Great moments in parking

Reader G. sent me the link to this video of someone trying and failing miserably to parallel park and giving up after spending more that five minutes, even though the space was so large you could have parked an ocean liner there. I have seen and posted videos like this in the past but this is absolutely the worst I have seen. It is excruciating to watch.

The driver does not seem to know the basic fact that to parallel park, you have to back into the space. You can only go in head first if there is plenty of space. In this case there was but the driver messed up anyway. For those who know this basic fact but still find it hard, here is a set of steps that, if followed exactly will guarantee that you get it right every time.

  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.

Most people do not stop when gong from one step to the next and this can cause problems.


  1. johnson catman says

    Dayum! How does that person even function on the road? I know there are bad drivers out there, and I am an advocate for practical driving tests (road tests) every time a license is renewed. That would be totally impractical because of the time and costs, but an eye test is all you have to pass if you don’t have any accidents on your record in my state. TOO many people are scary on the roads!

  2. Sunday Afternoon says

    The pedant in me feels the need to point out that turning the wheel all the way while stopped wasn’t really possible before power steering became ubiquitous. Before power steering, it was necessary to roll just a little to allow the tyre to scrub on the tarmac while turning the wheels. And you probably had to do this with a manual transmission, so balancing the clutch bite point at the same time.

    My recently purchased automatic transmission car with back-up camera and rear cross-traffic sensors feels like cheating in comparison!

  3. Lofty says

    My wife can’t parallel park to save her life but is smart enough to not bother trying. She’d rather walk a half mile once she’s found a suitable spot to drive straight in. Parallel parking requires spatial awareness that some people simply lack.

  4. inquisitiveraven says

    Your instructions are specific to a parking space on the right side of the road. My street only has parking on the left.

    I also feel the need to point out that which way the front tires should be facing is a function of the slope and presence or absence of curb. Straight ahead is fine on level ground. Turning the front wheels toward the side of the road works if there is no curb, or if the car is facing downhill. If the car is facing uphill and there is a curb, I was taught to turn the front wheels toward the center of the road. The idea is that if the parking brake fails or the driver forgets to set it, then either the car will be stopped by the curb, if one is present, or roll off the road instead of into traffic if there is no curb.

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