If the cable overheated, there could be a fire. The fuse prevents that happening, because its thin wire will melt and break the circuit long before the cable itself can heat up and burn. Some cars have only two fuses. One rated at about 30-50 amps protects components wired through the ignition switch — flashers, wipers, heater-motor and instruments.
When an electrical component stops working the fault may be in the component, in the electrical circuit or in the fuse that protects them. Because the fuse is a likely cause, and the easiest to check, look at it first.
This is called a negative earth system, and when buying an electrical accessory a radio, for example check that it is of a type suitable for your car system. Fitting a radio with the incorrect polarity will damage the set, but most car radios have an external switch for setting the polarity to suit that of the car. Switch to the correct setting before fitting.
Current flows along a single cable from the battery to the component being powered, and back to the battery through the car metal body. The body is connected to the earth terminal of the battery by a thick cable.