Step by Step: How Do You Do a 3 Point Turn?

driving sports car in cityYou’re cruising through an unfamiliar neighborhood at dusk, looking for your friend’s house, when you come to the end of a dead-end street. Whoops. There’s no driveway at the end and no room to do a U-turn — nothing but some woods. And in those woods, a dozen green eyes are glowing. Coyotes? Rabid raccoons? You don’t know, but you need to get out of here, fast. Now what?

It’s three point turn time! A three point turn, aka K-turn or Y-turn, is the driving maneuver you use to get your car facing the other direction when space is tight. But how do you do a 3 point turn?

Step 1: Turn left and go forward.

Scooch your car as close to the right-hand curb as possible. Take a minute to check for approaching cars — doing a 3-point turn can take a while, and you don’t want anyone to T-bone you. Make sure, too, that there aren’t any ditches, trees, mailboxes or other obstacles you might hit while you’re turning. All clear? Put on your turn signal and turn the wheel hard to the left, then go forward as far as you can. Ideally, you’ll end up perpendicular to the opposite curb.


Step 2: Turn right and reverse.

Check for traffic once more, then spin the wheel hard to the right and slowly back up. Stop when the rear of your car is about six inches from the curb. By this point, you should be at a nice 45-degree angle to the curb, facing the way you want to go.

Step 3: Turn left and go!

Again, scan the street for oncoming traffic. Then, throw the car in drive, turn the wheel all the way to the left, and get going.

What if you get stuck doing a 3 point turn?

Sometimes a three point turn takes, um, more than three points. If the street is especially narrow, or if you didn’t go quite far enough in steps two or three, you’ll have to repeat the process. That’s OK! Even Barack Obama’s limo driver needs a little help executing a K-turn sometimes.

But what if you get stuck, like Austin Powers in the tunnel? It’s possible. In April 2017, a double-decker bus tried and failed to execute a three-point turn on a busy London street. Its wheels got jammed against the curb, and the bus got stuck, blocking the street crosswise. Passengers even got out to help by pushing.

In a regular car or SUV, however, that’s unlikely to happen to you. There’s almost always a little wiggle room to keep turning your car.

Practice enough, and you’ll be a 3 point turn champion — like this guy, who can turn his smart car around in a shoebox-sized garage. Or this guy, who set the Guinness world record for the fastest three-point turn (14.01 seconds). Or this guy, who executed a three point turn just in time to avoid being swept away by a flood.

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