In a negative (-) earth-return system, the current flows from the positive (+) terminal to the component being operated. The component is earthed to the car body, which is earthed to the negative (-) terminal of the battery.
A headlamp bulb, for example, is designed to have a degree of resistance so that it consumes a certain current to glow normally. But there are at least two headlamps in the circuit. If they were connected in series, electric current would have to go through one headlamp to get to the other.
The other, probably rated at about 20-30 amps, protects components not wired through the ignition — horns, interior lights and the cigarette lighter. Where a single fuse protects a number of circuits and keeps blowing, each circuit must be checked individually to discover which one is faulty.
Most car handbooks and service manuals include a wiring diagram which can be difficult to follow. The colour-coding, however, is a useful guide to tracing wiring.