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A relay is an electrically operated switch, and its the operating circuit (the coil - usually depicted by a rectangle with

a diagonal) has ID '86' for positive (12volt nom. - input); and ID '85' for negative (vehicle ground - output). Most relays are not polarity sensitive, but a few diode protected or latching types are, so always use '86' as the positive side to

be safe. The circuit the relay is to switch has ID '30' for the positive input contact of the circuit, and either ID '87' or '87a' or '87b' for the negative output contact of the circuit. Note : the input is not necessarily 12volt and the output is not necessarily vehicle ground, as some schematic designs switch the 'high side' or positive side of a device, and some switch the 'low-side' or negative side of a device, so check your circuit schematic.

Relay contact layouts come in various forms and the picture shows the commonly used automotive ones, which are mostly single pole types (there are theoretically hundreds of different layouts, but don't worry about them as they are rare and are essentially just variations in number of poles and active contacts). The common contact layout types are referred to in much the same way as mechanical switches, and are : NO = 'normally open' circuit, when no voltage is applied to the coil., sometimes described as 'single pole/single throw/make' or 'SPST-make' or 'SPST-NO' NC = 'normally closed' circuit, when no voltage is applied to the coil, sometimes described as 'single pole/single throw/break' or 'SPST-break' or 'SPST-NC' ... single pole here means a single switched circuit. ... single throw here means a single contact is 'made' or 'broken'. These are the '4-blade' relay types.

Sometimes a relay will have a 2nd switched output contact - this is the '5-blade' relay type. The three common ones are shown in the picture. On the left we have a output contact that has both 'NC' and 'NO' output contacts, so the relay action is to change the circuit from : '30' connected to '87A' when no voltage is applied to the coil, to : '30' connected to '87' when voltage is applied to the coil. This is often called a 'change-over' switching action or 'CO' or specifically 'SPCO'. In the middle we have two 'NO' output contacts, so the relay action is : '30' NOT connected anything when no voltage is applied to the coil, to : '30' connected to both '87' and '87B' when no voltage is applied to the coil.

This is called a 'single pole/double throw/make' or 'SPDT-make' or 'SPDT-NO'. (it has to be said that some people call this a 'SP3T', as 3 independant contacts are connected when energized) The advantage of this is that until the relay is energized, the '87' and '87B' circuits are NOT connected to each other. On the right we have a '5-blade' version of the '4-Blade' version described above as 'SPST-NO' ... it is simply a convenient way to provide an extra physical blade connection on the output, so both blades have the '87' ID.

Very occasionally you may find some double pole relay types, but they follow the same principles as above and of course will have more blade connections, so the physical package will be very different and probably specific to a manufacturer = probably expensive!