How to: Convert a vehicle from Positive Earth to Negative Earth

Positive to Negative Earth Conversion

First up, why do we have Positive Earth and Negative Earth in cars…?

During first half of the 20th century some manufacturers used positive ground, while others used negative ground, and some even switched form positive earth to negative earth more than once.

When car radios became a popular accessory, ignition static could be a problem, and it was good if all vehicles might have the same electrical polarity to reduce ignition noise on the radios. We still had a mixture of positive and negative earth vehicles until the mid 1960’s. With the advent of practical portable alternators it was a convenient time to standardize, and all vehicles thereafter were built with electrical return path to the negative battery post. For a couple of years in the mid 1960’s there were a few positive earth alternators, but most people have never seen one.

For that reason, if your car is still a positive earth vehicle, it pays to switch it over.

A 1958 MGA… Originally positive earth.

How to convert your car from positive earth to negative earth:

Make sure that the ignition to the car is in the off position before you start.


Disconnect both of your battery terminal connections, and turn the battery around 180 degrees. If it is not possible to turn the battery, the cables must be lengthened. Now connect the cable that leads to the starter to the positive post on the battery. Position the ground cable so that it can be connected to the negative post of the battery, you may need to purchase new connectors, but do not connect it now.


Look at the wiring on the ignition coil. One side is probably marked SW (SWitch and the other is probably marked CB (Contact Breaker). Your ignition coil may be marked with a + (plus) and a – (minus), instead of SW and CB, as it may have had the coil replaced at some time. Reverse these wire connections. Essentially …….

a) for contact points, if the ignition low tension coil wiring is reversed, the coil will “pull” spark, rather than “push” the spark, and you will be losing about 50% of your voltage at the spark plugs and have a weak spark. Electrons prefer to leave a high-temperature, high energy surface (like the center electrode of the spark plug) rather than a low-temperature (low energy) surface like the arm of the spark plug. More voltage/spark is available if the electrons move in the correct direction, in the direction they prefer, from the high-temperature center electrode of the spark plug to the relatively low-temperature arm of the spark plug.

b) For electronic ignitions that will only work with negative earth you must reverse these wire connections or you will blow the electronic ignition module.


Look at the Generator. You should see a large brown wire and a smaller wire connecting to a terminal marked F (for Field). Pull off the wire to the Field terminal. Connect a short jumper wire to the large brown connection (make sure you have metal-to-metal contact). Touch the jumper “lightly / slightly” to the Field terminal on the generator. You should see sparks, touch again (more sparks), and again (again more sparks). Now disconnect the jumper wire from the large brown connection, and re-connect the Field terminal wire. Your generator is now polarized negative earth.


Remove the ammeter from the instrument panel leaving wiring connected and reverse the brown wire connections on the back side of the ammeter. It is easy to tell if you have done this correctly the gauge will simply read “backwards”.

Replace the ammeter in the instrument panel.

Your car is now wired for negative ground (negative earth).

You can now reconnect the battery with a new negative earth cable and install a new radio, tape player, CD player, radar detector, or even plug devices into your cigar lighter without worrying about frying components.

84 thoughts on “How to: Convert a vehicle from Positive Earth to Negative Earth”

  1. Simon, will jumper wire on field of gen spark with batt disconected. Also if changing wires on coil causes less voltage to plugs do you need to change the coil. Gene with a Healey 3000.

  2. I have a 1936 Austin 10 I wish to convert to negative earth and I find your instructions very good. However, I would appreciate confirmation if my petrol gauge requires any changes to the wiring. It has the following markings, T (to fuel tank sender) Positive wire currently going to centre gauge securing clamp post and a third wire going to post marked B. Thanks Eugene.

    1. Hi Eugene
      It is hard to say for certain but from the description it appears you would simply be able to wire this to the live wire once the conversion is done so I would unhook it and reconnect after the conversion for testing.

      1. Thanks Simon for the quick reply. I had been thinking it would probably be necessary to introduce an earth wire to the centre post as feed will likely be coming to the terminal marked ‘B’. I am unable to ascertain at present the source of the lead going to this ‘B’ terminal. Eugene

      2. Please check to see the model of dial… and you will likely see that same model and the wiring for such. I am afraid I do not know those dials well enough to comment without giving you a pure guess.

      3. Thanks Simon, it is a 2″ Smiths gauge with X40194 and 2H.1523 immediately below it at the very top of the gauge face. No markings on side or back except for the ‘B’ and ‘T’ next to the 2 outer post at the back. Hope this helps. Thanks Eugene.

      4. Yes I would not know the specifics of that dial and it would be best to track down some wiring info on it form a manual possibly. I am unable to give any further help on this.

