Flatlander Problems
September 29, 2015 9:30 AM   Subscribe

What's the best method of extricating yourself from a parallel parking spot when you're pointed downhill?

This is something that has made me nervous as a driver ever since I moved to hilly Los Angeles and rented an apartment on a hill. Usually I park on the street right in front of my house, which is on a slight incline. Backing out is sometimes a little nerve-wracking, but not a big deal after almost three years here.

But today the street cleaning schedule required me to park in a spot I have been afraid of: the next street over, which has a very steep incline. (This street is so steep that I was actually nervous about driving on it for the first year I lived here.) Other people park on this street, so I know that my fears are unfounded. But I also don't know how to back out of this parking spot safely and without hitting the car in front of me when I inevitably roll forward after removing the parking brake.

Yes, this is a lot of beanplating about a parking spot, but guys I'm from a flat place I'm so scared please hope me.

(And, no, this is not Baxter Street. But the existence of parallel parked cars on Baxter Street gives me hope that I'm probably just being silly about this.)
posted by Sara C. to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
You can use the parking brake with the button pushed in, to hold your spot, and then let go when you are clear of the car below you. People forget you can actively use the parking brake for steep hills. Sometimes when I am going uphill but get stoped at a light, I temporarily use the park brake to hold my spot until I have started acceleration sufficiently to not roll back and hit the car behind me. It works the same for downhill parking.
posted by Oyéah at 9:38 AM on September 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Automatic transmission? Parking on left or right side of street?

Assuming yes and right: Presumably you have pointed your front wheels toward the curb when parking there. So, I would start the car, put left foot on brake, release parking brake (you won't roll as long as that foot is on the brake), put car in reverse, give a little gas while releasing brake, back up slowly while keeping left foot over brake. Go back as far as you can without hitting car in back of you, put left foot back on brake and take right foot off accelerator. Now, turn wheels fully to the left, and release brake slowly. The incline may permit the car to just roll forward and out of the space; if not, give a little gas. If you are in there too tight to exit at this point, just go forward as far as you can, put foot back on brake, turn wheels all the way to the right again, repeat the backing up part, turn wheels left again and exit.
posted by beagle at 9:40 AM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I use the parking brake method mentioned above. The left-foot-on-brake method is just too touchy for me. And if you drive a stick, the parking brake method is really your only choice.
posted by The Deej at 9:45 AM on September 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


For future reference, park with your front wheels angled into the curb when you park facing downhill. That way you won't roll anywhere when you release the parking brake.

I assume that the parking space in front of you must have been vacant when you parked. Otherwise, the answer to your question would be: you can get out of it the same way you got into it.

But the larger question is: it's not clear what you mean when you say you want to back out of the space. To get out of any parallel space, you will back up a bit with your wheels turned toward the curb, move forward a bit with your wheels turned away from the curb, and repeat as needed.

You should be able to move your foot from the accelerator to the brake fast enough to avoid bumping the car in front. But if you can't, it's OK to gently roll forward and let your front bumper rest briefly against the car in front's rear bumper, until you can do your next backing-up maneuver.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:48 AM on September 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Automatic transmission, and yes, I am parked on the right, "with" traffic. Which has me pointed down a steep hill. Luckily, yes, I did remember to turn my wheels to the right.

This is not just any old regular hill parking, where, yes, you just give it a little gas on the reverse and have faith that you will not slam into the car behind you. This is the kind of incline where I'm going to have to give it a LOT of gas when I put it in reverse. Hence the fear.

Also, I say "back out" of the space because, eventually, I am going to have to reverse the car a few feet in order to get out of the space. Which is going to require me to basically slam on the gas, due to the steep incline of the hill. I'm nervous that people who are bothering to answer this question aren't understanding that you have to put your car in reverse to get out of a parallel parking spot, and that doing this on a hill requires you to give it some gas.
posted by Sara C. at 9:52 AM on September 29, 2015


No hands: use your left foot to hold at the balance point of the clutch release while moving your right foot from brake to throttle. The balance on the clutch is the point at which the engine starts to engage. Too much and the car will stall, too light and the car will roll. With practice, it's less juggling than the parking brake method, though harder on you clutch plate.

