Malcolm in the Middle
November 5, 2006 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a technique to be able to park in the middle of a perpendicular parking spot, first time everytime, without backing up.

I've been driving for a few decades and recently I've noticed that when I pull into a perpendicular parking space (in malls, parking garages), that I'm always very close to the car on my left or right, depending on which side I turned in from. Sometimes I'm so close (though still within the lines) that I can barely get my door open.

Sometimes I back out and then pull back into the middle but I never notice anyone else having to do this. From my incredibly self critical vantage point, most of the other cars in the lot appear to be parked right in the middle of the space.

Is there a parking technique or method that will allow me to be in the middle everytime regardless of the size of the cars on either side or the distance to the next row of cars behind me?
posted by Xurando to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps this thread may help?
posted by Handcoding at 2:20 PM on November 5, 2006

Try being further away from the parked cars so you have more space to line up as you head in, and swing out a little before you make the turn. And keep an eye on your alignment as you go into the space.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:31 PM on November 5, 2006

Response by poster: That thread (which I did see in search) is mainly about parallell parking which I have no problem with. I also do the technique described in the thread and still end up on one side or the other. Again, I can always back up to get in the middle, I just don't want to.
posted by Xurando at 2:33 PM on November 5, 2006

Look through to where you want to go, not at the obstacles (i.e. other cars) in your path.
posted by trevyn at 2:33 PM on November 5, 2006

Response by poster: It's the aligning when I'm going in that I have the problem with. I can never tell where the lines are. Where the cars next to me are is not necessarily where the lines are.
posted by Xurando at 2:36 PM on November 5, 2006

Best answer: Ignore the lines, they're just guidance for non-populated spots. I'm saying, keep your eyes on the end of the path; envision your car in the spot, and don't look at the ground or the car next to you. I know it sounds corny, but it works for doing anything in any vehicle.
posted by trevyn at 2:44 PM on November 5, 2006

I tend to swing the front end of my car very close to the car "in front" of me when pulling into the spot. So, if I'm pulling into a perpendicular spot on my right, I swing out a little, and then sweep the front end of my car very closely to the further car's rear fender. From there, I am turning the wheel back the other way, until I get to the end of the spot, which is usually exactly the moment my steering wheel is straight again.

You have to understand though that this is probably very car specific. I am driving a Ford Escort, which may or may not be a different size than yours. I know when I drove a bigger car my parking-fu was different. It's all about spatial awareness and understanding how your car really goes about turning.
posted by zhivota at 2:59 PM on November 5, 2006

I developed my technique similar to zhivota's when I was delivering pizzas (much like my parallel method). The thing that I learned that makes all the difference here is that your car is smaller than you think it is. Try it sometime with cones and broomsticks and you'll see that you are probably at least a foot away from the car next to you when your far front corner passes by it. Also, once you get the feeling for the size of your car, go from starting your turn to having the steering wheel cranked as much as possible so you get the tightest turn available for the space.
posted by rhizome at 4:07 PM on November 5, 2006

YMMV, literally, but this is highly dependent on what car you drive. In tight lots, those ridiculously gigantic vehicles do even more ridiculous parking jobs, whereas I'm always in dead center. The biggest thing is to try to start away from the spot, and learn where you bumper really is, not where it seems like it is. rhizome's right, people overestimate.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:42 PM on November 5, 2006

Sometimes I back out and then pull back into the middle but I never notice anyone else having to do this.

FWIW, I often have to do this. You're not the only one with imperfect parking skills.
posted by rhapsodie at 7:09 PM on November 5, 2006

Me too. I often feel ridiculous doing this, but at least we're not alone.
posted by amtho at 8:38 PM on November 5, 2006

As you approach, while you can still see the lines, find a landmark behind the spot. A particular brick in the wall, a tree branch, a certain point on the car in the facing spot, etc. Find the object that will be directly in front of you (you personally, in the driver's seat) if you're exactly in the middle, and then aim for that.

Since the sizes of spots vary, this object isn't always going to be the same distance from the left line, so measure from the center instead. Let X be the distance from your seat to the center of your car; when approaching, find the center of the spot, then find a landmark X distance to the left.

Also, thirding that your car is smaller than you think it is; try turning later than you think you should.
posted by equalpants at 12:59 AM on November 6, 2006

The main thing to remember is that only your front wheels can go sideways. Your back wheels can't. So, if you swing too early, your back wheels are just going to follow your swing in; you can't adjust their position once your front end is already partway into the space.

This is why it's easier to get centred when you're backing into a 90° park: all you have to do is get the leading edge of your car (which is the non-steering end for a reverse-in park) lined up in the centre of the space, and then you can swing the front wheels all over to get yourself parallel. With a forward-in park, you can't do that; once you're partway in, your back-wheel position is already pretty much fixed.

So you have to swing out a little bit before swinging in, and then swing in late; late enough that you only just miss the car on the far side of the space. You continue the swing, gently, for the whole time you're driving forward into the space; you shouldn't actually be parallel to the cars on either side until you're all the way in. That way, your back wheels end up in the right spot.

Starting the whole manoeuvre from further out, as i_am_joe's_spleen suggests, means that your turn radius is larger and the turning-the-whole-time thing is easier to achieve without hitting anything.

To fix any kind of long-established faulty parking habit, it really does help to acquire a bunch of traffic cones, set up a couple of lines of them where the adjacent cars would be, and practise varying your turn-in technique either side of what you're doing now. I bet you'll be surprised just how much you can vary your present procedure without actually scraping any cones.
posted by flabdablet at 2:07 AM on November 6, 2006

You do NOT have to swing out before turning into the spot. The picture someone drew in that other thread is inaccurate. Most of the time when I see someone park like that, they're parking horribly, at angles or far to the side. Plus, it's dangerous because they're looking into the spot instead of at potential oncoming traffic.

Practice in an empty lot or something.
posted by jesirose at 5:30 AM on November 6, 2006

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