason for this is that when we develop a habit, a good habit, we should let the habit take over when we need to use it.

There are different theories and countless pieces of advice out there about parallel parking. This article has one goal: to simplify the task and give you simple tips to remember so that you will never have to think about parallel parking again. You will have the confidence that you can maneuver your car into any parallel parking spot, and you will no longer have to drive around looking for a straight-in parking place.

Watch this with the Steering Wheel and License Plate Rules in mind.

Here are the Two Big Rules for Parallel Parking (That's right, only two)

1. The Steering Wheel Rule. Pull up close to the car that you will park behind, and align your steering wheel with the steering wheel of the other car. Don't crane you neck or lean forward or backward. Just turn your head to look at the other steering wheel. Now put your car in reverse and slowly back up while turning your steering wheel toward the curb. An alternate rule, and a ridiculous one, is to line up your rear tire to the car next to you. Fine. How do you see the tires? No, go with the Steering Wheel Rule.

2. The License Plate Rule. As soon as you see the rear license plate of the other car, turn your wheel the other way while continuing to back up slowly. This will bring your car neatly into the space. You will then back up or move forward to position your car a safe distance from the other two cars. Some suggest aligning your rear door with the bumper of the other car. But there are two problems with this: first, how do you align a door that may be three feet wide with a bumper? Secondly, what if you're not driving a sedan but a coupe with no rear door? Go with the License Plate Rule.

The nearby video is good, but you should watch it with the above two rules in mind, substituting them for the rear tire and rear passenger door rules.

Parallel Parking and You

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Some General Considerations

Size of the space. You will often hear parallel parking pundits, such as the folks in the video, say that the first thing to do is to make sure you are about to pull into a space that is big enough to accommodate your car. Well, okay. But I suggest that this should be so obvious that if you don't realize that you have to do this, you should really turn in your car keys.

Go slow. It's hard not to overemphasize this. If you encounter a problem, slow motion will be your friend. You will have time to hit the brakes before you hear crunch.

Start over. The Steering Wheel Rule and the License Plate Rule should get you into the parking space with ease, but sometimes you just don't do it right. No problem, just start over. The worst thing you can do is to try to overcorrect when you got it wrong the first time. This may eventually work, but it will take you a lot of frustrating time to do it. Just start over.

Like many things in life, parallel parking has a lot to do with your attitude. If you approach a parking space with fear and trepidation, you are likely to screw up no matter how simple the rules are. So I suggest that you approach a parallel parking situation with the mental attitude that it's easy, because it is. Following the two big rules in this article makes parallel parking a cinch. So why not think of it that way?

Copyright ©2012 by Russell F. Moran


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    • Entourage_007 profile image

      Stuart 14 months ago from Santa Barbara, CA

      Great hub, its surprising how many people don't know how to parallel park. It also makes me nervous

    • profile image

      Ashley 2 years ago

      Here's a question. What if the vehicle you are going to parallel park behind is much longer than your vehicle? How does the steering wheel rule work then? You turn your wheel towards the curb, back up, and smash the bottom left side of their vehicle with your right rear end!

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks for your visit Tom. Good points

    • Don Fairchild profile image

      Don Fairchild 5 years ago from Belgrade, ME

      Nice Hub, very handy. I would add that when approaching a spot to parallel park into, I will put on my blinker to the right, and slow way down as I am alongside of the open spot. This tells the person behind me to watch out as I am about to take this spot, so don't crowd me out in the back. It also gives him an opportunity to pass me if the road is wide enough.

      Another note, most Americans have never driven on the opposite side of the road, so if you have ever tried to parallel park on the left side, you know it is more difficult. Practice that one too.

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      If I have saved a fender or two I shall consider this hub a success!

    • newusedcarssacram profile image

      newusedcarssacram 5 years ago from Sacramento, CA, U.S.A

      Knowing how to do a parallel parking is so important, but still most of us are terrified of it. Thanks for sharing these technics. Hope some few more people won’t be afraid of parallel parking anymore.

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      This technique really works Leah

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      Parallel parking makes my blood pressure go up. They actually removed it from the driving exam in California when I was getting my license, and I was ever-so-grateful. I had never heard of the steering wheel/license plate technique - I will try those the next time I have to parallel park!

    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 5 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      I love this idea for a hub! Thinking back, I was never really taught to parallel park, just told to do it. I'm sure I failed several times before I learned how. Thanks for this. Useful and up. -K

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      I always get flustered when trying to parallel park (usually because there's a line of traffic waiting to pass). Luckily, here in Vegas there aren't too many occasions where it is necessary, but the need does arise on occasion. Thanks for your stress-less refresher course! :)

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks for stopping by. May all your parkings be dent free!

    • Riverfish24 profile image

      Riverfish24 5 years ago from United States

      The license plate rule is cool! Nice hub, sharing, voting et al!