How to Tell Positive and Negative Terminals on a Car Battery?

It’s great you’re asking questions before touching anything! Knowing which cables and terminal posts are positive and which are negative when connecting batteries, jump starters, and jumper cables are critical.

It is also critical to understand which one to connect or unplug first. So, how can you distinguish between a car battery’s positive and negative terminals while utilizing a jumper wire or a car jump starter?

Keep reading to know if, is red positive or negative on a car battery!

How to Tell Positive and Negative Terminals on a Car Battery?

Determining which battery terminal is positive and which is negative is a relatively straightforward affair. Because mixing up a set of jumper cables can damage your vehicle, most automakers make it easy to tell the positive and negative terminals apart.

Thankfully, the positive and negative on a car battery can easily be identified. The top of the positive terminal is marked with a plus (+) sign and may also have red wires or a red cap/ring around it. The negative terminal is marked with a negative (-) sign.

If you cannot find a plus (+) or negative (-) sign on the terminals—and do not see any red wires or markings on the terminals indicating, it is the positive terminal—you can still identify the positive terminal by looking at its size. The positive terminal is larger than the negative terminal.

How to Tell Positive and Negative Terminals on a Car Battery

Key Points:

  • The red positive on a car battery, often labeled with a positive or plus sign, is the positive terminal.
  • The black negative on a car battery, labeled with a negative or minus sign, is the negative terminal.
  • Attach the red cable to the positive terminal and attach the black cable to the negative terminal.

What Color Is Positive on A Battery?

There is a universal color code for differentiating the positive and negative battery terminals of a car battery. Red is positive on a car battery. If you don’t see a red cap or ring on one of your battery’s terminals—or your friend’s battery—then look for a plus (+) sign.

When battery cables get dirty, both can appear as black cables, causing confusion. A quick clean will quickly reveal the cables’ true colors.

What is the Negative Terminal on a Car Battery?

The negative terminal on the battery is sometimes black. However, if none of the terminals are red but both are black, this can make the process very confusing for you.

In this case, you need to look and see if there is a minus (-) sign printed on the battery cover. If so, this sign indicates that you have found the negative terminal of the battery.

The wiring insulator should also be black, with the positive side in red. This wiring is connected directly to the metal chassis of your vehicle, whereas the positive side would not be.

How to Hook Up

1. When jumpstarting your car:

  • Always ground yourself with one end of the black (-) cable.
  • Never attach the two negative (-) battery terminals together.
  • Once the car starts and you are removing the cables, do not let the clamps at the end of the cables touch.

2. When removing the old battery:

Remember to first disconnect the cables from the negative terminal, which is usually black and has a minus (-) sign then disconnect the cables from the positive terminal, which is usually red and has a plus (+) sign. Always take caution to never touch a metal object to both terminals of the battery at once.

After disconnecting the terminals, unhatch the clamps securing the battery in place and slowly lift it out of the battery tray.

3. Installing the new battery:

Before placing the new battery in position, ensure that both terminals and the cables are rust-free. If they are rusty, you can clean them with water, baking soda, and a wire brush.

Next, lower the battery onto the battery tray with the terminals in the right position, and clamp it into place. Now connect the new battery in the reverse order, connecting the positive terminal first then the negative. Make sure that the battery is secured in place!

The Consequences of Getting the Wrong Terminal

As anyone who has accidentally mixed up car battery terminals knows, it can be costly. Not only will it damage the battery, but it can also cause other problems with your car’s electrical system.

If you connect the positive and negative sides of a battery incorrectly, this is called “reverse polarity.” This can damage your device or even cause an explosion.

When batteries are connected incorrectly, they can overheat and catch fire. This is especially true for lead-acid batteries, which are known to be particularly dangerous.

Lithium-ion batteries can also be dangerous if they’re not used properly. Occasionally, incorrectly connecting the positive and negative terminals can cause the battery to vent, leading to a fire.


Is red positive on a battery?

Yes, red is positive on a car battery. There are two terminals: red (+) is positive and black (-) is negative. You will also notice that your jumper cables have two cables: the red (+) cable is positive, while the black (-) cable is negative. Always attach the red (+) cable to the red (+) side of the battery terminal.

Which Terminal Is ‘Ground’ On A Car Battery?

A car’s ground is not a battery terminal at all! Ground refers to any unpainted metal surface on the car which acts as a secondary negative connector.
A negative battery cable clamp is connected to the ground to prevent sparks or electrical power arcs from happening near the battery. Without a ground connection, your car’s electrical system could overload and short circuit.

Why Remove the Negative Battery Cable First?

Removing the positive car battery cable first could produce an electrical system short circuit. This can lead to battery and electrical component damage. When the cable clamp on the negative side of the battery is removed first, it doesn’t affect the flow of energy since there are no other paths for current to follow except positive into negative.

What Happens When Negative and Positive Terminals Touch?

If a positive cable and a negative cable on a good battery touch each other, a strong electrical current will flow between them. This may cause sparks, damage the wires’ insulation, and potentially start a fire. Please don’t touch the cables together.

What are the positive and negative colors on a car battery?

Car battery terminals will be marked and color-coded. The color red and the plus sign for the positive terminal and the color black and the minus sign for the negative terminal. The negative terminal connects to the vehicle’s metal chassis.