If you don’t regularly drive and park in a dense urban area, parallel parking might fill you with anxiety. Certainly it can be a a challenge for even the most seasoned drivers if they’re used to parking in driveways and parking lots — and while many cars now come equipped with automatic parking systems, it’s really a skill worth perfecting no matter what car you are driving. Thankfully, over at Quora, Yishan Wong has put together a set of step-by-step instructions on how to parallel park perfectly every single time — and if you follow them to the letter, you’ll see he’s spot-on.
Here’s how he explains the steps involved:
Here are the directions, with extra “do it exactly this way”-style bolding and prompting:
- Drive around until you find a spot that looks big enough.
- 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.
- While stopped, turn your wheel all the way to the right. ALL THE WAY. Don’t move forward or back while doing this!
- Turn around and look out the back of your car.
- Begin backing up. Your car should start turning into the spot. Don’t turn your wheel away from the all-the-way-right position!
- 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.
- I said STOP.
- While stopped, turn your wheel back to the middle position.
- Back up slowly until your car just barely clears the front car, then stop again.
- Turn your wheel all the way to the left. All the way! Stay stopped while you do this.
- Now keep backing in. Don’t turn your wheel away from the all-the-way-left position!
- Once your car is parallel, STOP and then turn your wheel to face forwards again.
If you do these steps exactly, your car will magically place itself into the correct position.
He’s right, and if you go to the full article, he describes further why exactly this works so well. The key is to remember that parallel parking is a repeatable thing. It doesn’t require judgement, it doesn’t require experience, it just requires that you have a space large enough for your vehicle and you repeat the same process over and over again with as little variation as possible. (That’s why the computer in those auto-parking systems can do it.) In Wong’s own words:
You do not need to practice, you just need to fucking follow the directions. Parallel is not a “skill,” it is more like a binary thing.
We couldn’t agree more. For more parallel parking wisdom, check out this previously posted graphic, this video guide for those of us who are visual learners, or this piece, which includes a mathematical formula explaining why this parking technique will work every single time.
This story was originally published in October 2013 and updated to add a new header photo, additional information, and to align with current Lifehacker style in September 2020.