How To Do a 3 Point Turn

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Also known as a turnabout, a broken U turn, K-turn, or Y-turn, a Three point turn is often a critical step required to pass a driving test. While a three point turn may sound intimidating, with enough practice and preparation you will be able to ace this tricky maneuver of your drivers test.

What is a 3 point turn?

A 3-point turn is a maneuver used on a relatively narrow road to turn a vehicle around towards the opposite direction. It does not require the use of a driveway or perpendicular road to complete the action. Most drivers who try to learn the 3-point turn are doing so because it will be featured on their upcoming DMV road test.

Why are three point turns important?

It happens to drivers all the time – you accidentally drive past a destination and need to turn around. In many circumstances, there are not any driveways, intersections, or U-turns nearby that can be used to turn around and the only way to do this is by completing a 3 point turn.

Before practicing, it’s a good idea to find a good location to maneuver your car and the materials you need to practice. Now is a good time to do some research and figure out where you will be asked to complete a 3 point turn. In most states you will be asked to complete the turn on a quiet backstreet of some kind, but in some you will complete the turn in a parking lot prior to driving on any roads. Be sure to ask your driving instructor or go to your state’s DMV website to learn more about how and where you will be asked to perform a 3 point turn.

It’s best to find an area that doesn’t see much thru-traffic, like an empty car lot or a private dead-end drive. If you prefer to stay off roads altogether, you can measure out the width of set up traffic cones in a parking lot area to get a better sense of your car.

3 point turn steps

  1. Bring your car to a full stop on the right side of the road close to the curb.
  2. Left turn signal on.
  3. Check your surroundings in all directions to make sure that there are no oncoming cars in either direction. This should be done by checking the front of your vehicle, your mirrors, and looking over your shoulder to check blind spots.
  4. Turn your steering wheel all the way to the left.
  5. Release the break and drive slowly to the opposite side of the road, stopping before you reach the other side. Do not drive over the curb or off of the road as this may result in an automatic fail on your driving test.
  6. Shift to reverse and check your surroundings again.
  7. Turn your steering wheel all the way to the right and slowly back up to the opposite side of the road before reaching the curb.
  8. Shift to drive, turn the wheel back to the left and slowly drive forward, guiding the vehicle into the right lane.

Tips for passing the 3-point turn

As you are preparing for your upcoming road test, keep a few things in mind while demonstrating the 3-point turn:

Pick a good spot

Your driving test administrator will likely ask you to drive to a very quiet street without much activity and ask you to complete the turn somewhere on the road. There may be cars parked on either side of the road as well as driveways, intersections, and objects on the road. You should find a spot that is clear of parked cars, not near an intersection, and is a straight part of the road. This will allow you to better focus on the turn and not worry as much about obstacles and distractions.

Take your time

Even if a car appears on the road while you are completing the turn, do not feel an urgency to speed up the turning process. You will need to complete the turn within a reasonable amount of time, but the tester wants to see you take a cautious approach to completing the turn and you do not get extra points for speed.

Check your surroundings

An automatic fail could result in trying to attempt the 3 point turn in a dangerous situation. For that reason, you should take your time to completely make sure that there are no oncoming vehicles in either direction. The test administrator will also be watching you to make sure that you are looking in all directions, using your mirrors, and checking your blind spots. Make it obvious that you are taking all of these steps.

3 point turn tips in the real world

Once you’ve passed your road test, you will likely find yourself in a situation where you will need to execute a 3 point turn.

Never try to complete a 3 point turn in the following scenarios:

  • In or near an intersection
  • On a busy road
  • At the top of a hill
  • On or near a curve in the road
  • In a section of the road that has a solid line dividing the two lanes

Before starting the 3 point turn, be sure to silence any distractions coming from the car the car radio or your GPS navigation system, and ask any passengers in the car to remain quiet while you complete the turn. You will want to ensure that you can hear oncoming cars in either direction and remain focused on the task at hand.

Use your turn signals as you complete the 3 point turn. This will alert other drivers that you are about to change directions of your vehicle and that they should be wary of your movements.

Just like everything related to driving, the more you do it the better you will become. It’s okay to be nervous when trying to complete a 3-point turn for the first time. The more times you practice and work on it the more likely you will become a more confident and skilled driver.

Image credit:

Santeri Viinamäki, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons