How to Not Hit the Curb While Parallel Parking

by Gus Stephens

Good news: Mathemeticians have adapted the Pythagorean Theorem to explain the ins and outs of successful parallel parking. Turns out it's all geometry. Of course, Pythagoras never had to shoehorn a land yacht into a tight space while obstructing a lane of horn-blaring downtown drivers at rush hour. So let's leave the lofty formulas for the "Resources" section and concentrate here on real-world How To. This method has been around since before the days of standard-equipment power steering, when drivers really had to rough it. Properly executed, it will get you into any appropriately-sized parking space and put your vehicle approximately six inches from the curb.

Step 1

Pick a parking space large enough to fit your vehicle. The space should be at least four to six feet longer than your vehicle. Experience shows that wishful thinking often clouds the decision-making process, particularly when there's time left on the parking meter.

Step 2

Pull up even with the vehicle ahead of the space, about two feet away from it, and stop. Turn on your turn indicator to alert drivers behind you.

Step 3

Check over both shoulders for pedestrians and oncoming traffic.

Step 4

Back up slowly and immediately turn your steering wheel hard in the direction of the curb. Watch your rear-view mirror as you back up, not your side mirrors. Keep checking for pedestrians and traffic.

Step 5

Continue backing up until your front wheels are even with the rear bumper of the car in the space ahead of you. Cut the steering wheel sharply in the opposite direction, making sure you clear the rear bumper of the car ahead of you as you back up. Watch your rear-view mirror and stop backing before bumping the car behind you.

Step 6

Straighten your wheels out completely and pull forward to center the car in the parking space. Leave enough room for the vehicles ahead of and behind you to exit their spaces.

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