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How to reverse a car: practical test manoeuvres

To pass your practical test, you’ll need to know how to reverse a car. There are three manoeuvres, and you’ll probably be relieved to know you’ll only do one of them when you take your driving test. The trouble is, you won’t know which until the examiner asks you to show off your reversing skills. So it pays to practise all three.

How to reverse a car: pull up on the right and reverse

1: Look around for a safe spot

The examiner will ask you to “Pull up on the right where it is safe to so”, which is your cue to find a sensible and safe spot for the manoeuvre. You shouldn’t stop directly behind a parked vehicle (it will block your view when you need to pull out) or close to a junction. Don’t block a driveway or entrance.

2: Remember: mirror, signal, manoeuvre

So, you’ve found a safe place to park. Now check your mirrors and over your shoulder in case you are being overtaken. Then indicate that you are turning right. Look ahead to make sure there’s no oncoming traffic, check in your mirrors and over your shoulder again.

3: Pull over to the right

Don’t steer hard right, as this increases your chance of hitting the kerb. Instead make your way over to the right-hand side of the road at a relatively shallow angle. Aim to stop in a straight line and parallel with the kerb. Try to be close to the kerb without hitting it.

4: Get ready to reverse

The examiner will now ask you to reverse, keeping reasonably close to the kerb. Select reverse gear while looking to see if there are any vehicles coming towards you. If there are, let them pass. Now check in your mirrors and over you shoulder to make sure it’s clear behind you. Reverse slowly and stay close to the kerb, continuing to keep a close eye out for traffic ahead and behind you.

5: Rejoining traffic

You’ll now be asked to rejoin traffic when you are ready. Look ahead to be sure it’s clear, then use the interior mirror and left-hand exterior mirror before looking over your shoulder to check the blindspot. If there’s a safe gap in traffic in both directions signal left and pull away, promptly moving over to the left-hand side of the road.

How to reverse a car: reversing into a parking bay

1: Stay out

Reversing into a parking bay is much easier if you give yourself a bit of space to work with before you go backwards. So, don’t stay too close to the row of bays you will reverse into. Instead, check ahead and behind you, and if traffic allows move out around half a car’s width from the bays. Indicate in the direction you will be turning.

2: Swing in

Come to a stop just beyond the bay you will be parking in. Select reverse gear, and have a good look around you to check for other cars or anyone on foot. If it’s clear, look out of the rear windscreen and start to reverse backwards, turning towards the bay.

3: Take it slow

It’s important to take your time rather than rush. Reversing slowly will give you time to adjust the direction of the car, aiming for the middle of the bay. It may help to use your outside mirrors as reference points – think of each mirror ending up just inside the white lines which mark either side of the bay.

4: Keep looking around you

Good observation is crucial to reverse parking. While your main focus is behind you, it’s important to keep glancing around. If pedestrians or other vehicles come close, wait until they have passed, unless it’s clear that they are waiting for you.

5: Straighten up

Once in the bay with the car in line with the white lines, straighten the wheel. If you are not quite straight, check for traffic and people on foot and, if it’s clear, pull forward a little, steering the car so it’s parallel with the white lines. Then reverse back again so the car is within the bay, taking care not to go too far and bump the kerb or take up space in the bay behind.

How to reverse a car: parallel parking

1: Stop moving

The examiner will ask you to pull up in a space that’s comfortably big enough for the car you’re driving – around twice as long as the car. You should pull up level with the car you are going to reverse behind and no more than one metre out to the side.

2: Be ready to reverse

Select reverse gear while checking all around you to make sure it is safe to drive back, with no other traffic approaching. If it’s clear, start moving backwards slowly.

3: Turn the wheel to the left

Look over your left shoulder to see where you are going.When the corner of the car you are reversing behind appears in your passenger-side window turn the wheel to the left one full turn. Now check around you again to be sure there’s nobody walking close to the car or other road users nearby. If it’s safe, continue reversing until the nose of your car is level with the corner of the car you are parking behind.

4: Turn the wheel to the right

Now turn the steering wheel hard the other way (two full turns should do it). This will tuck the nose of your car in toward the kerb. Just be careful that the front of your car is clear of the corner of the other vehicle.

5: Keep your speed down

Parallel parking shouldn’t be rushed, especially now your car is getting close to the kerb. Stay nice and slow and use your left-hand side mirror as well as the view behind you to judge how close you are to the kerb and the car behind you, as well as checking how near you are to being parallel with the side of the road.

6: Straighten the wheel

Once you can see that you are parallel with the kerb, straighten the steering wheel. If you’ve judged the manoeuvre just right, you’ll now be just a few centimetres out from the kerb and nicely in line with the roadside. It’s okay if you need to move back and forth a couple of times to tuck the car right in and to straighten up, but don’t do this endlessly. So long as you’re not sticking out into the road or parked up on the kerb you should be fine.

Find a RED Driving Instructor near you

Find a RED Driving Instructor near you

RED’s experienced instructors operate nationwide. So whether you’re learning in Newcastle or Norwich or Plymouth or Preston, they’ll find the perfect instructor to help you on your journey to passing.

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