7 Things beginners should keep in mind when driving in reverse

Experience is the best driving instructor
by Drei Laurel | May 30, 2019
PHOTO: Jason Tulio

Okay hotshot, so you finally have a driver’s license. You’ve been assessed by the concerned transportation agencies and have been fit to operate a motor vehicle.

Let’s get one thing straight though: That neat little plastic card you’ve been issued by the government doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a good driver—it should, but anyone who’s taken a driving test around here knows that isn’t always the case.

As with most skills, experience is key. You still have quite a way to go and quite a bit of learning to do, and one of the first things you need to master before you level up in motoring is the art of driving in reverse. You know what? Scratch that. For now, let’s call it the art of not messing up your ride (or anyone else’s) while moving backward.

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Below are a handful of simple things you, a beginner driver, should keep in mind every time you shift into reverse and inch backward. These might seem like no-brainers, but it’s fairly easy for newbies to become flustered with a line of impatient cars behind them.

Let’s get started, shall we?

1) Make sure all of your mirrors are in order

We are, of course, referring to your side and rear-view mirrors. As a general rule, only 20% of your vehicle should be visible in the side-view mirrors at most. Again, emphasis on 20% at most (and frankly we think even this is generous). You want to have as much view of the road as possible for passing cars, pedestrians, or other obstacles.

If you’re in a tight spot or are trying to reverse into one, you can tilt your side-view mirrors downward for a better view. Some high-end vehicles automatically adjust your mirrors when you shift into reverse, but not all of us have the pleasure of backing into a parking slot with a high-end European car model.

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Obviously, at night you want to have your rearview mirror tilted in the right position as well.

2) Get used to life without a backup camera

Many cars these days, even budget-friendly models, now come equipped with backing up cameras. It’s a convenient feature (especially those 360-degree top-view types), yes, but we recommend still getting used to moving in reverse without one. Also, there really isn’t a standard in place for reversing camera viewing angles or distances.

Chances are you’ll need to drive a car without the feature at least a couple of times in your life, and you’ll never know when the camera unit in the rear might give out. For the same reason, don’t rely too much on your ride’s numerous parking sensors. Treat these sensors and rear cameras as parking aids, not your main sources of external input. 

3) Keep a sharp eye out for obstacles

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Not just potholes, bumps and concrete parking guards, but moving obstacles like small animals, fast-moving bicycles, and the occasional kid playing on the street (stay alert for children running out from between parked cars), too. You also need to be extra diligent when reversing in dark environments.

This basic tip is a no-brainer that’s easy to forget when there’s a long line of honking cars behind you. Having a good eye for these obstacles, as well as a firm grasp of your car’s dimensions, will ensure you never needlessly damage your ride while backing up.

4) Make sure wheels are pointed in the right direction

Before you step on the gas pedal and start moving backward, make sure your wheels are pointed in the proper direction. It takes a little getting used to for beginners, especially those with less than impressive hand-eye coordination or spatial awarenes.

“Why? I can always make adjustments on the fly, right?” Yes you can. As a beginner, you’re going to take your sweet time making those adjustments, too. The more aware you of the dynamics between your wheels, steering wheel, and the direction you’re going (in this case, backward), the easier your life in the driver’s seat will be.

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Also, making numerous steering adjustments at slow speed tend to wear out tires faster. Learn, not just for the sake of impatient drivers, but for your tires as well.

5) Step out and take a proper look if you’re not sure

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you’re not 100% sure about your car’s surroundings, or if you aren’t fully confident in the dimensions of your vehicle in relation to a parking slot, simply step out of your car and take a look for yourself. You can even have a passenger get out and guide you if needed.

This is especially important to remember in parking lots without stoppers or if you’re going in reverse behind the wheel of a longer vehicle. It’s either this, or you pay a couple of thousand pesos (minimum) to repair a ding or dent.

6) Know how low your ride is

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We’re not just referring to your rear end and muffler, but your front overhang—for when reversing up an incline—as well. There is no standard for parking stoppers or entry ramps (or if there is it’s not being followed), so their heights may vary depending on where you’re driving. Few sounds are more cringeworthy than the noise of your car’s body panels scraping violently against the asphalt.

7) Take your time if needed

There’s really no shame in it. You’re a beginner, remember? Ignore the honking cars and impatient drivers—take your time, focus on the task at hand and be careful. If your car suffers some minor damage while you’re backing up, acknowledge your mistake and move on. Again, experience is the best driving instructor.

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Keep all of the above in mind and you shouldn’t run into any unwanted dings or dents while driving in reverse. If you have any more tips about driving in reverse you would like to share with our readers, please do leave a comment. Drive safe out there, guys.

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PHOTO: Jason Tulio
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