Positive and Negative on Batteries – Quickest and Surest Way

Positive and negative on batteries can be confusing, but it doesn’t need to be because there are several ways to distinguish between them. The surest and most reliable is using a multimeter, which displays a negative reading if its positive (red) probe touches the negative terminal on the battery and a negative one if the negative (black) probe touches the battery’s positive side.

Positive and Negative on Batteries

We’ve discussed the various methods below, so there’s no need to worry if you don’t have a multimeter. In addition, we will guide you on the safest way to jump start a car.

How To Discern the Positive and Negative Battery Connectors?

To discern the positive and negative battery connectors, check the battery cable colors, as the positive will be red and the negative black. The positive side of the battery will also have a “+” sign and may be bigger than the positive. You can use a multimeter to be sure.

Jump starting a car comes in handy when you have a dead battery. To do that, you must identify the positive and negative connectors. The two can confuse anyone working with the battery for the first time. Incorrectly attaching the cables can cause issues, including an electrical surge, melted jumper (jumping) cables, a blown fuse, and a warped battery.

But if you hooked the terminals wrong and caused a short circuit, it’s the main fuse that would get blown before damaging anything else. That’s a safe-proof aspect vehicle manufacturers use to prevent costly damages. You would reverse the cables and replace the main fuse to get your vehicle back on the road.

Nevertheless, you don’t want to take that chance. So, let’s go through the details of

how to tell positive and negative on a car battery?

  • Check the Cable Colors

There’s a universal color code for differentiating the negative and positive car battery terminals. The negative battery terminal cable is black, while the positive side is red. So, in most cases, you can distinguish the terminals by observing the color codes. Note that the battery wires can get too dirty and appear black, leading to confusion.

Car Battery Cable Colors

A quick cleanup will reveal the cable’s true colors in that case. Also, it’s essential to note that not all car batteries use this color scheme. It would be best if you didn’t rely on it as your only way of identifying the positive and negative sides of the battery. Ensure you use a second method to be sure.

  • Positive and Negative Markings on Battery

If the color-code (red black) method proves unreliable and you’re still unsure of “car battery which side is positive,” you can use the markings on the battery as a fail-safe. The positive terminal will typically be stamped with a plus (+) or “POS.” At the same time, the negative connection is marked with a minus symbol (-) or “NEG.” Some batteries may have the word “anode” on the positive side. Some have asked,

“Is the positive on the right or left?”

There’s no way to tell which terminal is on the left or right. Please check for the “+” or “-” signs or the cable colors.

  • Check the Terminals Shape

So, you’re unable to find plus (+) and negative (-) signs on the terminals? You don’t see any red and black wires or markings on the battery indicating the positive and negative either? In that case, you can still distinguish the terminals by looking at their sizes. The positive side is usually larger than the negative side.

Battery Terminals Shape

Also, the positive will often have a pointed tip, while the negative will be flatter. Some batteries have bumps or raised ridges on the positive side. Note that if you trace the wiring from the battery, the one connected directly to the vehicle’s metal chassis is on the negative side.

  • Use a Multimeter

A multimeter is another way to tell which side is positive and negative when your battery is unmarked with the respective signs or when both cables are black. It’s the surest and most recommended method. So, if you can access the device, here’s what to do.

Set your multimeter to the “DC Voltage” mode. Next, touch its red and black probes to the battery’s terminals. The multimeter will display a reading regardless of whether you’ve connected the probes to the correct terminals. But if the reading comes out positive, the red probe touches the positive side, and the black one touches the negative.

A negative reading shows that the red probe is touching the negative side. As mentioned, a multimeter is a foolproof method for identifying positive and negative terminals. You can borrow or ask a friend to test the battery if you don’t have a multimeter.

How To Jump Start a Car Correctly?

To jump start a car correctly, position it next to a donor car. Connect the jumping cables in the correct order, then start the donor car’s engine first. After a few minutes, start the other vehicle, disconnect the wires, and keep the engine running for about 30 minutes.

Jump-starting a car with cables is easy, but you must take some precautions. As mentioned, mixing up the wires or touching the ends together can damage your car or injure yourself. The fundamental steps are mentioned above,

but here’s a detailed guide.

  • Find a Donor Car

You need to find a car with a functional battery to provide the power required to jump the failed battery. The vehicles must be positioned next to but must not touch each other. Open both hoods, locate the batteries, and ensure the parking brakes are engaged. Put on a pair of rubber, latex, or nitrile gloves, and keep the jumper cables handy.

  • Connect the Cables

Connect the jumper cables positive and negative, each to the correct terminal and following a specific order. Here’s what you must do for those asking, “Positive or negative first when jumping?” or “Red or black first when connecting a battery?”.

