Is Black or Red Positive on a Battery?

If you are stranded somewhere because of a dead battery, and another motorist passing you by is offering to give your car a jumpstart, do you know what to do? Do you know what is positive or negative in your battery? In this article, I’ll answer the question: “Is black or red positive on a battery?

There are two terminals in your battery. One is red, and the other is black. In most automotive vehicles, the red terminal is the positive terminal, and the black terminal is the negative terminal. Don’t ever connect the red cable of the jumpstarting battery to the dead battery’s negative terminal.

All automotive batteries are marked with symbols (+) and (-). The (+) terminal is usually red. It is the positive terminal. The (-) terminal is generally black. It is the negative terminal. This is the conventional meaning of the terminals designed to help people understand how the battery circuit is wired.

Read on to learn more about which color is the positive terminal in a battery. Is it black or red?

Is Black or Red Positive on a Battery?

is black or red positive on a car battery

The conventional standards of automotive batteries declare that the red-colored battery terminal is the positive terminal and the black-colored terminal is the negative terminal. This standard is followed in most batteries used in all motorized vehicles worldwide.

Knowing this standard in interpreting the colors of battery terminals is essential because there are times when you need to jumpstart or replace a dead battery. Connecting the terminals in the wrong way will result in an accident.

In jumpstarting a dead battery, you should never connect its red terminal to the black terminal of the jumpstarting battery. You should first make sure that you know the (+) or red terminal and the (-) black terminal of the dead battery and the jumpstarting battery.

Don’t ever connect the (+) red terminal of the jumpstarting battery to the (-) black terminal of the dead battery or vice versa. If you do that, you will cause an accident.

Why Is It Important to Locate Positive and Negative on a Battery?

Knowing the colors of battery terminals is essential because you never know when you will be forced to disconnect, connect, replace, or jumpstart your car battery.

Is black or red negative? The red (+) and black (-) symbols are designed so that you can easily understand how the battery circuit is wired.

If you don’t know this, you might cause an accident if you wrongly connect a battery terminal to the wrong terminal. The stored energy in a fully charged automotive battery is so great that you can be injured if you will create a wrong connection.

So, if you misconnect battery terminals, you will damage the battery and your car and may even cause an accident.

Is the Red Wire Always Positive on a Car Battery?

Between red or black, which of these two colors is positive? Which one is negative?

Conventional standards declare that the red terminal of an automotive battery represents its positive (+) terminal. This symbol is etched or stamped in almost all types and sizes of automotive batteries in the red terminal.

Typically, you will see a red protective casing over the battery’s positive (+) terminal. Battery manufacturers are placing these protective covers to prevent accidental shorting of the terminals.

If this protective casing is missing from your battery, look for the (+) mark or symbol on the terminal post itself. Or perhaps, the battery casing itself has this (+) sign. It is always safer to inspect the battery for this symbol before disconnecting or connecting its terminal to another terminal.

Why is this so important? The positive or red terminal of a car battery is the one that carries the higher voltage. If the voltage of your battery is 12 volts, this means there is a 12 volts difference between the red and the black terminal.

Since the red terminal carries the higher voltage, it means the voltage of the red terminal is higher by 12 volts compared to the black terminal. If you touch a live wire carrying 12 volts, you will get an electric shock, or possibly you could get burned. 

Is the Black Wire Always Negative on a Car Battery?

Conventional standards also declare that the black terminal of a car battery represents the negative (-) terminal. Typically, the negative symbol (-) is stamped or engraved on the black terminal of nearly all kinds of vehicle batteries.

In most cases, you will see a black protective cover on the (-) terminal of the battery casing. Battery manufacturers are putting these protective covers to prevent accidental shorting of the terminals.

If there is no protective cover on your battery or it is missing, look for the (-) mark or symbol on the terminal post itself. It is always safe to look for this symbol on the battery before connecting or disconnecting the terminal to another terminal.

Another thought on the matter: The norm in our society has accepted the notion that red equals STOP or DANGER. So, it makes sense that the red color is used to designate the battery terminal that carries the higher voltage and the black color to represent the lower voltage terminal.

