I've become afraid to park in my parking space.
November 20, 2010 3:02 PM   Subscribe

I need help parking in my apartment garage parking space.

There’s a car to my right, and a pillar to my left. I’ve pulled in and parked properly hundreds of times in the past until this week. This week, I scraped the driver’s side on the pillar. Twice! The damage is extensive, and I’m going through insurance to get it repaired. But I’m so afraid that it will happen again. I’m even more afraid that I’ll hit the guy in my right while pulling in. The problem is that I’m not confident in how much space I have between him and me; it’s difficult to judge the distance between his car and my right fender.

Can anyone recommend any parking aides to install in my car or on my maybe in my space?
posted by fiTs to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you pulling into your space front-first? And (assuming front-first) do you turn left into the space, or right into the space?
posted by beagle at 3:10 PM on November 20, 2010

One thing that may help is to make sure that you are pulling as far to the opposite side of the lane as you can before beginning your turn into your spot. This will help you to have a "straighter shot" into the spot, leaving less of a chance of scraping your car.
posted by davey_darling at 3:18 PM on November 20, 2010

Reverse into the space - I have to park in quite small spaces between other cars and concrete pillars at work and I have a tiny car port with steel poles behind my apartment building and I've found that I can't pull into either of these spaces I can only reverse into them and, touch wood, the closest I got to any kind of damage is the wing mirror grazing the supporting pillar/column, barely.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:18 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had this problem, and I solved it by taking the time to pull into a different space and back out so that I could pull into my space head on. Gauging the distances when turning to the spot is much harder, and I think fear of denting my neighbors car was what made me overcompensate into the pillar. I still get nervous in tight spaces, but I haven't had any more scrapes.
posted by bonheur at 3:19 PM on November 20, 2010

Response by poster: Beagle, I go front first, and then left into the space. Just like bonheur, the fear of hitting my neighbour on the right makes me overcompensate.
posted by fiTs at 3:26 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Reverse in. You can then use your mirrors to make sure you have clearance either side. Added bonus: you don't have to reverse out again.
posted by saintsguy at 3:33 PM on November 20, 2010

Any chance you could mount some scrap bits of carpet on the pillar? If you aren't allowed a permanent installation, maybe duct tape would hold them up for a while. Or some mefite can come up with a smarter non-damaging way to mount them?
posted by 58 at 3:59 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd do the carpet on the pillar, maybe an oversized outdoor mat, use oversize cable ties or a bunch of them joined together to hold it on. You don't want anything too ugly, and you don't want anything that someone will want to steal, either.
posted by lemniskate at 4:29 PM on November 20, 2010

I've seen people glue styrofoam on the offending foam/wall... or a tennis ball from the ceiling. The advantage of tennis balls is that when your car hit them, they move; which may draw your attention quicker when you look at them in your peripheral vision.
posted by curiousZ at 4:40 PM on November 20, 2010

Why not roll down the windows and have a friend stand outside the car and give you feedback on how much room you've got? Spend 10 minutes going in and out of the space while hearing, "You've got tons of room on that side," or "That's about as close as you want to cut it," or "That's good -- perfect!"
posted by jon1270 at 4:43 PM on November 20, 2010

Best answer: Definitely back in. Even if you have to get a friend over there to help you the first time.

(note: I can put my 1970 Impala in a spot so tight I have to get all Dukes of Hazzard and get out the window - if I back in. Nose in, all bets are off. I actually rented a garage space in an alley that most people would have given up putting a Civic in. You can do this.)
posted by notsnot at 4:46 PM on November 20, 2010

I park next to a pillar which a previous tenant wrapped with some black foam padding. I've never touched it but come close, and I'm glad it's there. Also, I always back in, mostly for the quick getaway. (Note that Japanese drivers are taught to always back in, because it's supposedly safer).
posted by Rash at 4:48 PM on November 20, 2010

