Sounds like something everyone should be able to do, but not everyone can. Here’s how to reverse park a car.

NOT EVERYONE IS a confident car parker. So, we’ve decided to help out, because parking is as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4… see what we did there?

1. Roll down the centre of the carpark. This is so that you give those moving out from spaces some room, and it’s easier to spot free spaces from a central position.

2. When you spot your space, swing in towards it. Take a good look into it to make sure it’s clear, and if there are any obstacles you might hit when you reverse.  It’s not a big swing in, just a little.

3. Swing out from the space, so the vehicle is angled, ready for the next step. That’s the trick in making it easy.  You want the car to be angled at around 30 degrees like in the image above.  In this step you’re making the next step of reversing easier as you’ve already angled the car.

4. Reverse into the space. Aim to just miss with the inside (driver’s side in this case) side of the car, and the outside part of the car will take care of itself – but do check it just in case.

It’s that easy.

What you don’t want to do is to try and drive in forwards. It is unlikely there will be the space to do that, and then you’ll need to shuffle backwards and forwards, which will be difficult as the car is unlikely to be well positioned to begin with.

Reversing out of a space is also higher-risk than reversing into it – if you reverse in there’s just a second or two between you seeing its clear and then backing in, whereas if you reverse out the period between you looking behind the car as you walk to it and actually driving backwards is much longer. Plus, if you reverse out that’s actually more difficult a manoeuvre than reversing in.

Some more tips:

  • Don’t turn the steering wheel when stationary. This places undue stress on the steering system, and is known as “dry steering”.
  • Use blind-spot mirrors. These help you see the parking lines as you reverse.
  • Don’t use the accelerator. Automatics will have enough torque at idle to move the car on a flat surface, so your foot can hover over the brake instead. Manuals don’t need any accelerator either, just gently bring the clutch up and again hover your foot over the brake, ready for action.

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  1. Trouble with this technique is you are more times than not being tailgated and the knuckle draggers then try to take the park and suggest that you had missed it. Pin stripes did someone say pin strips?

  2. Thanks. Now can you just tell them how to park in the middle of the bay and not across the bay or on the line.

  3. A small tip to help get lined up squarely tilt the passenger side rear vision mirror down to see the space dividing line .

  4. Regarding “dry steering”, it’s less important with modern electric powered steering (most cars from about 2010 on are electric) than it was with hydraulic power steering where dry steering and holding at full lock caused high pressure in the system. With electric the only significant wear would be on the rubber, and on a concrete floor like found in many indoor car parks this too is insignificant.

    Of course, all else being equal it’s usually better to avoid dry steering, but it’s not something to loose sleep over.

    tldr; the benefits of reverse parking usually outweigh the downsides of dry steering.

    1. Fair point David, and indeed self-parking systems (which are all electric) dry steer. However, it is best to avoid it where possible as you say. When EPS is even more widespread the advice will change a bit.

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