How to parallel park perfectly each time

Some years ago, I attended a function at my daughter’s high school. These events are very well attended and parking is hard to get but I found a space and parked and was walking towards the building when a car came to a stop in the middle of the street where there was a parking space and a woman jumped out. I knew her because she was the mother of my daughter’s friend. She gave me her car keys and asked me if I would park her car for her in the space because she did not know how to parallel park.

Parallel parking was never a problem for me. It is not that I get it right every time. On occasion, I have to pull out and start again and at others I have to go forward and back several times before it is parked correctly but it is usually pretty smooth. But it completely baffles some people, as can be seen from this effort captured by an amused onlooker. (Warning: language)

One person has provided step-by-step instructions that, if followed exactly down to the letter, guarantee success every single time. The creator of this says that parallel parking is not a ‘skill’ that comes with practice. It is something that anyone can do right off the bat if they only follow these directions EXACTLY.

  1. Drive around until you find a spot that looks big enough.
  2. Pull up even to the front car. If your cars are different lengths, line up the back of your car with the back of the front car as best you can. You don’t have to be exact here.
  3. Stop.
  4. While stopped, turn your wheel all the way to the right. ALL THE WAY. Don’t move forward or back while doing this!
  5. Turn around and look out the back of your car.
  6. Begin backing up. Your car should start turning into the spot. Don’t turn your wheel away from the all-the-way-right position!
  7. Stop backing up when the right-front corner of the rear car is in the exact middle of your rear windshield. If you imagine a line extending backwards from your car along its centerline, you stop when the right-front corner of the rear car reaches that line.
  8. I said STOP.
  9. While stopped, turn your wheel back to the middle position.
  10. Back up slowly until your car just barely clears the front car, then stop again.
  11. STOP.
  12. Turn your wheel all the way to the left. All the way! Stay stopped while you do this.
  13. Now keep backing in. Don’t turn your wheel away from the all-the-way-left position!
  14. Once your car is parallel, STOP and then turn your wheel to face forwards again.

The author thinks that most people mess up because they are turning the wheel while still in motion and that the key is to STOP at the places indicated and turn the wheel to the new position while stopped. That seems to be the secret to getting it right each time.


  1. rq says

    It’s interesting; when being taught to parallel park in Canada, one of my instructor’s rules was to never turn the wheel while completely stopped (something something bad for tires). There was a pretty fool-proof method for parking, though, and I had to parallel park for friends from time to time.
    A couple of years ago I redid my qualifications here in eastern Europe, and the instructor taught as listed above, which at first felt very counter-intuitive and wrong (ah, early conditioning!), but it also works. So yes, I also do not understand why people have an issue with parallel parking.
    Just takes a bit of practice, and soon you’re squeezing into places you wouldn’t have tried before!

  2. says

    My old driving instructor would have rapped my knuckles for “dry-steering” (turning the wheel while the vehicle is stationary). It ruins your tyres.

    The key to parallel parking is to leave the gas pedal alone, using just the footbrake and the clutch to control the speed. Steer as soon as you start to move and count two full turns.

    Set-piece manoeuvres I can do brilliantly; it was driving on the open road with other road users trying to kill me that decided me to stick to Shanks’s Pony.

  3. says

    Dry steering doesn’t hurt tires. If it did, the whole “car” thing wouldn’t work at all! When you’re rolling (especially with radials that heat up from flexing, and which are designed to flex) you are putting much more stress on the tire than if you turn the wheel while stopped. Unless you are parked on the “severe tire damage” spikes.

  4. says

    I wonder if the “no dry turning” legend goes back to when cars still had spoked wooden wheels, before the invention of (basically indestructible) steel wheels?

  5. Who Cares says

    Nah this is how to parallel park perfectly: link
    Note going to an older one since this is the latest where it seems they can do it in one go, repeatedly.

  6. Chiroptera says

    When I learned to drive when I was in high school, I actually was better at parallel parking than in “head straight in” parking. I could stay within the lines in the “head in” spot, but I could never get it all that straight.

    ‘Course now it’s been about 20 years since I’ve driven a car; I’m sure the old skills have rusted away.

  7. says

    I too stop and dry-steer, and I find it much easier. I’d say I’m average at parallel parking -- I’ve had plenty of fails. The main cause of failure for me is the assholes on the road. In India, FSM forbid you cause the driver behind you to lose seconds of his life. Instead they’ll bear down on you, horn blaring, and even try to go around you as you’re parking. So sometimes you see a spot, but notice the traffic around you, and give up and drive away.

    Btw one helpful thing I’ve found is “shuffle steering” or “pull-push” steering. That way you always know where your wheels are pointing. 2 full turns is maximum, so after you’ve steered in (stage one), you know that 2 full turns of the steering wheel in the other direction will bring your wheels straight again, and you can then reverse straight in to get close to the curb.

  8. Donnie says

    Live in a big city. I learned how to parallel park in Chicago. You learn or you do not drive. The challenge was learning how to park on the “opposite” side of the street when parallel parking on a one way street. You have to reverse your thought process.

