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How to Reverse Around a Corner

Ive updated this article, as it continues to be popular and I can understand why,
because its the one many of my own pupils struggle with initially. I think it all boils
down to the fact that you have to be in full control all the way through it, whereas the
other manoeuvres tend to involve full lock this way, full lock that, or straight wheels.
The manoeuvre is actually quite simple. On your test, all youre expected to do is keep
reasonably close to the kerb and watch out for other road users. The examiner wont
get out and use a tape measure or anything, and as long as you dont mount the
pavement or end up across the other side of the road then youre probably not even
going to get a driver fault, let alone fail your test because of it. The examiner doesnt
care what method you use you can gauge your position relative to the kerb by looking
out of the back window, the rear passenger window, or using your mirrors, and you can
steer as much or as little as you like. However, it is best to learn to do it very precisely,
because if you then deviate a bit on your test youll still be well within acceptable limits.
If youre usually all over the place even on lessons then nerves on the day could
more easily push you too far outside these limits.
As I said
above, you
have to
control the
car all the
way
through the
manoeuvre,
and since
every
corner is
different it
just isnt
possible to
have a
simple
prescriptive
method like
it is with
the others.
This is how
I teach it to

those whove never done it before.


Step 1
As you approach the corner youre going to reverse into, check your mirrors and signal
if necessary to let people know youre pulling over (dont do it too soon or theyll think
youre turning into the side road). Pull over about 3-4 car lengths beyond the side
road. Youll be able to see the kerb leading up to the bend in your left mirror.
Step 2
Get the car into reverse as soon as you can so that your reversing lights inform others
of your intentions. Check that it is clear, and then reverse back slowly to the point of
turn, This is when you can see the bend just begin to curve away in your left mirror.
Stop at this point.
Step 3
Check that it is clear, then steer towards the bend by a fixed amount as you start to
move (it doesnt matter if you dry steer, though you should avoid that if possible).
About a half or three quarters of a turn is enough in my car (yours might require a little
more or a little less). Dont move the steering wheel any more while youre moving.
After youve reversed about a half a car length stop and assess what has happened. If
the kerb has moved closer, steer away from it by a quarter turn. If it has moved away,
steer towards it by the same amount. Then reverse another short distance, stop, and
assess what has happened again. Repeat the small steering adjustments each time
you stop depending on which way the kerb has moved in the mirror. Keep a look out for
other traffic and pedestrians having a look all around each time you stop is a good
idea. Aim to keep the kerb no more than half way across the mirror, but not so close
that you lose sight of it into the side of the car.
Step 4
Once you are straight in the side road, straighten up your wheels and reverse back
about 4-5 car lengths. On your test, the examiner might tell you to stop if it is obvious
you have done it properly, although if he lets you carry on it is sometimes a sign that
youre not straight and hes checking to see that you can complete the manoeuvre
satisfactorily. Keep a lookout for other traffic and pedestrians as you finish the
manoeuvre.
You do not have to use the handbrake each time you stop (but it doesnt matter if you
do). Use it if it will help prevent the car from rolling, and especially if youre reversing
on a slope.

Are there any other ways to do it?


