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Basic Skills

How to park a car

7 min read • Nov 26, 2018
How to park a car

Learning how to park is something which many learner drivers struggle to get to grips with, but it’s a skill which you’ll need to master before you can sit your driving test. There are numerous different ways to park and your driving instructor will take you through how to park for each parking manoeuvre you need to learn for your driving test.

If you’re struggling with learning how to park, we’ve put together a simple guide which will help you make sense of the parking manoeuvres.

Reverse parking

There are two different ways to reverse park: the parallel park and the reverse bay park. Both of these are possible manoeuvres in the driving test, and they can take a bit of practice to get the hang of.

Parallel parking

Learning how to park in small spaces is something which you’ll have to get used to when you’re a qualified driver. It’s much easier to park in a small space in reverse, so knowing how to parallel parking will definitely come in handy once you’ve passed your driving test. In the test, you won’t be asked to do a parallel park in a small space between two cars, but you will need to complete the manoeuvre behind one parked car, using it as your reference point.

Pull up alongside the parked car, around one metre away, making sure you’ve checked all of your mirrors before stopping. Select reverse gear and go through the MSPSL routine before you begin to reverse. You will need to use the car which you’re parking behind as your reference point.

Reverse straight back until the rear of your car is in line with the rear of the car you’re parking behind. Providing your car and the car you’re alongside are a similar size, you can use the point at which your side mirrors are aligned as your reference point.

When the side mirrors are side by side, steer one complete turn to the left, checking to your right and in your right mirror as you do so.

When you’ve done one full turn, you’ll need to find another reference point before turning the wheel back the other way. When the left front corner of your car is in line with the rear right corner of the other car, steer 2 full turns back to the right whilst reversing slowly. Check the front of your car is clear from the back of the other car as you do this.

As you do this, keep checking in your mirrors and all around the vehicle. Check in your left side mirror to see how close you are to the curb. As the car straightens up in the space, steer one turn to the left to straighten up your wheels.

You should now be in the space, straight alongside the curb. If necessary, you can pull forwards and back again to straighten up.

Reverse bay park

If you have trouble learning how to park in a bay, splitting the manoeuvre up into different stages will help. There are two different ways to perform a reverse bay park: the diagonal reverse bay park and the sharp corner reverse bay park.

The diagonal reverse bay park

  1. Pull up at a 45 degree angle ahead of the space you plan to park in.

  2. Put the car into reverse and check all around, in your mirrors and blind spots.

  3. If clear, start reversing slowly backwards into your target bay, turning the wheel gradually to the left. Use the bay lines in your side mirrors as a guide.

  4. When your wheels are back in a forward facing position, keep the steering wheel straight as you reverse slowly back into the bay, keeping up constant observations.

  5. Once you have reversed fully into the bay, you should be an equal distance between the lines of the bay. If you need to straighten up, make your observations and pull forwards before reversing again in the necessary direction.

The sharp corner bay park

  1. Pull up and stop about 2 bays ahead of the one you plan to park in. The second line from your target bay should be in line with the centre of your passenger door.

  2. Check your mirrors and blind spots to ensure it’s safe to start reversing. If clear, reverse slowly and steer full lock left. Keep an eye to the right of your car whilst you do this, as your vehicle will swing out.

  3. Check your left side mirror to make sure you’re coming in line with the correct bay. As your car begins to straighten up, steer back to the right until your wheels are straight.

  4. Continue reversing backwards slowly and look for the bay lines in both of your side mirrors.

  5. You should now be an equal distance between the bay lines. If you need to straighten up, make your observations, pull forwards and reverse back again, steering in the necessary direction.

Forward bay park

Although a forwards bay park isn’t a manoeuvre you’ll be tested on in your driving test, it’s something which you should be able to master when learning how to park. When deciding how to park, and whether to go into a bay forwards or in reverse, consider how easy it will be to exit the bay afterwards.

If you decide to park in the bay forwards, follow these steps on how to park:

  1. As you approach the bay you intend to park in, check it’s safe to do so and move over to the middle of the road or car park to give yourself enough room to enter the bay.

  2. Pull forwards into the bay, turning your wheel to the left (or right, depending on which side the bay is on). Use the lines as a guide and make sure you’re an equal distance from the cars on either side.

  3. As the car straightens up, turn the wheel back to right and continue driving slowly forwards.

  4. Check you’re in the middle of the bay lines, leaving enough room for both you and the other drivers to get in and out of their cars.

  5. If you need to straighten up, make sure you check thoroughly behind you and in your mirrors and blind spots before reversing back out.

Learning how to park is one of the most important aspects of learning to drive, but it doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Split each part of learning how to park into sections and ask your driving instructor to explain the process. Remember, practice makes perfect, so if you don’t get it right first time, try again!

Visit our YouTube channel for some step-by-step instructional videos on how to park.

Image via Marcus Hansson.

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