Parking sensors and parking aids make manoeuvring your car into a tight spot a much easier task. There are many different sensor designs to choose from, with some providing visual feedback in the form of lights or a small display screen on your car’s dashboard, and others providing audio feedback as you move closer to an obstacle.
The most advanced parking sensor kits offer both audio and visual feedback, and have night-vision as well, making parking in the evenings a far less stressful experience. The visual feedback will sometimes be in the form of lights from green to red, indicating how close the nearest obstacle is, or in the form of a graphical representation of a car, with warnings around it showing how much space you have left to move in.
Some kits also come with a rear facing camera or night vision system, to offer a better view of the areas that are not covered by your rear view mirror.
How Do Parking Sensors Work?
Parking sensors work by using electronic proximity sensors to detect potential obstacles. Some use electromagnetic sensors, while others use ultrasonic sensors which will send out pulses, and measure the return interval of each pulse to determine how far away the nearest obstacle is.
Most kits will start alerting motorists to obstacles when they are about 1.8 – 2 meters away, and the alerts will get more frequent and more intense until the obstacle is 30 cm away, warning you that you are about to collide with something.
How can they be fitted? By yourself or does a pro need to do it?
The sensors must be fitted in specific places on the car in order to ensure that they function as well as possible. While it is possible for a car enthusiast to fit parking aids themselves, as a part of the RAC shop service we will arrange for our partners, Chameleon, to fit the parking sensors for you. They will come out to your home or your place of work and fit them for you at a time of your choosing so that you don’t have to take the car to a garage. All the installers need is a safe area, off the road, for them to be able to work in. In most parts of the country, there is no extra charge for this service – professional installation is included in the price of the kit.
Are they front and back? Can you choose?
You can choose between kits with just four sensors for the rear of your car, or eight sensor kits that will cover all directions. While you could theoretically have sensors installed in the front only, it would be unusual to choose this, since the rear is the area where visibility tends to be the most problematic.
How do they judge distance?
The sound waves emitted by the sensors are reflected back when they hit nearby objects, and picked up by the sensor. The ‘round trip’ time of each sound wave gives the system an idea of how far away the nearest obstacle is. Depending on the shape of your bumper, you may need some angled rings fitted around the sensors to make them more accurate. The installation team will assess this when they come out to look at the car.
It is important that the sensors are fitted correctly, and they are kept clean and un-covered. If they are obscured by mud or ice, then they will not function correctly. For this reason, drivers should always remember that the parking aids are there for additional guidance only. Always use your rear view mirror and side mirrors, reverse slowly, and look out of the rear window yourself to check for obstacles rather than blindly following what the parking aids suggest.
If you have people with you when you are reversing into a very tight or difficult spot, consider asking a passenger to get out of the car and verbally guide you while you park.