Car parking chaos: beating the dents!

  • Author: GILES KIRKLAND

In 2015, it is estimated that British motorists paid out almost £500 million in car repairs, due to the various scuffs and bangs caused when parking. The trouble isn’t that we’ve gotten worse at parking our cars but, rather, our cars have got progressively larger while parking spaces have remained the same as when they were last reviewed back in 1994.

While there aren’t any absolute limits laid down by the central Government, there are planning guidelines used by councils and private companies alike, which dictate that a parking space for a car should be 2.5 metres wide and 4.8 metres long. Cynically, some private companies such, as supermarkets, will try and pack in as many cars as possible, shaving off some of that vital width.

parking-line

Car parking is a vital skill that any driver should be interested in improving.

As an example of this change, the popular 1990’s Ford Sierra was just 4.5 metres long and 1.7 metres wide. This is much smaller than the current day Audi Q7, which measures nearly two metres wide and well over five metres long! That means an ever greater number of banged doors, as passengers struggle to get out of their behemoth vehicles which they have snuck into diminutive parking spaces. The dimensions for roadside parking bays are generally a bit different, at 2.4 metres wide and 5.5 metres long, but still becoming decidedly tight. All of this means that, when it comes to parking your pride and joy, you need to be extra careful.

Avoid the pain: parking correctly.

When it comes to car parking, despite what some ardent car drivers might tell you, there is no real right or wrong way, so long as you are square in the bay and show courtesy to others. Yet, the key to any type of parking is to have good visibility and know what is around you – don’t wait for the crunch of metal or plastic to tell you how close you are to other cars or barriers.

parking-lot

Different situations call for different parking techniques.

There are three basic ways to park:
 

  • Forward perpendicular parking
  • Rear perpendicular parking
  • Parallel parking

Each of these methods have their own merits and challenges. Typically, certain situations require specific maneuvers, so it helps to know how to do all three.

Perpendicular parking

In short, perpendicular parking refers to parking, or reverse parking, into an open parking space. It sounds easy but it still needs some thought, as people rarely go in completely square with the space. As such, there is always a degree of turning the car wheels to make sure you end up straight once parked.

multi-storey-car-park

Perpendicular parking is often used in multi-storey car parks.

To perpendicularly park properly, you have to judge your position by assessing it in relation to other cars, or the lines of the parking box, by looking or using your side mirrors to check where you are. Obviously, like all forms of car parking, this is a low speed maneuver and needs constant checking and adjusting to get it right. Don’t worry about the irate person you are blocking as you park – take your time and get your car in the space, even if it takes several attempts.

If you are reversing in, keep an eye on your rear view mirror to ensure you don’t drive into anything behind you. Conversely, if you are driving into a parking space, be careful of what is in front of your bonnet as it’s very easy to go just that little bit too far and drive into something.

underground-parking

Perpendicular parking can become a challenge in small areas, where many other cars are already parked.

Perpendicular parking becomes a bit more of a handful if you are doing it on a hill, requiring a whole lot more clutch control, if you have a manual car, and being light on the fuel if you have an automatic. Once again, just take it slow and easy. With time and practice you’ll easily get in that car parking space. However, if you rush in, you’ll have some nasty scars on your vehicle.

Parallel parking tips

Parallel parking is, arguably, a more advanced skill and there is certainly a certain technique to it but, once you have learnt it, you will be able to successfully get your car into almost unbelievably small parking spaces. Parallel parking involves pulling up just ahead of a roadside parking spot between two other vehicles, and reversing effortlessly into the space.

A guide to parallel parking. Source: Giphy.

It sounds simple, but learning how to parallel park is an advanced technique that will mark you out as a great driver. To parallel park, you need to complete the following steps:

  1. Drive roughly 1 metre past the space in which you intend to park, with a gap of around half a metre either way. In other words, as an absolute minimum, the parking space needs to be about a metre longer than your car.
  1. Line your steering wheel up with the steering wheel of the parked car next to you.
  1. Your rear window should also be adjacent to the rear window of the car beside you. If it is not, move back slightly until these windows are in line. It is more important to have windows in line, rather than the steering wheels.     
  1. Turn your steering wheel all the way to full lock so that, when you start to reverse, you will maneuver into the space. Control your speed at a very low rate, using dabs of your brake and fuel to makes sure that you go slowly, but steadily back, into the space.
  1. Once you are at a 45 degree angle, quickly turn your steering wheel by around one full revolution, which is just enough to keep you at the right angle to go in, yet will stop you hitting the curb with your rear car wheel.
  1. With your vehicle at the 45 degree angle, start backing up slowly, until the side mirror is parallel with the rear of the car next to you. Now, look in your side mirror, or out the window, to see how close you are to the curb. If you think that you are too far away – ideally you need to end up around 10 cm from the curb once parked – pull out of the space and retry from step 1.          
  1. If you are happy with the gap, check to see if your door mirror is just past the number plate of the parked car in front of you. If so, turn your steering wheel to straighten up the front wheels as you continue to reverse. Now, just use combinations of going forward and backward, with small steering adjustments, to get your car straight with the curb and midway in the space.
underground-parking

Parallel parking tips can help you fit into smaller spaces.

Get parallel parking right and you’ll win the admiration of passersby but, get it wrong and you risk writing off both your car and possibly even those you are trying to park between. This is one of the reasons such parking should be done slowly, to help minimise any possible impact.
 
Ultimately, parking is a core driving skill but there are many situations, such as parallel parking, where some advanced techniques or experience can be useful. This is especially true when you consider that, as mentioned, parking spaces are not growing in size alongside our vehicles.

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