Attach the positive (red) cable to the dead car battery’s positive terminal (+) first. Then, connect the other end of this cable to the positive terminal of the healthy battery. Another essential thing to note is connecting the negative (black) cable. First, attach it to the donor car’s negative connection.

Connecting Battery Cables

After that, connect its opposite side to the ‘ground.’ That should be any bare metal frame on the engine or chassis of the car. It’s unsafe to place the negative cable end to the negative connection of your dead battery. Ensure you double-check the connections and ensure everything is secure.

Note that a negative battery connection is attached to the ground to prevent electrical power arcs and sparks from occurring near the battery. Without the ground connection, your vehicle’s electrical system could overload and short circuit.

  • Start the Engines; The Donor Car First

Start the donor car and rev until the RPMs hit the 1,500 mark. Maintain that engine speed for a few minutes. After that, try to start the other vehicle. If it doesn’t start, give it a few more minutes, then try again.

Once the engine runs, disconnect the negative jumping cable from the metal ground connection. Remove the other end of the cable from the negative side of the donor car’s battery. Next, disconnect the positive cable from the failed battery, then remove the opposite side from the donor car.

  • Drive the Car

You can’t turn off the engine immediately because the failed battery needs to recharge for at least thirty minutes. If you shut off the car, you’ll face the same situation again. Boost the recharging process by driving the car down the highway to enable the alternator to work faster. Drive for about 20 minutes for the best result.

You can also recharge your battery using a battery charger if there’s one at home. Portable car battery chargers are available in most auto parts stores. They are a great alternative to jumping dead batteries using a donor vehicle.

If your vehicle has a manual transmission, you can jump it without the help of another car. Position the vehicle at the top of a slop (you can also find people to help you push it). Press the brake, then the clutch to the floor, and put the car in second gear. Now insert the key in the ignition and turn it to position two (you don’t need to start the engine).

Release the brake pedal but keep holding the clutch so you’ll begin coasting down the slope or moving due to the people’s push. Release the clutch quickly once the speedometer reads 5 mph (about 8 km/h), and the engine should turn over. If it doesn’t, you can repeat the steps or press and release the clutch again.

How To Recharge Your Car Battery With a Charger?

To recharge your car battery with a charger, connect the positive charger’s cable to the positive side of the battery. Now connect the negative cable to the negative battery side. Now set the charger to your ideal charge rate and give it enough time to complete the charging.

If jumping your vehicle is not an option (for whatever reason), an external charger can help you revive the battery by following the steps above. Let’s discuss them in detail.

  • Connect the Charger Correctly

Before connecting the charger, ensure it’s off to prevent damage to your car’s battery. After that, attach the positive cable of the charger to the car’s positive battery terminal first.

Connect Battery Charger Correctly

Those asking, “Positive or negative first when connecting a battery?” note that attaching the positive first prevents the risk of sparks and energy arks. Thus, connect the negative clamp last to close the circuit, and the battery will be ready to receive a charge.

  • Set the Charger to the Ideal Charge Rate

You should set the charger so that it charges the battery slowly. That helps prevent overloading when the charging starts. Rapidly charging the battery can damage it. Once you adjust your charger to the slowest charge rate, please turn it on, then set the time for how long the battery should recharge.

You can skip that if your battery has a built-in timer that shuts off when charging is complete. If not, set a time for your smartphone to remind you to switch off the charger.

  • Leave the Battery To Charge

Your battery will take between 6 and 12 hours to charge fully, depending on your charger’s charge rate. A charge rate of 5 amps will require up to 12 hours to complete the charging, while a 10 amps rate will take about 6 hours. It would be best to consider that when setting the time in step 2 above.

What Are Some Quick and Surefire Ways to Determine if a Battery is Positive or Negative?

When dealing with fixing car battery charge issues, it’s crucial to identify the positive and negative terminals correctly. To determine this quickly and accurately, look for markings on the battery. Typically, the positive terminal is labeled with a plus (+) sign, while the negative terminal displays a minus (-) sign. Ensuring proper polarity is essential for a safe and successful battery repair.


You now know how to distinguish between the positive and negative on batteries.

We will leave you with a summary:

  • Multiple ways to differentiate the positive and negative connectors on a car battery exist, including the colors red and black on the battery cables and the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ markings on the battery.
  • The cable leading to the positive terminal usually is red, and the negative one is black.
  • In most cases, there will be a “+” sign or “POS” on the positive side of the battery and a “-” or “NEG” marking on the negative.
  • The surest way to check which side is positive and negative is by using a multimeter.
  • The voltage reading will be a negative number if the positive probe of the multimeter touches the negative terminal on the battery.

Now, safely jump your car like a pro by referring to our guide above. Remember, you can use an external charger to revive the battery if it’s more convenient.



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