I have yet to try it myself, but I'm going to chime in with the "back in" contingent. I have had numerous professional parkers tell me that that is the way to go.
posted by madmethods at 5:04 PM on November 20, 2010

Nthing backing in. Try practicing with a friend or two watching until you get the hang of it. It seems counterintuitive, but backing in truly is easier.
posted by apricot at 5:25 PM on November 20, 2010

I agree, backing in is far easier than driving in. If you're worried about this, go somewhere with a huge parking lot, find an empty area with plenty of vacant spaces and practise, practise, practise. To help get it right, measure your own parking space, then get a few of those really lightweight garden chairs (or parking cones, if you know where to get any) and put them either side of the exact space you have available, so you can learn to get in and out without hitting them.
posted by essexjan at 5:56 PM on November 20, 2010

Some of the comments so far make it seem like backing in is some crazy driving-ninja move when really it's the opposite. The critical difference (mentioned in passing above) is that your side-view mirrors now give you rock-solid visual information about how things are going instead of being totally useless. Backing in also totally eliminates the where-the-hell-is-my-front-right-corner drama.
posted by range at 6:16 PM on November 20, 2010

I agree with the 'reversers' - I recently bought a Toyota Hilux and have learned that with a larger vehicle that it is easier, neater and less fraught if I reverse into parking spots, especially tight spots like you mention. It is worth having a few experiments with getting to know which parts of your car in the mirrors or eye-sight cue you in to being most accurate at telling you exactly where you are. For example, I now am confident that I have 4 more feet between an object behind me and what I see from the driver's seat as the back of my ute. It feels like I am reversing right into something but I know I still have several feet to go. I experimented in a parking space, as essexjan says, getting out and checking distance and relating it to what I could see when I got back in and checked my sight lines, mirrors and relating them to parts of the car that I can see. Pulling in front ways is a nightmare unless you can good swing clearance, and even then, not as easy. Again, look for a marker on the car that you can see whilst you're driving - eg, turning when the horizon line is about a 1/3 of the way between the centre of your bonnet and the side you wish to turn.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:23 PM on November 20, 2010

Duh, not the horizon line, the car beside you. Oops.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:24 PM on November 20, 2010

One thing I was taught, to get a feel for the parameters of the vehicle, when I began driving a large van for work was to back up to the dock (or pull up to the post) until I was sure I was Really! Close! -- and then get out of the car and actually look at how close I was. From that point on, I knew that Really! Close! was actually 3.5 feet away, and could continue moving accordingly.
posted by MeiraV at 6:30 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

The back-in people have it. One of the first things taught in professional driver's classes is to always back in, no exceptions. "Go forward to go" is the axiom. The main reason is safety. When you back into your parking space, you are not putting yourself into a position where you then have to back into traffic to exit. The reduced probability of damage to the vehicle is really an added bonus to this rule. Reversing in for your specific situation switches the orientation of the other car and pillar relative to your car, so this also means that now you will be able to get really close to that pillar, and you will have more room to get in and out of the driver's door.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:01 PM on November 20, 2010

You could get a backing sensor and mount part of it on the sides of your car.

Backing in is really the way to go, though.
posted by drezdn at 4:47 AM on November 21, 2010

The problem is one of perception. You need to know the relation of what you perceive to be "close" to what reality is. So do this: Start to park and when you think you are too close to the other car, put yours in Park, get out and take a look. Now get back in your car and get a point of reference. Say my fender lines up with his door handle and I know I have two more feet... Try it a few more times if you feel you need other points of reference.
posted by Gungho at 7:10 AM on November 21, 2010

I have a similar parking spot and I never reverse in. I've found it easiest to park by first driving like I'm going to pull into the spot on the right. When you're front end is close to their car, hit reverse while cranking the wheel the opposite way. By the time you're ready to go back in gear, your car should be nearly parallel with the parking spot and much easy to pull into your space.
posted by jmd82 at 7:52 AM on November 21, 2010

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