How To Tell Which Is Positive And Negative On A Car Battery?

Updated October, 2020
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Telling a positive and negative terminal on a battery is important for your safety and the car's longevity. The positive terminal normally has a red cover or cable attached to it. At the very least the positive terminal has a plus sign stamped somewhere near it. The negative end should have a smaller cable or a negative sign stamped near it.

Stay safe—Here's how to tell the positive and negative sides of a battery

The battery has 2 sides, one positive terminal and one red terminal. Mixing up your positive and negative terminals can severely damage your car. Because of this manufacturers tend to make finding the positive terminal easy to differentiate from the negative terminal. Here are some ways to find the positive terminal

  • A red or black cover with a plus sign on the cover.
  • A plus sign stamped into the battery next to the terminal
  • The battery cable that connects to the positive terminal is red

Knowing the two sides before applying jumper cables is key

Knowing the two terminals from each other can save you and your car from damage. When jumping your car, having the cables on the wrong terminals can cause not only damage to your car, but also to you. If they are hooked up wrong, you could drain you battery, short out your car, or send sparks flying onto your skin. Here is how to jump your car safely:

  • Attach red to positive on both batteries then the black to the negative terminal of the good battery and a ground point on the dead car.
  • Start up the good car and rev the engine to around 1,500 rpm then start the dead car
  • Once the dead car has started remove the ground, then the cables from the good battery, and finally the positive from the jumped car.
  • Run the car for around 20 minutes to allow the battery to be charged.

Signs your battery needs to be replaced

If your battery can't hold a charge or can't be jumped, its time for a new battery. To avoid getting to this point it can help to know what causes these problems. Overloading a battery or improper use can cause these issues on top of other things.

  • If you have a smell or odor coming out of your engine check your battery. A short circuit or damage to the case of the battery can cause a leak. Battery acid leaking in your car is never a good thing.
  • If you notice corrosion on the battery connectors it may be time to change your battery. Corrosion is a white ashy substance that prevents your battery from putting out its full power. Sometimes cleaning the corrosion can help, but sometimes that damage is irreversible.
  • If your battery isn't holding a charge then you may have overloaded it. Plugging too many electronics into your car can drain your battery faster than your alternator can charge it. If this happens it causes damage to your battery's reserve permanently.

How to tell when it's my battery or another car issue?

Sometimes an issue may seem like a battery issue, but it's an issue with another part of your car. The most common culprits are your alternator, a blown fuse, or a short in the electrical wiring. Differentiating these from a battery issue is important to save you time and money.

  • If you charge your battery and it doesn't hold that charge, get your alternator tested. The alternator is responsible for charging the battery as you drive.
  • A short circuit can drain your batteries power. If your battery is struggling to hold a charge get it tested as well as your electrical circuits.
  • If your headlights or interior lights are flickering or aren't working and you have changed the bulb, check the fuses. They are easy to replace and cheap to buy.

When the time arises, is my insurance going to be enough?

When it comes to car insurance, there are several factors to consider beyond monthly cost. A policy that covers you when you need it, has a low deductible, and offers several discounts can be hard to find - which is why we've done the work for you.

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