Electrical polarity

Electrical polarity

Electrical polarity (positive and negative) is present in every electrical circuit. Electrons flow from the negative pole to the positive pole. In a direct current (DC) circuit, one pole is always negative, the other pole is always positive and the electrons flow in one direction only. In an alternating current (AC) circuit the two poles alternate between negative and positive and the direction of the electron flow continually reverses.

Positive and negative

In DC circuits (e.g. for a car battery) positive is usually marked red and negative is usually marked black, but other color schemes are very common in automotive and telecommunications systems.

In AC systems which are at no point connected to earth (unlike domestic mains wiring where the neutral is commonly earthed at substations and generators) polarity is not important as the two wires alternate polarity many times per second.

Ground (earth)

Modern cars have a "negative earth" electrical system. In this case the negative terminal of the battery is bonded to the vehicle's chassis (the metallic body work) and the positive terminal provides the "live" wire to the various systems. However, some older cars were built with a "positive earth" electrical system, in this case the positive terminal of the battery is bonded to the chassis and the negative terminal for the live.

See also