This system of representing wires in an electric circuit is always followed anywhere in the world. In the United States, they call the red wire the HOT wire because it is the wire that is alive. You will feel shocked when you touch this wire because it is live.

Why Do Battery Terminals Have Red and Black Colors

There’s a reason why red and black colors designate automotive batteries’ positive and negative terminals. You already have an inkling of the reason in the last statement I gave before this section:

Prevent Accidents

Keeping people out of harm is the primary reason this conventional standard is used in electrical circuits. When people see RED, especially in electrical gadgets, the first thing that enters their mind is DANGER.

If you know that your car battery is the source of your car’s power, you will be more careful handling it. You will be especially careful about working and touching its red terminal because of what the color connotes.

This is especially true if you need to disconnect, connect, replace, or jumpstart your dead battery. You need to know how to safely do these things and not just do them without knowing beforehand how to handle these wires.

Misconnecting Wires Will Result in a Short Circuit

Misconnecting these wires will result in a short circuit. Then the wires will get hot, which could melt the wiring insulation. If this happens, it could start an electrical fire. So, it pays to know the meaning of the colors of a battery terminal.

To make it simpler so you can easily remember what we have been discussing so far:

  • For battery terminals – red means it is the positive terminal
  • For jump starters – red is the positive wire
  • For jumper cables – red is the positive cable

How to Connect Jumper Starter Cables

is positive on a battery red or black

When you need to connect your dead battery to the fully charged battery of another car, you should never forget that your car is the common ground. It is where the negative (-) battery terminal post is wired through its black cable.

So, to connect the dead battery to the jumpstarting battery, you should connect its positive (+) terminal before connecting the negative (-) or black cable.

If you are already finished charging your dead battery, disconnect it from the jumpstarting battery in this way:

  • Disconnect the negative (-) or black cable first
  • Then disconnect the positive (+) red cable.

This is the safest method because if you accidentally drop the cable clamps, there will be a short circuit if they touch the bare metal of your car or its chassis. In this regard, you should also educate yourself first about the proper procedure before attempting to jumpstart your dead battery,

Here are some additional safety tips that you can follow when jumpstarting your car:

  • Don’t allow the two negative terminals to come in contact with each other
  • Make sure that you have grounded yourself with one end of the negative (-) black cable
  • Once your car starts and you need to remove the cables, don’t allow the cable clamps to come in contact with each other.

Again, is black or red positive on a car battery? A car battery’s negative terminal is usually black and has a minus (-) sign, while the positive terminal is usually red with a plus (+) symbol.

How to Jump Start Your Battery

Now that you know about the safety precautions you need to take when jumpstarting your car, you also need to know the correct procedure for jumpstarting your vehicle. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Wear a pair of protective gloves and a pair of safety goggles.
  2. Connect the red or positive end of the jumper cable to your dead battery’s positive or red terminal.
  3. Connect the red or positive end of the jumper cable to the red or positive end of the jumper battery.
  4. Connect the end of the black or negative jumper cable to the black or negative terminal of the jumper battery.
  5. Connect the black or negative jumper cable to the ground anywhere on your car. Choose a part of your car made of heavy-duty metal, either on the chassis or the engine. Don’t connect the jumper cable’s negative terminal to your dead battery’s negative terminal. Doing so will create sparks that can ignite the hydrogen gases coming from the battery.
  6. Double-check if you have made all the right connections.
  7. Start the car connected to the jumper battery. Allow the engine to climb up to about 1,500 to 2,000 rpm. Maintain that speed for a few minutes.
  8. Start your car to see if its dead battery can crank its engine.
  9. As soon as your engine starts running, disconnect the negative or black jumper cable connected to the ground (of your car).
  10. Disconnect the positive and negative jumper cables from the jumpstarting battery.
  11. Disconnect the positive jumper cable from your formerly dead battery.
  12. Run your engine for about 30 minutes. That will be sufficient time for your alternator to charge your formerly dead battery.

How to Recycle Your Old Battery

After replacing an old battery, don’t just throw it away. Don’t you know that it has some parts that could still be recycled? If your old battery is made of lead–acid, the lead in it can be recycled and used repeatedly.