  3. i have a wolseley 6/110 which i am changing to negitive earth having read your instructions every thing looks straight forward except my wiper motor 2power green power wires in and a black earth wire out side your advice please

  4. When I push the starter solenoid button after conversion to negative earth nothing happens. If I bridge the connectors the car turns over. If I change the battery back to positive earth and connect a negative feed to the solenoid then press the button the engine turns over. Tried another solenoid and same result. Could my solenoid type only be suitable for pos earth?

  5. I have an Minor 1000 which has a +ve earth system. The electric fuel pump is +ve earth, therefore am I correct in saying that the pump in the event of -ve earth change, the pump must be converted or replaced for -ve earth working

  6. Thank for last reply, when changing from poz to neg earth would I need to do anything with the voltage regulator? Thanks David

  7. I have a positive earth electronic ignition system bought from you Simon, will I need to change it? Or can I just swap wires over.

    1. If you have the positive earth ignition kit and are thinking about changing to a negative earth wiring then you will need to source the negative earth version yes, you can not simply swap the wires for the kit.


  8. Replacing a gen with an alternator with built in reg and changing to neg earth on a Morris 1000 any tips or suggestions?

  9. Hi Simon, land rover defender td5 the 10as alarm gives a positive signal to trigger lock unlock adding central locking by Hawk which works on a negative trigger, do I use relays to correct this problem please? So I can use original fob a d not have to carry 2 around?

    1. Converting Classic cars vehicle earths ‘positive to negative’ is straightforward compared to the operation of plastic and metal alarm ECU and CDL devices.
      The alarm and centre locking systems and signal triggers from devices on the Defender are complex.
      The best place for getting advice and modifying these is either :-
      b) Technozen Electronics
      I am sure these are a couple of companies that can offer the specialist help/modification and/or advice that you require.
      In addition there are several companies that offer specific solutions for the key fob bypass and upgrades that you can also consider but are too numerous to list here.
      I hope this has helped, and good luck

  10. If the vehicle has an isolation switch attached to negative do you need to change this to positive when changing the polarity?

  11. My 50’s Daimler has positive earth and 4×25 amp fuses to the chassis. What is the situation there.? Do I put the fuses in line with the new positive travel.?

      1. Hi Simon.
        It’s a Daimler DE36. No fibreglass for miles.😁 All good old steel and s bit of aluminium.

  12. Recently came into a 1964 Triumph TR4. I have it running but fuel and temperature gauges don’t seem to read correctly. A mechanic indicated that he thinks when it was changed from positive to negative ground, they did not change the voltage stabilizer which may be causing the problem. Could this be the problem? How do i know if a voltage stabilzer is positive or negative ground?

  13. Hi, I wish to convert my Daimler v8 2.5l to Negative earth. What else do I need to change besides the items you listed?

  14. I replaced gen. and reg on 65 mg midget positive earth and polarized by touching neg battery to field it has an isn’t light and no ammeter the light goes out only at idle when rpms go up light comes back on? any suggestions? thank you Randy

    1. Sounds as if you are missing one of the steps in the walkthrough. You should see the flash if they have all been completed as in the instructions.


  15. Under Dynamo you have not said whether to hook up the battery the old way or new way to get 3 sparks. The goal is convert to Neg Ground.

  16. what would cause this i have followed the instructions to the letter in regards to converting positive earth to negative earth .I can not get a spark across from the connector to the terminal I am reading it as i have to have the ignition off and only the positive connection on the battery .i have tried with the battery connected but either way I have no spark so i cannot polarise the dynamo the vehicle is a mk1 Ford Consul anyone got any ideas ?

    1. Please note these points :

      Maybe engine is not earthed enough.
      Connect dynamo earth ie mounting ——- to battery earth on the terminal doesn’t need special wire even a jump lead will do then flash another wire from live

      I hope this helps


    2. To polarise the dynamo to negative earth you can just take an extra wire from the live ie+ve and flash it on the power cable to the dynamo the battery needs to have negative lead connected/grounded and might need 2 or 3 goes to be sure, you can turn dynamo a few degrees by hand.


  17. sorry I’m back again but I just need to get this right will changing from positive earth to negative earth mean I will have to change my feul gauge as well? thanks p,cope

    1. Usually the fuel pump is one component that does need to change after the polarity change so this would be good to double check with your vehicle. If you have a FuelFlow fuel pump then you can un these on both positive and negative earth vehicles.


    2. It is likely yes but this depends on the actual gauge itself as some aftermarket gauges are capable of dual polarity.


  18. hi I would like to follow the very clear steps you gave to change my 1963 fb victor over from positive earth to negative,other than my amp meter do I have to alter the wiper moter wires as well ?thanks for your help p,cope

    1. It is common to have to change the two components’ wiring you mentioned when completing the conversion yes, however it can be different for some components so it is always good to double check on each individual part to be sure.