Many learners have initial problems with steering in reverse. In particular, they steer the
wrong way and this is especially true when theyre under pressure. However, if the
pupil has good reverse steering skills then there is no reason why they cant just go
round the corner, steering as much or as little as they need (lets call it the freestyle
method) until theyre in the side road. Thats the ideal way of doing it, as long as you
dont forget to keep an eye out for other traffic and pedestrians.
Is there a fool proof way of doing this manoeuvre?
Yes and no. The method Ive described above is about as close as you can get to one
that will work on all but the sharpest of corners. Once you can do it this way, the
chances are youll become better at steering in reverse naturally and you can then
develop your own freestyle method as necessary.
However, try this. Using elastic bands wrapped around the mirror or a Tipp-Ex pen,
divide your mirror into four quarters (if using Tipp-Ex, you only need to make little
white marks on the plastic frame of the mirror and not on the glass itself). Make sure
you have adjusted your mirror so that you can see little or none of the car, as described
in this article. When you reverse back to the point of turn (step 2) go back until the
kerb is on the furthest elastic band/mark away from the car. Then, as you carry out
step 3, start with of a turn and reverse until the kerb moves in to the next mark,
stop, and remove a quarter of a turn. Reverse again and repeat if the kerb moves in to
the next mark. If the kerb moves away to the previous mark, just add a quarter of a
turn. Carry on doing this until you are almost round. When the car is straight, take off
any remaining steering. You should aim to finish with the kerb approximately on the
second mark away from you, which it will be if you follow this method.
Once you have mastered this, you should be able to imagine the marks, which is
basically how people who can do the manoeuvre manage it though they may not
realise it.
Isnt that method too prescriptive?
Some people have major problems steering in reverse, and nowhere is it written that
they must be able to reverse around a corner like a veteran driver of 30+ years
experience. They are NEW drivers. They drive like NEW drivers. If they can whizz
safely and accurately around the corner whilst simultaneously solving a Rubiks Cube
and playing the banjo, so much the better. The method above can help those who
dont fall into that category.
If your pupil (or you) can do it freestyle with their eyes shut, all well and good. If they

have problems, though, youd be crazy to carry on trying to teach them that way.
What do I do if another car turns up when Im reversing?
You need to use your own judgement, but generally it is OK to carry on unless
someone is coming up close behind you on the main road. As you start to turn, youll
need to respond to traffic coming from all sides, so good observations are essential.
Once youre about half way around your main worry is people coming up from behind
out of the side road youre reversing into, or people turning into the side road from the
main road. Of course, a lot will depend on where you do the manoeuvre i.e. how wide
the roads are, and how much traffic is around. The Golden Rule is not to miss anyone
or anything because the examiners are watching for precisely that.
What do I do if someone flashes their lights at me?
Make sure that theyre flashing at you and not someone else, and then carry on with
the manoeuvre if its clear that theyre waiting for you but keep an eye on them,
because once youre around the corner theyll probably go past and youll have to
pause as they do.
What would be a serious fault on this manoeuvre?
The decision will be the examiners, but as a rough guide: missing other cars and
pedestrians, not looking all around before commencing the actual turn, mounting the
pavement, going more than half way across the side road at any point in the
manoeuvre, and so on are likely to be marked as serious faults.
Never self-assess, though. Most people who assume they have failed for something
usually turn out to be wrong, and not long ago one of my own pupils rode up the kerb
slightly and slipped back down again (jeopardising my alloys) and still passed. It
depends on how good the drive was, and the way the particular examiner marks tests.
Do I fail if I stall when reversing around a corner?
No. Not automatically. It depends on various factors how many times, how you deal
with it, what is happening at the time (i.e. other road users), and so on. Aim not to, stay
calm if you do, then concentrate on the rest of the test and keep your fingers crossed.
Dont self-assess. Its the examiners decision, not yours.
Read the article on stalling.
At what point do I turn?
It doesnt have to be millimetre perfect. All youve got to do is follow the kerb around,