Lead-acid batteries are usually made up of the following:

  • 20 pounds of lead
  • 1 gallon of sulfuric acid
  • 2 pounds of plastic

These materials can be recycled into new components of fresh batteries. As such, they can be used repeatedly. As much as 99% of your discarded battery can be recycled. Aside from making new batteries, they can also be used to make other products.

Recycling your old battery is not difficult. All you have to do is to find a local retailer who is willing to accept old batteries or is already in the business of recycling consumer items. Then, depending on its policies, you can just drop your old battery in their store and you’re done.

They say that the most recycled used products in this world are old batteries. Consider the following figures that show the recycling percentages of the most used consumer items in our world:

  • Glass bottles – 26%
  • Newspaper – 45%
  • Aluminum cans – 55%
  • Lead acid batteries – 99%

How Old Car Batteries Are Recycled

While you can no longer use your old battery, most of what it is made of can still be recycled. So, instead of cluttering your storage yard and being a visual nuisance, just give it to a recycling outlet where its components could still be put to good use.

Here is a simple explanation of how old lead acid batteries are recycled.

  • The old battery will usually be dismantled
  • Its lead content as well as its other heavy materials are separated from the plastic parts
  • The lead content is melted into lead ingots.
  • The lead ingots will be melted again and formed into lead plates and other parts of a new battery
  • The polypropylene content of the old battery will be made into new pellets which will be made into new battery cases
  • The lead acid of the old battery will be processed to make sodium sulfate. This substance is used in the manufacture of textiles, glass, and detergents.

Frequently Asked Questions

is red or black negative on a car battery

If you have some questions about this topic, perhaps you will get your answers from the ones listed below:

How Can I Tell the Positive from the Negative Terminal of My Car Battery?

The easiest way you can differentiate the positive terminal from the negative terminal of your battery is to look at its color. It is the positive terminal if it is protected by a red cap. So, the other terminal should be the negative terminal.

Another way of doing it is by inspecting the terminals themselves. If a terminal has a (+) symbol etched or stamped on it, it is the positive terminal. So, the other terminal should be the negative one.

What Will Happen If You Wrongly Connect the Positive and Negative Terminals?

You will be short-circuiting your battery which can damage it and possibly cause an electrical fire in your vehicle. You should do everything possible to avoid misconnecting these terminals because of the dire consequences that can happen.

Is There a Reason Why Battery Terminals Are Colored?

Yes, there is a compelling reason why they color red as the positive battery terminal and black as the negative terminal. This is done so people will be careful in connecting battery cables. Accidents such as electrical fires can happen if these wires are wrongly connected.

To avoid these consequences, positive terminals are colored red and negative terminals are colored black. Red terminals are the ones that carry live currents. They are called the HOT terminal. To distinguish it from the other wire, it is colored red.

People usually associate the red color with DANGER. So, car battery manufacturers used red for the hot terminal so people will be more careful in handling them, especially when it is connected to a vehicle.

What Color Do You Connect First in a Battery?

For safety purposes, you should connect the red terminal first before connecting the black terminal. It is the battery terminal that carries the voltage of the battery. So, the order of connection is as follows:

  • Red first, then tighten and secure the connection, and then
  • Black next, and then tighten and secure the connection.

What Will Happen If You Connect the Positive Terminal to the Negative Terminal?

This will result in the battery producing a great surge of electric current between the terminals. Then the battery will start to heat up.

There will be unwanted chemical reactions inside the battery which will produce great amounts of hydrogen gas. If the battery is made of lead acid, the consequences may be even worse.

In Closing: Is Red or Black Positive on a Battery?

All automotive vehicles use batteries with two terminals. One of the terminals is usually red. It is the positive terminal. The other terminal is typically black. It is the negative terminal.

This is the conventional coloring of battery terminals. It is designed to help people easily understand how the battery circuit is wired.

If you want to jumpstart a dead battery, you should not connect the red cable of the jump starting batter to the black cable of the dead battery or you will start an accident.