Home » Forget The Tennis Ball, A Cheap Mirror Is Your Best Friend For Garage Parking

Forget The Tennis Ball, A Cheap Mirror Is Your Best Friend For Garage Parking

Garage Parking Mirror Topshot Scaled 2
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Several months ago, I achieved the life goal of garage tenancy, a dream of pretty much every city-dweller. No more casual maintenance on the driveway in winter, it was time to have a dry, secure place to store my most prized possession. However, no garage is perfect, and a unique layout meant that I needed to get creative with a parking positioning solution.

double garage doors

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See, my garage has double doors which is fabulous, because I can look at my very used BMW while I grill. Hey, it’s one of life’s simple pleasures. Unfortunately, because it was a post-war build, this garage is also pretty tight length-wise. An S-Class just wouldn’t fit, nor would most modern family crossovers. Even a Mk1 Volvo XC90 doesn’t leave much length on the table. This inevitably results in parking very close to the second door, and while it’s not hard to slot my 325i into the garage, what about larger stuff, or just the convenience of having a marked garage stop that leaves even space around the car for working or cleaning?

I’d do the tennis ball trick, but the cable could very easily get caught in the rear door when it rolls up. Clearly, the ideal solution is two tennis balls hovering in an anti-gravity field. Unfortunately, I’m not quite smart enough to make that work yet, so I resorted to the next best thing – dumpster diving.

garage parking mirror

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Conveniently, the last tenant of what is now my garage was a friend, and he left behind a whole bunch of useful stuff amid the cardboard. Why sure, I’ll take possession of a tiny strawberry-themed umbrella, half-functional halogen lamps, non-functional pressure washers, and a few leftover resonators. Don’t mind if I do. However, the most useful thing I’ve dredged from the pile of discarded items was one of those headrest-mounted mirrors parents use for keeping an eye on their child in a rear-facing car seat. Not only is it aspherical for a decent field-of-view, it straps to whatever you like. Headrests, metal pipes, a four-foot frog statue, what have you. Call it borrowing an idea from parking garages or tight hairpins, but a conveniently-placed mirror seems like a great way to monitor parking proximity.

garage parking mirror

As for what I’d strap the mirror to, this is where the pile of builder scrap found in every garage comes in handy. I just connected the mirror to a disused 2×4, anchored the 2×4 with leftover stuff that every house has for some reason, and now I have a perfectly clear view of the second door and its surrounding area. Plus, seeing your own car’s reflection still gives a thrill. If you have a rotating fleet with varying hood lengths and dash-to-axle ratios, a mirror for parking guidance isn’t a bad idea.

 

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If you want to rig up something like this, mirrors like the one I’m using appear to retail somewhere south of $15. That’s dirt-cheap, and it’s a pretty easy install if your garage isn’t finished. Plus, instead of referencing a tennis ball, this cuts out the intermediary and references the front of your car and the wall. There’s something pleasingly direct about that, even if it’s literally just a reflection. Of course, this will be a more complicated install if you have a finished garage, but it’s still a neat addition that in my case, proves one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure.

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(Photo credits: Thomas Hundal)

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thejewosh
thejewosh
1 year ago

My garage has a big mark on the wall (it’s an apartment, I’m not fixing it) that happens to line up with my side mirror when I’m in the right spot.

My garage also has a heightened platform about 8-10 feet from the wall, so it’s impossible to hit the far wall without purposely driving over it.

Tunfaire Gold
Tunfaire Gold
1 year ago

I solved this by stringing yellow pool noodles through a tennis ball + string. I then hung the noodles from bendable metal rods attached to shelves at the front of the garage. One noodle is situated to hang at fender height in line with the side of the garage steps so I know how much to move over to avoid hitting the steps. The other noodle is a stop point for the front of my car – when it starts moving, I know when to stop.

I have S-class which barely fits my garage, but this arrangement lets me hit the right marks every time.

Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones
1 year ago

I do like the mirror solution, but I may have out-cheaped you.