  19. I bought a 1966 Riley Elf that was last on road in 1982 but had no battery ! How do I know if it is positive or negative earth please ?

    1. Thank you for your post… If you check which side of the battery is to ground and also which side of the coil is wired to the Live side this will be the best way to tell.
      Please call up to the office on 01527 889 453 if you have any further questions.

  20. Hi

    I bought a Jaguar XK140 recently that had been changed to negative earth but I am not sure what items were re-wired. There was a loud noise from the relay every time I switched on the overdrive and I cured this by reversing the leads on the illuminated switch (no idea why – but it worked).

    I have just discovered, by chance, that the heater rheostat switch is getting seriously hot when driving along. Could this be caused by the polarity change (or something else?) and are there any other components that I should be concerned about?


    1. Yes this would be likely and it would be wise to check this with a negative earth switch. It is likely that some electrical components are not compatible to run in negative earth.

      1. Thanks very much for the quick response. Where could I get a negative earth switch that would fit an XK140 and are there any particular other items I should check?


    1. If your vehicle is negative earth then you don’t have to do any of the above but you do need to follow the three steps, battery, coil and dynamo or alternator… all of these need to be swapped over in accordance to the steps above.

  21. hi Tom here i have a 1963 bedford ca van i have just purchased a electronic ignition kif {kit 10}
    do i need to reverse wires on starter and dynamo after i reverse batery cheers Tom

  22. Hi,
    I am looking for an electronic ignition kit for my 1961 Wolseley 6/99.It has the DM6 type distributor -it’s very original and I want to keep it positive earth.Do you have anything suitable? Will I need another coil?

  23. I accidently connected my 1953 GMC pick up as a positive ground and now my vehicle doesn’t want to start what should I check first

  24. i just brought a K3X replace my regular point, my car is 70 rolls royce silver shadow ,
    after received the parts ,no installation instruction attached,just want to know, is the red wire connected to the coil + and the black connected to the Coil -?pl advice.also want to know, should i change the coil?
    pl reply asap

    1. Thank you for your email.
      We are sorry that you were missing the K3X instructions, form this I assume that it was labelled on the K3XRoyce on the invoice. If this was the case then you have the correct item, I was worried that you had the K3X which is for the P5B or P6.
      So with that covered it certainly is the Red to the positive side of the coil and Black to the negative side.

  25. New conrtol box fitted to ’64 998 cooper. Ignition light stays on when revving engine. Dynamo re- poarised to – earth. New brushes and commutator checked, fan belt tension good. Not sure what alse to check?

    1. This sounds like there is an issue with wiring to the coil or that the wiring is not connected at the coil.
      There is no reason why the ignition light would stay on unless wiring is incorrect. When you say new control box, what do you actually mean please?

  26. Original SU fuel pump should work fine without any wiring changes, but if it has an electrolytic condenser inside the lid this must be unsoldered and reversed.

    Wiring to wiper motor should be reversed, otherwise it will destroy its bearings because the thrust on the armature will be away from the thrust bearing.

    Heater (if fitted) should have fan wiring reversed or else the fan will suck instead of blowing. The fan motor has 2 wires plugged into the side. Just pull them off and swap sides.

    Fuel gauge has a voltage stabilizer associated with it. This is clearly marked POSITIVE EARTH. You will have to replace it with a negative earth unit from a later MGB.

  27. Have you an electronic ignition system for an AC 2 litre saloon 1949 6 cylinder lucas distributor?

    1. Peter lynch asked.I have recently acquired a Rover 1949 P3 4 light 6 cyl sports and want to convert to
      neg earth.I have an electrictronic ignition from a 4 cylinder distributor.Can adapt it to the 6cyl distributor.Also I want to fit an alternator to bypass the old regulator ETC Hope you can help.

  28. I have a 1965 MGB Roadster, I want to put electronic ign on.
    Do I have to change my fuel pump or swap wires?
    Will RPM gauge still work?
    Heater motor?
    I just want to be sure converting to neg earth will be ok for me

    1. Thank you for your question.
      Here is a list of the changes you may need to make:
      Fuel Pump you can swap wires and this will be fine although we do offer a replacement low pressure fuel pump
      Rev counter can be resoldered inside see Internet article for possible help if not there are many articles on the internet about this.
      Radio may need changing as some radios are positive earth only and likewise negative earth only (if there is one installed)
      Heater will work regardless of the polarity

      I hope that this document above provides enough info to help with the conversion and helps in relation to the Coil, Battery, Ammeter and Dynamo / Alternator

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