Parking perfection: how to fit parking sensors to a car

Guide to fitting parking sensors to cars and the best systems available

According to a survey, the majority of British drivers are hopeless at parking and admit that poor parking etiquette is their worst driving habit.

But in defence of drivers, is it any wonder most of us find parking brings us out in a cold sweat? Cars have grown and parking bays haven’t. The average car is now said to be two inches wider than the minimum 5ft 11ins gap they have to squeeze into.

So despite parking systems becoming increasingly common, it’s little wonder that thousands of motorists regret not choosing a used car fitted with parking sensors, or wish they’d spent that little bit extra on a new motor and added the sensors as an option.

However, help is at hand. Parisian-style bump-and-grind parking can be banished by fitting aftermarket parking sensors to a car. Here’s how to attain parking perfection.

Can I fit parking sensors to a car myself?

Yes, if you know what you’re doing when it comes to all things DIY and engineering. There is a wide range of fit-it-yourself kits available on the high street and online, and with a bit of reading and re-reading of the instructions, some scrabbling around and quiet cursing under your breath, anyone who’s competent with car should be able to fit the bits.

However, many high street car care stores will do the dirty work for you. So why not pay a little extra, pick up a coffee and take a stroll around John Lewis? By the time you return, it will all be done.

What sort of parking sensors are available?

Guide to fitting parking sensors to cars and the best systems available

Ultrasonic sensors are standard on some cars, such as this Vauxhall Corsa, but can be fitted retrospectively to those without them (Picture © Vauxhall)

There are two types that are widely available. Ultrasonic parking sensors work by bouncing sound waves off objects, and then measure the time it takes for the signal to return to calculate how far away the object is. A series of increasingly irritating audible beeps tells the driver that they’re approaching crunch time.

Ultrasonic systems are affordable, but will need to be fitted into the bumper, which means drilling locating holes for the sensors.

The alternative is a system using electromagnetic parking sensors. They create an electromagnetic field around the car’s bumper, and any object that enters that field triggers an audible warning in the cabin. They’re usually more expensive, but the appeal is that they mount inside the bumper, so no drilling is involved.

Which are the best parking sensors?

Good question. Auto Express motoring magazine tested a wide range in 2010, and out of the 10 units concluded that the Dolphin DPS400 (about £50) was the best. In second place was the Meta Targa SR2 (around £65), and in third came the Yada Reversing Camera (around £120). Also worth a mention is Cobra’s Parkmaster, an ultrasonic system that performed well and costs around £70.

Is there a camera-based alternative to a parking sensor?

You could go for a camera instead, giving yourself a wide-angle view of what’s behind or in front of your car. Some, such as Yada, are mounted on a bracket that simply sticks to the back of a numberplate, and wirelessly send their signal to a screen that’s about the size of a portable sat nav’ system. It means they’re easy to fit. Others, such as Dolphin, combine sensors with a camera and monitor, giving the best of both worlds.

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