My solution is just a 4-inch strip of painter’s tape on the wall where my side mirror should be. I pull in until the mirror lines up with the tape, et voila. It wouldn’t work for those fancy-pants rich folk with their spacious garages, but for us tiny-garage people who have to park within a few inches of the wall in order to fit the cars in, it’s fine!

(But seriously why are garages so small? Mine isn’t even pre-war, it’s from friggin’ 2012! It’s like the builders assumed any future residents would be driving Fiats or Minis.)

Last edited 1 year ago by Daniel Jones
Dodsworth
Dodsworth
1 year ago

I’ve always wondered why garages are so short? Couldn’t they be as deep as the house so you could park four cars in there? Or two cars and eight motorcycles? Doors on both sides for ventilation or the street door closed for privacy? Oh, the luxury! Is this architecturally feasible? Do I ask too many questions?

BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
1 year ago
Reply to  Dodsworth

My buddies neighbor had a setup just like this, 2 wide by 3 deep. Looked normal from the outside. Inside he had polished wide plank wood floors and a collection of vintage Buicks and Packards.

Zac H
Zac H
1 year ago

Seriously, why are pre war garages so tiny? My 1927 house has a 1 car detached garage. Interior dimensions 16.5’L x 8’W. I have to back in with the passenger side tight to the wall, so I can get out of the car and still open the garage people door. I wish I could post a picture of it! I guess it was sized for a model T, but they were on their way out by the late 20s and bigger more modern cars were becoming more popular.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 year ago

I trained the shark swimming below the garage to aim his laser beam through the acrylic floor at the secret agent suspended from the ceiling. When my hovercraft breaks the beam, the screaming stops and so do I.

Dennis Birtcher
Dennis Birtcher
1 year ago

Finally, someone else with a double door setup.

Personally, I use little rubber parking curbs from the local hardware store. Very necessary when the the garage is 19′ end to end and my land barge is 18′ 6″.

Phuzz
Phuzz
1 year ago

My dad has small strips of wood attached to the floor, in exactly the right place that the wheels will hit them before he hits the back of the garage. You just roll in slowly and stop when you feel the wheels hit the strips.
Of course, this only works if the cars you park there have the exact same wheel-bumper distance.

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
1 year ago

Better than the ball trick when you park different cars in that spot.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
1 year ago

I use reflectors for a similar outcome. If the nose or rear hits the reflector. whoops/

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 year ago

Genius Indeed!

Bob Boxbody
Bob Boxbody
1 year ago

This seems like a good idea, and if I didn’t already have a ball on a string, I’d probably try it. One nice thing about the ball however, it also helps me know my horizontal position in my narrow one-car garage. I’ve got a very tight 90 degree turn into it, which means I usually go in crooked, and the straighten out inside the garage. It was harrowing the first few times. But I know that if the ball is to the left of my face’s centerline, but to the right of the A-pillar, I’m good.

Paul B
Paul B
1 year ago

I’m switching to a pickup this year. There will be 3″ of garage left when I get in there when we get super crappy weather in winter.

My plan is to put a rubber mat or similar on the wall and park by braille.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago

A 3/8” hole drilled into the floor with most of an old fishing rod I found in the rafters works, too. Bonus is different holes for the various sizes of vehicles and just move the rod

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 year ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I found an old ice fishing rod in my first garage. I screwed it to a piece of scrap wood so it stood up, then tied a bright red ribbon at that top. The ribbon wiggled when the rod was hit, and the block of wood would slide if certain individuals kept going after the ribbon wiggled. A spot of paint on the floor allowed the block to be returned to it’s original position.

3WiperB
3WiperB
1 year ago

The mirror is a great solution. At my last house, I had a retractable ball. It was attached via string to the top of the garage door with an eyelet above the ball. So it would be up when the garage was closed and lower when the garage door was open. It worked well. Now I just have the MG in the garage, and it’s so small that no driver aids are needed.

