Which Battery Cable Should be Removed First, but Installed Last?

What's the proper procedure for removing and installing a battery cable on an automobile to avoid damage? Let's find out!

Battery Cable Removal

Whether you need to jump start the car or it’s time to replace a battery, you must know the proper way to disconnect and reconnect the cables. Which battery cable should be removed first but installed last? If you don’t get the answer right, you could put yourself in danger.

The negative cable should always be removed first and replaced last. If you take the positive off first, you could create an electrical short, especially if anything metal touches the area. You must take proper battery precautions to keep everyone safe. 

In this guide, we look closer at the reasons to take the negative cable off first. We also help you identify the two battery cables and describe in-depth why this step is essential. 

Identifying Battery Cables

The battery terminals in your car should be either marked or color-coded. If the terminals are marked, you will see a positive symbol on the positive terminal and a minus sign where the negative terminal is.

There’s also the chance that the caps are color-coded. In this case, red indicates a positive terminal, while the black cap shows you where the negative terminal is. If you are really lucky, your car will include symbols and colors, making it easier to identify. 

Which Battery Cable Should Be Removed First?

You should always remove the negative battery cable from its connector first. Look for the negative terminal with either a minus sign or a black cap. This simple step helps you avoid any spark or electric shock.

To disconnect the battery cable, you will need a socket wrench, typically 10mm. It needs to fit on the connector bolt. Turn your wrench counter-clockwise and it should loosen. Just make sure the socket never touches both of the terminals at the same time, or you will create an electrical pathway.

When you remove the negative cable, you want to put it aside. Don’t let it touch the battery or positive terminal. 

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Which Battery Cable Should Be Reconnected Last?

The negative battery cable should be installed last, and the positive cable first. When you are putting a new battery in or have finished jump starting it, you have to be careful to reconnect it appropriately. If you follow the steps you took to remove the terminals, you would simply do everything in reverse order. 

With these guidelines in place, you must connect the positive terminal first. Once that is complete, you are ready to connect the negative terminal last. 

RELATED: Battery Terminal Corrosion Causes (How to Fix & Prevent It)

Why Disconnect Negative First?

If you fail to remove the negative connection from the battery first, you put yourself at risk of an electrical short. As an example, if you were to drop a metal tool on the positive terminal and it also touches anything metal on the vehicle, you could create a circuit. 

This problem will short your battery. It can also give you one heck of a shock. That’s why the negative cable should always be the first off and last back on. 

However, it’s also just as important that the connectors don’t touch each other or anything else while you have them disconnected. Some people choose to use a plastic zip tie or another item to attach them temporarily somewhere out of the way. Just make sure you don’t let them touch anything made from metal. 

Once you are ready to reinstall the connectors, you can remove them from the zip ties. Remember to install the positive cable first and always end with the negative. Give both connectors a strong wiggle to ensure that they are properly seated for the best connection. 

Don’t be alarmed if you see a small spark when you put the negative cable back on. This just indicates that you re-established the electrical circuit.