“Parallel parking” two words that struck fear into my heart, the moment I started driving. The saboteur that caused me to fail my driving test twice!
Well, now that I am a little older and I have a little more driving experience under my belt, let me share some of my tips with you so that you’re cruising and parking in style! Okay, no guarantee on style, but definitely on comfort.
Let’s start with the easy stuff, the stuff you probably take for granted or just fallen into the habit of forgetting to do if you’ve been driving for a while, like:
1. Adjusting Your Seat
This should be first thing you do immediately you get behind the wheels. Make sure your seat is positioned the best way for your body will make driving safer and less exhausting, even on short trips. You want to adjust the height of your seat so that you can see the dash panel and the road clearly.
If you happen to be a bit on the shorter side, and can’t see over the dash even after doing everything the seat will allow, get a cushion or a wedge to sit on.
As for the seat’s incline, keep it about 100-110 degrees. I know it will be super cool when you’re leaning way back like a boss, but again, comfort and safety over style, folks!
The head rest should be adjusted so that your head is right smack dubbed on the middle of it. This will help prevent a bad neck injury in case of an accident.
Starting with the driver’s side, once your seat is adjusted, lean left and get as close to the side window as much as you can, then adjust the mirror until you can the rear fender. Once you’re sitting correctly, you should just barely see the side of the back bumper.
Moving on to the passenger side mirror; here you want to stay in the driver’s seat and lean to your right until you head is just about in the middle between the two front seats. Now, adjust this mirror until you can see the back fender too. Again, when you move back to abnormal driving position, you should just get a glimpse of the side of the rear bumper.
3. Rear View Mirror
I know it’s beginner stuff. But this mirror gets bumped and re-positioned all the time. It’s always a good idea to take just a second to adjust your rear view mirror and make sure it shows a perfectly centered view of your back window.
One last thing before we get to the parking tips;
4. Hand positioning
I can’t stress enough how important this is. There’s no beverage worth sipping, not text worth texting, or song worth skipping that’s more valuable to your safety, well maybe the old diamond’s porcupine pie… but that’s it, jokes aside, make sure you can clearly see all the instruments on the dash and have at least a foot of space between it and your body.
Your hands should be slightly lower than your shoulders and placed on the wheels at 9 and 3, oh yeah, the old steering wheel clock analogy, imagine the wheel like the face of a clock. Not the digital kind on your phone, but the old fashioned analog types. Ask your grandpappy about it.
Left hand at 9 and right hand at 3, and there you go! You might prefer 8 and 4, that’s okay too! Just remember that the 10 and 2 positions that they used to teach are no longer the go-to. Because, in the event of an accident, the air bag can send your hand shooting right into your face! And what sounds like the most epic face palm ever, is pretty serious! No one wants to break bones.
5. Alright Pierre Paul Drivers, on to Parking!
Okay before we get to the ultimate challenge of parallel parking, let’s start with:
i. 45 degree parking
In this trick, whenever you pull over into a parking lot, and the spots are kind of slanted, that’s the whole point of 45 degree parking. First, make sure you’re going down the aisle the right way.
The spots should be slanted down toward you, not away from you. Hey, I’ve seen people try to park their car after coming in from the wrong direction, and it’s an embarrassing struggle to say the least!
Next, move to your left as far as you can. Keep moving until your right side view mirror is lined up with the left tail light of the car on your right hand side. After that, turn the wheel to the right and pull into the spot. You might have to straighten it a bit, especially if you have a longer vehicle.
The next level up from that is:
ii. Perpendicular parking
This is kind of similar to 45-degree parking, but the parking spots aren’t at an angle, they are your typical straight line variety. Again, start off by getting as far to the left as you can. Watch out for incoming cars first. The further you are to your left, the easier its going to be.
Align your right ride view mirror with the right line of the parking spot. Then cut the wheel to the right and pull in. turn the steering wheel to the left and straighten the car. If you follow the right mirror with right line trick, you shouldn’t have to back up and straighten the car out too much.
iii. Backing into a parking space
I feel like there are two types of parkers in this world. Those who pull in and those who always back in.
First, locate the spot you’re going to back into and drive two spots past it. Then, and this is crucial, make sure drivers around you know what you’re about to do. Flip on you blinker and before going in to reverse, make sure to look out for incoming vehicles from the front and approaching ones from the back.
Check your mirrors. They’re nice and adjusted for you now, right? And make sure everything is clear. You can now throw in reverse. Now turn your steering wheel to the right and slowly accelerate backwards.
Continue moving back and start to straighten the steering wheel as soon as your rear wheels are in line with the parking spot. Keep checking those mirrors so you don’t hit at any cars next to you.
Once you get yourself aligned in the spot, straighten your steering wheel and continue backing up until the front of the car is aligned with the others in the row. Also, be careful not to continue in reverse so you don’t crash into the cab or parked car behind you.
Finally, park and you’re good to go.
And last but not least…
iv. Parallel Parking
The type of parking that studies have actually shown that 3 out of 10 drivers will park over a mile from where they need to be just to avoid having to do it. It’s even an actual condition, “parallel-o-phobia” the fear of parallel parking!
First things first, make sure the spot you want to park in is one your car will fit into. You want no less than one and a half times the length of your car. Found a spot? Good.
Here we go, drive forward until your car is next to the one in front on the parking spot. We’ll call it car number 1.
Now, look over your right shoulder through the lower corner of your back window and drive backward in a straight line. Once you can see the back of car number 1 in the right corner, turn the wheel to the right and slowly begin to back your car into the space. Look into the left side mirror, when you can see the full front of the car behind the spot, and I’ll dub this one car number 2, original I know.
Now, straighten out the steering wheel and back the car in a straight line, using the right side mirror, when you see the tail lights on car number 1, turn the steering wheel left and you should be moving into the parking space.
Check your nerves, breath, you got this. And park your car, parallel to the cars, giving cars number 1, 2 and yourself enough room to drive out. Again, if your vehicle isn’t a standard size, you’ll probably need to drive a little further before you start getting lined up.
Wondering how you can park on a hill or pull your car from a parking? You can check out this resource from the DMV New York.
6. Feel the Position of Your Car Wheels
As a professional driver, you should be able to drive while avoiding potholes and scratches on your car especially during parking. Learning how to feel the position of the car wheels is one sure way of achieving this hack. Simply take an empty plastic bottle, the smash it with your feet. Place it on the road.
Now, practice feeling the where your car wheels are by driving on the bottle using your left and right car wheels. It’s so satisfying whenever you hear the bottle’s crunch!
7. Occasionally Switch on Your Car Air Conditioner
This is essential in ensuring that the coolant doesn’t seep out and eventually drying the tubes out.
As a new driver, ensure you follow the above guidelines, Taking step-by-step action points to the latter. Sooner or later you’ll be one of New York’s finest parallel-parking professionals!
Feel you’re good to go? Not so fast. You may have to interact with professional instructors a little bit more and do more practice. Start by enrolling for our driving lessons today. Shoot us a message or call our office at 718-576-6277.