    My other issue are drivers who cannot drive in less then ideal weather (snow, rain, a cloudy day :/ )

  9. Jean says

    Since different cars of the same length can have a different turning radius, I fail to see how a single method can lead to the same exact result.

  10. lorn says

    As I understand it eh “dry steering” issue originated in WW2.

    Japanese occupation cut off our main sources for natural rubber. Materials engineers set about creating synthetic rubber to keep our military rolling. Almost all the rubber, synthetic or otherwise, went to the military while the civilians were encouraged to make their tires last a little longer.

    The problem with synthetic rubber tires was that the compounds were more prone to tearing than the previous vulcanized rubber. It was possible to blow a synthetic tire out by running a loaded truck over a curb. Driving too fast on coral or sharp gravel could shred them in a short time. Turning while stopped could potentially pull small chunks off the edge of the tire tread or open up cracks. The wear was exacerbated by extremes in temperature. By the end of the war most of those issues had been worked out and modern tires are a mix of natural and synthetic rubber.

    The other, pre-WW2, claim, not entirely without truth, had to do with turning while stopped putting a lot of pressure on steering gear. In the 1900s ball joints and tie-rod ends were nowhere near as tough as they are in modern cars. Dry steering caused parts to wear out quickly when parts were hard to get and expensive to replace.

  11. Crimson Clupeidae says

    It’s a pain in the ass to parallel park downtown where I live. The spaces are actually marked by white 90 degree corner markers, and there’s plenty of room. The problem is, even if you’re only doing 15-20 mph (and that’s usually as fast as traffic gets in that part of town), and the lights are only separated by about 30-50 yards for about a half mile stretch. You put your turn signal on when you see the spot, drive past it, STOP, turn around to start backing up. ….and the moron behind you is stopped right on your ass, and so is a long line of cars behind them….

    When I need to park on the street around, unless I’m lucky enough to be the last car through the light, I have to dive into the spot, wait for the traffic to pass, the park properly.

    I want to live someplace civilized again!

  12. Reginald Selkirk says

    The first step is too pick a spot that is actually big enough.

    Other than that, rules-of-thumb such as “turn until the corner of the other car is right in the middle of your rear window” are going to vary, since different cars are different lengths, and have different placement of the widows, etc.

  13. EigenSprocketUK says

    @Crimson #10: drive up to the space so that you are exactly in line the gap. (So you are exactly parallel with where you will end up in the space.)
    Wait for close-following car to stop behind you.
    Now indicate clearly what you’re about to do. Because your first move is only a few feet forward (in line with the front car) to begin your parallel park, only the most obtuse driver will move up to close a 4 metre gap. Of course, there may be plenty of obtuse drivers where you drive, so you may feel pressured to abandon your attempt and go round again.

  14. Daniel Schealler says

    Whenever I have a failure, it’s usually because I have a pushy back-seat driver in the passenger’s seat that doesn’t agree with me about how I’m approaching the park, and so feels the need to correct me on everything.

    I wind up over-thinking what should be a simple operation, fail, and then justify that person’s view that I don’t know how to parallel park.

    I used to put up with this more or less good naturally… But about a year back, that stopped.

    The moment someone tries to be a passenger-seat driver on me when I park, I ask them to leave the car to help ‘guide me in’. Because then I can safely ignore them and just do my own thing, they can take credit for helping, and everyone’s happy.

  15. DsylexicHippo says

    I rarely get to parallel park the right way these days as there are always people riding too close for comfort behind me. Instead, I have perfected an alternative that I learnt observing delivery truck drivers park in congested New York side streets. You go straight in and force your right front tire to ride over the curb and don’t stop until the rear right tire is as close to the curb as you need it to be and then turn your wheel to the left to move back from the curb to the street. It is a brute-force way to do it but sometimes you don’t have a choice.

  16. Artor says

    LOL! I am endlessly amused watching people who have trouble parking. As a carpenter/construction guy, I am often pulling a trailer. Try parallel parking with that! I used to have to back up my driveway, navigate between a tree and my pumphouse while making a sharp curve. I got pretty good at it, so a flat street is easy-peasy.

  17. twosheds1 says

    Steering in place isn’t that hard on the tires, it’s hard on the power steering pump. There is more resistance to steering when you’re not moving, and the pressure inside the pump increases and can force fluid out around the pump gasket. It’s also not a good idea to turn your wheel all the way to either side. It doesn’t hurt every once in a while, but the pressure buildup can cause premature gasket failure.

    My parallel parking skills were perfected in Athens, Ohio, while I was in college. There one had to parallel park on brick streets, on a slope, while avoiding curbs that would scrape the sides of your car if you got too close.

  18. says

    I’m not entirely sure that you need to stop at each point and turn the wheel. However, it has been a while since I have taken driving lessons. I think the big key in parallel parking is to take it slow and be aware of the cars around you. You should only stop when switching from looking backwards to forwards and vice versa. Which, when I think about it, are the points when you recommend stopping to turn the wheel.

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