Who Knows Best - Dad or the Driving Instructor?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 08, 2012

Dear Tom and Ray:

I need your opinion on whether something the driving instructor is teaching our daughter to do is hard on the car. When parallel parking, he has her turning the wheels in place while the car is stopped in order to position it for the next move. We were practicing today, and echoes of my dad were going through my head -- that doing this is hard on the steering components, and that you should try to be moving slowly when you turn the wheel.

Now, I'm not going to make her challenge her instructor on this, but I do want to know if this is bad for the car. If not, I'll shut up and leave it be. But if it is as I remember, then I want to provide her with some balanced information on this. I know sometimes it's unavoidable, but is my memory just crap, or is there something to this?

-- Jeff

TOM: Well, we don't know about your memory, Jeff. Do you remember writing to us last week with this same exact question?

RAY: Actually, your dad was correct. It does place more strain on the steering components and tires when you steer the front wheels while the car is stopped.

TOM: But it's hardly worth worrying about. Think about the amount of time you spend parallel parking versus the amount of time you spend actually driving. It's minuscule. So, even though it's a little harder on a few of the car's parts, its overall effect on the life of the power-steering pump, or your tie-rod ends, or your front tires, is insignificant.

RAY: And the long-term cost is tiny compared with the increase in insurance rates you'll pay when she creases the Mercedes in front of her while parallel parking because she's worried about the wear and tear on Daddy's power-steering pump.

TOM: Right. She's got more than enough to think about now in learning to drive and learning to parallel park. The last thing you want to do is add another thing for her to think about, especially if it's not important.

RAY: Once she's been driving for a while and can parallel park the car in fewer than 24 attempts, then you can suggest that she start moving backward slowly as she turns the wheel. But it should be low on the priority list, Jeff.

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