making sure it doesnt go too wide or disappear into the side of the car when looking in
the left mirror, and youve cracked it. Generally, you want to start turning just as the
kerb starts to curve away from the car.
How much should I turn the wheel when reversing around a corner?
To go round most corners driving forwards youll need between a half and one full turn
of the steering wheel. It would obviously need about the same amount going round it in
reverse. It depends on the corner some are much tighter than others and the exact
amount of steering will also depend on your car, since some have tighter turning
circles than others.
Which way should I steer?
This is the main reason many learners have problems with this manoeuvre. They have
an autopilot mode which is programmed to steer in exactly the opposite direction to
what is required whenever they are reversing. The urge to do this is really strong,
especially when they are panicked or rushed.
Remember that you are steering the rear of the car when youre reversing not the
front. To get closer to the kerb, steer towards it. To move further away, steer away from
it. Its exactly the same as when youre going forwards. Stop frequently if youre unsure
about which way to steer dont just keep moving while you try to work it out,
otherwise your autopilot will kick in and the whole thing will get messed up.
A useful trick is to say to (or ask) yourself out loud each time you stop the kerb is
moving away, so which way should I steer? It doesnt work if you just think it, because
your autopilot takes over again and makes you do it wrong. You have to talk your way
through the process. Try it and youll see what I mean.
Can I dry steer?
Yes. Dry steering is when you steer while the car is stationary, and although it isnt
good practice to do it unnecessarily (it can damage the tyres, the steering column, and
the road surface), it is NOT marked on the test. You can read more about steering in
this article. In any case, you will usually only be steering a little while you are carrying
out this manoeuvre, so dry steering is even less of an issue.
Should I use the handbrake every time I stop?
No. Use it if there is a risk of rolling, if you think you might be waiting for a long time, if
you want to shift your foot, and so on. Otherwise, control the car smoothly using the
brake and clutch as necessary (not at the same time, though). Having said that, if you
do use the handbrake for each stop youre not going to fail for it, so if it makes you feel

better go ahead and use it (several years ago, one of my pupils was told on the debrief
that there was no need to use the handbrake so much but no fault was recorded and
they still passed).
My last instructor told me its wrong to look in the mirrors
Your instructor is wrong, and you did well to get away from him before he did any more
damage. The aim of the manoeuvre is to stay reasonably close to the kerb and to keep
an eye out for other traffic. Your mirrors are there to tell you what is happening behind
you, so you should make use of them. Just make sure you dont stare at them just as
you shouldnt stare out of the back window like a zombie if youre using that method.
But what if I can see the kerb out of the window?
Use that by all means. Just be aware that when you buy your own car you might not be
able to see the kerb through the windows. I pick up loads of pupils who cant use that
method in my Ford Focus and they havent got a clue what to do. A mirror-based
method works in any car.
What does the left wing mirror tell me?
It came as a big surprise to me when I discovered that a few pupils actually believe that
if something is moving closer to them in the left mirror, it must be moving away from
them in reality! This is not correct. If something is getting closer in the mirror, it is
getting closer. Period.
Although it depends on how youve adjusted it, as a rough guide you want to keep the
kerb about a quarter to a half of the way across the left wing mirror.
Can I ask the examiner to adjust the mirror for me?
Yes. The examiners DT1 guide says that they should not refuse to assist if this request
is made. Obviously, this only applies to manually-adjusted mirrors you can adjust
electric ones from the drivers seat. As I said above, if your mirrors are in the correct
place for normal driving then they dont really need to be adjusted. However, I am
aware that some ADIs advise their pupils to adjust the mirror downwards so that they
can see the kerb, and although I personally cannot see the point, if thats how you do it
then it doesnt matter if it works for you.
How far away from the kerb should I be?
I teach my pupils that metre (about a drain gratings width) away from the kerb is
perfect, metre is a little wide (but acceptable), and more than metre is too wide.
These are ratings I use on lessons they do not apply to the driving test.