Jason Mason
Jason Mason
1 year ago

My headlights shine the exact same pattern on the wall so all I did was remember where a bright spot of the light hit when the car was where I wanted it to be and that told me I was parked correctly.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
1 year ago

I’m not sure I understand your garage arrangement. Is it a tandem setup with doors on either end? Or is it the standard side-by-side two-door arrangement? If it’s the former, then I can understand why you wouldn’t want a tennis ball dangling in midair (or, my low-tech solution before I got a backup camera, a small 2×4 “wheel chock).

Also, the bit about looking at your car while you grill… Are you grilling inside the other bay of your garage? I’m sure this goes without saying, but please be safe and ensure you have proper ventilation.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
1 year ago
Reply to  Thomas Hundal

That’s pretty cool! I bet you get a nice cool crossbreeze in the summertime when you open both doors.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 year ago

I have found my reverse camera works great for this. Pull in enough where I know I’m completely inside, then check if I can see the garage threshold in my reverse camera image. If I can I back up a bit till it just disappears under the bumper.

Yay! I’m in just enough to not have the garage door handle slice my bumper cover when it goes down.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
1 year ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Same here. I back into my garage, so I put a tape mark on the garage floor that aligns to the reference line on my backup camera screen when the car is in the perfect spot. That maximizes usable space behind the car while ensuring that the door will still clear the front bumper.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
1 year ago

For your particular situation that’s so much better than tennis balls it’s crazy. This is a universal solution for you while the tennis ball solution is dependent on the dimensions of what you’re parking.

However, the tennis ball solution is still going to work better in situations where you are trying to position the rear of the car rather than the front (e.g. pulling into “open” floor space where you are trying to leave a walkway or where the obstacle is stuff rather than structure). There are also situations where you don’t have a good mounting spot. For instance, in my three-car garage the mirror would work fine for one space and not so well in the other two. We have have a structural pillar between each of the spaces so we have learned to position relative to those.

Charlie Hartman
Charlie Hartman
1 year ago

Great idea! I have a tight two car garage, made tighter by the recent addition of an i4 to our fleet. My 2021 Venza still fits (though nobody can get our on the passenger side), but despite having the 360 camera it’s really hard to park close and be confident I’m not going to hit the pipe for the radon system. The park distance sensors on the Toyota freak out way too early, really taking away from their value.

This would definitely make life easier, and we probably even have a few of these mirrors on hand.

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago

That’s a good idea!

At one point I was considering putting a couple of those closed-cell foam pads (the kind gardeners kneel on) on the wall at the point where the front bumper would touch. The pads are about 2″ thick and would not harm the bumper if I pushed into them at .02mph.

(During warmer weather, I park the motorcycle between the DD and the garage door and it’s helpful to maximize the bike space.)

Last edited 1 year ago by A. Barth
alwaysbroke
alwaysbroke
1 year ago

slick,

somewhat related, my truck is way too old for a backup camera so hooking up a trailer by myself was always hassle of back up, get out, move to the right, get out, move back etc… One day while getting out the hitch I realized the camper shell window was kind of reflective and figured out that a roughly 8″ piece of wood would hold it at the perfect angle that I could look from the drivers seat and see the reflection of the hitch and the trailer, making much easier to line up the trailer in one step.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
1 year ago

Brilliant!!

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago

That’s such a ridiculously good and simple idea, pretty annoyed it never occured to me, why did everyone settle on hanging tennis balls as the universal solution?

Just Jeepin’
Just Jeepin’
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

I suspect cheap tennis balls predate cheap mirrors, but I too am annoyed by my inability to come up with this idea on my own.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago
Reply to  Just Jeepin’

Small, mass produced mirrors have been cheap for longer than cars have been a thing

10001010
10001010
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Because I can draw a goofy face on the tennis ball and FWHACK it with my windshield wipers after I park!

Lokki
Lokki
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Why Tennis balls? Because my wife understands
“Aim the centerline of the car at the tennis ball. Stop when the tennis ball touches the hood.”

“Look in the mirror attached to the wall of the garage while you pull in” ?

That’s a dented car that’s TOTALLY my fault for having such a stupid idea.

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