How to carry out the perfect parallel park

It's the bane of many people's existence and probably the hardest aspect of driving a car - the reverse parallel park.

But never fear, if you're about to sit a driving test or are simply too scared to get the best park outside your local café without humiliating yourself, here are some tips that may help you do a better job.

Drive, a free online learning tool produced by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), offers some advice to ensure you're more likely to succeed than fail.

  1. Put your car into reverse gear. Make sure your left indicator is still on.
  2. As you reverse, keep checking your mirrors, and any blind spots behind you and to the sides.
  3. When your back wheel is next to the front car's back bumper, turn the steering wheel to the left about one whole turn (this might differ depending on the car you're driving).
  4. Keep checking your distance from the front car.
  5. When you're clear of the car in front, start turning the steering wheel right to bring the front of your car closer to the kerb.
  6. Keep reversing slowly, until your car is parallel to the kerb and within 30 cm of it.
  7. If you need to straighten up slightly, put your car into first gear (manual) or 'Drive' (automatic), and move forward.
  8. To finish parking, put your car into neutral (manual) or 'Park' (automatic), and apply the handbrake.
  9. You should finish up 1-2 metres behind the vehicle in front and 30cm from the kerb.

If those tips don't seem to be enough to remedy your horrendous parallel parking - or if you're struggling for the mental fortitude to attempt it in public - you might want to start out easy.

First, Drive says, you could practice with cones in a quiet street (less embarrassing and far less potential for damage), before graduating to parking behind a single car and then, finally, squeezing in between two vehicles.

It says something else that may help is adjusting your wing mirrors to face further down, so you can keep an eye on the kerb as you reverse.

And remember to keep an eye on the traffic too! You may be in the process of performing the perfect parallel park, but hitting a car travelling down the road while you're doing it will more than cancel that out.