The situation you describe is really not the place to try this for the first time, but this is a skill you can learn to do automatically, with some practice.
posted by bonehead at 9:53 AM on September 29, 2015


"Also, I say "back out" of the space because, eventually, I am going to have to reverse the car a few feet in order to get out of the space. Which is going to require me to basically slam on the gas, due to the steep incline of the hill. I'm nervous that people who are bothering to answer this question aren't understanding that you have to put your car in reverse to get out of a parallel parking spot, and that doing this on a hill requires you to give it some gas."

This is really about learning your car's reverse acceleration curve — it comes with practice, which is thin advice for you right now, but because reverse is relatively low gearing (lots of torque, low top speed) you should be able to give it significant throttle without shooting backwards up a hill. Unfortunately, that curve is different for different cars, so it can take some tries to get the pedal timing down.

I know what you're going through, having moved to LA from Michigan and had the same dilemma while parked on hills (I have some Echo Park friends who basically lived on a vertical incline). With an automatic, you can do this without the parking brake.
posted by klangklangston at 10:03 AM on September 29, 2015


This is WAY easier with an automatic than with a stick. You won't roll forward when the car is in reverse. You don't need to slam on the gas. Especially if your wheels are cut to the right and against the curb. Just gently press the accelerator until you reverse enough to cut your wheels the other way, put it in drive, and coast out of the spot.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:09 AM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can you get some traffic cones (or similar item to place in front of the car) and practice when there's no one in front of you?
posted by Etrigan at 10:11 AM on September 29, 2015


You should not be rolling forward in reverse, even on a steep hill. An automatic transmission should hold, and should prevent the engine from stalling, so, unlike a manual, all you have to worry about is reversing.

You shouldn't need to slam on the gas; you should be able to increase the throttle gradually until the car begins to move. You will have to use more throttle that you are used to though.

The hardest part is learning to manage your own actions. You naturally do want to stomp on the gas and let fly. That instinct is going to do you no favours with machinery though. It's really important though to learn to modulate your reaction and not immediately give into fight-or-flight.
posted by bonehead at 10:14 AM on September 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Even with the auto, you should still handle this like it's a manual. Hold the brake up, put it in reverse, rev up the engine until the car is resisting against the parking brake, then slowly let down the brake until you've moved far enough, then back up on the brake.

At the very least, make sure you put it in reverse before releasing the parking brake. The last thing you want to do is let the weight of the car rest on the Park pawl, because it could then be difficult to move the lever out of park. And it puts unwanted stress on the pawl.
posted by hwyengr at 10:42 AM on September 29, 2015


Which is going to require me to basically slam on the gas, due to the steep incline of the hill

You don't need to slam on it. You need to feed it gradually, until the car only just begins to do what you want, same as you would on the flat.

Yes, this will involve ending up with your accelerator pedal pushed down rather further than if you weren't fighting gravity on a steep hill, but there is no reason at all (especially in an auto) why you can't achieve the same smooth and gentle creep backwards that you'd get on the flat. Most of your engine power will end up counteracting the slope and warming up your torque converter, as opposed to making your car take off like a startled rabbit.

Oh, and of course the forward parts of the manoeuvre will require no accelerator at all; you'll need to control those purely with the brakes.
posted by flabdablet at 11:15 AM on September 29, 2015


Could you possibly wait until either the car in front or in back of you has moved? It's obviously not ideal, but it might get you out of this particular situation if you have the time to wait. Then, apply advice from this thread to practice for next time.
posted by danceswithlight at 12:37 PM on September 29, 2015


I used some of the recommended parking brake tricks and applied slow but steady pressure on the gas, and voila! I extricated my car from its precariously vertical parking spot!

I truly feel as if I have grown as a person today. Thanks everyone!
posted by Sara C. at 1:45 PM on September 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


Automatic transmission

Most of these parking brake tricks assume you have a manual transmission, and that your left foot would be occupied with operating the clutch.

While in general one should operate the gas and brake with only one foot, you can just use your left foot on the brake here instead of using your hand on the parking brake, and free up both hands for steering.
posted by yohko at 6:45 PM on September 29, 2015


This is WAY easier with an automatic than with a stick. You won't roll forward when the car is in reverse.

That may be true in some cars, but it's not in others. My 2005 Malibu clunker will readily roll forward down a hill with the transmission in reverse, or backward down a hill when it's in drive. So if the hill I'm backing up is steep enough, I need that left foot on the brake.

Also, not every car has a hand-lever operated parking brake. In mine it's the old stomp on the pedal on the left action, stomp again to release, which would be useless in helping out in the maneuver.
posted by beagle at 9:53 AM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


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