On the driving test the examiners decision is final, and in most cases they are happy
as long as you dont hit the kerb or go more than half way across the road youre
reversing into at any point during the manoeuvre. My approach to teaching the
manoeuvre is that by training my learners to be very accurate about it, if they deviate a
bit on their tests then theyll still be well inside acceptable limits.
Will I fail if Im too far away from the kerb when Ive finished?
Yes. Probably. But too far is a grey area, and you have to be very wide indeed to fail
for it. As I said above, as long as you are on your side of the road you shouldnt really
get more than a driver (minor) fault.
Remember that this is not a parking manoeuvre. You are not supposed to keep really
close to the kerb ( to of a metre is ideal). As a rough guide, you need to be about
as far away from it as you would be if your were driving forwards to turn left.
What happens if I touch the kerb?
First of all, never self-assess your performance when youre on your test. People who
assume that they have failed because theyve made a mistake are often wrong.
Brushing the kerb isnt an automatic fail (DT1, the examiners own internal reference
document, says that). Some examiners seem to be harsher than others considering all
the tales I hear, so its obviously best to not touch the kerb at all but if you do, dont
worry about it and keep your fingers crossed.
Mounting the pavement is almost certainly a fail but again, dont assume anything!
Not long ago one of my pupils rode up the kerb slightly and then slipped down again
(risking taking chunks out of my alloys), but he still passed. He probably wouldnt have
if hed have managed to get the whole wheel on to the pavement, but the point is that
the rest of the drive can play a big part in how some mistakes are marked. Examiners
often use common sense and arent out to fail people without a good reason.
Is it OK to keep stopping during the manoeuvre?
Yes, yes, yes, YES! Although it IS possible to fail for taking too long to complete the
manoeuvre, stopping for a few seconds a half a dozen times as you steer around is not
going to push it anywhere near this. The worst that can happen is that youll get a
driver fault for taking a bit too long which is much better than a serious fault for
steering the wrong way and messing the whole thing up. Take your time. The problem
with keeping moving while trying to figure out which way to steer is that the car will
carry on going wider or closer, then youll panic and probably steer the wrong way or
by too much, then the whole thing is ruined. If you stop, the kerb stops getting closer
or further away.

Note that it doesnt matter how long it takes when youre trying to master it on your
lessons. Start out slow a suitable speed will come naturally later.
My instructor told me to keep moving
Your instructor is wrong. Find another quickly before they do any more damage. You
do not have to keep moving, and doing so when you are getting muddled over which
way to steer or are going out of position is guaranteed to mess the manoeuvre up
completely.
Can I fail for taking too long?
Yes, but you have to be REALLY slow about it, or cause hold ups for other road users.
Ive only ever had one pupil fail for taking too long on a manoeuvre, and it was about 10
years ago on the parallel park. He reversed back and touched the kerb. He moved out
to correct it, then touched the kerb again. He moved out one more time, and got it
parked properly this time. The examiner failed him for taking too long because there
was a car waiting.
What if I dont have power steering?
It doesnt matter. You need to steer enough and that will be the same amount of
steering that youd use driving around the same sort of corner going forwards.
My last instructor told me to look out of the back (or side) window to follow the
kerb
In my car and many others the rear sill is too high for this to work, and people who
have been taught that way get into a terrible mess. I drive a Ford Focus, and many of
those who pass their tests are likely to drive one, too. They were quite probably taught
in a small learner car that there was never even the remotest possibility of them
going out and buying (not until they reach 60 or 70, anyway).
The mirrors exist so that you can see what is behind you. Use them to follow the kerb
and youll be able to reverse in ANY car. Having said that, if you can see the kerb out of
the windows use that by all means just remember that when you get your own car it
may not work.
I cant see the kerb when I reverse around the corner
If your mirrors are correctly set for normal driving then you WILL be able to see the
kerb if you are carrying out the manoeuvre properly. If youve been taught to look out
of the back or rear passenger windows, the chances are youre driving a different car

where that method wont work.


What should I be looking for out of the back window?
Pedestrians and other road users and not just out of the back windows. Keep a
lookout all around as you carry out the manoeuvre.
What if I cant see its clear?
You mustnt reverse anywhere if you arent sure it is safe. If necessary, get out and
have a look but make sure the car is safely positioned and secured before you do.
I cant see the point of turn
If your mirrors are adjusted properly for normal driving you WILL be able to see the
point of turn its when the curved part of the kerb starts to move away from you in the
left mirror. You dont need to angle them down especially or anything, though some
people do. However, if youve been taught to reverse by looking out of the rear
windows then you will have problems in many vehicles.
Can you move forward to correct your position if you make a mistake?
Yes, but be careful. Having to add extra stages means having to do extra safety
checks, and the pressure of knowing youve gone slightly wrong will increase the risk
of you forgetting to do them. Its best to get it right first time to avoid all of this.
However, it isnt a good idea to drive all the way back to the starting position so you
can have a second try apart from the additional safety checks, youll end up taking
much longer over it and that can be grounds for failure.