Scamp 16' installing breakaway switch - Fiberglass RV
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Old 04-12-2007, 12:05 PM   #1
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So here goes my first question regarding our new to us 16' Scamp 1992.
B.C. requires a breakaway switch on any trailer that has electric brakes. The trailer needs to go for it's inspection here shortly (import requirement) and we want to get it right the first time.

I wondered if anyone has installed a breakaway switch on an older Scamp and how hard was it. Have read a bit on the installation and it looks fairly straight forward but worry about best place to break into the blue wire etc as all the exposed outside wires are covered....

Any words of wisdom greatly appreciated.

Carol
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Old 04-12-2007, 04:58 PM   #2
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My guess is that all of the wires in the cable to the tow vehicle are terminated in the same area, somewhere buried in the trailer interior; in my Boler, this is under the street-side dinette, along with the converter. All of the cables to/from the outside (the cable to the tow vehicle, the wires to the brakes, the positive and negative wires to the battery) go through holes in the floor in my case. If the Scamp is like most RV's I've seen, this will unfortunately look like a nest of multi-colour snakes.

When I needed to fix brake wiring (I had a breakaway switch, but it was non-functional and I also had bad connections somewhere and a damaged plug at the tow vehicle end of the cable) I replaced the whole cable to the tow vehicle, and now it ends in a box with a seven-position screw terminal strip, mounted outside on the tongue. It's an enclosed box intended for mounting on the outside of commercial truck trailers. The brake wiring is now kept entirely outside of the trailer body, and all of the seven signals from the tow vehicle are accessible at this box. That's more radical modification than required to just add a breakaway switch!
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Old 04-12-2007, 05:03 PM   #3
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Carol,
Does your Scamp have it's own battery? That is what normally would power the brakes in case the trailer and tow vehicle become unintentionally seperated. A battery just for that purpose was added to my neighbor's utility trailer. I believe it was done by the trailer manufacturer.
To avoid any mistakes, your wisest course of action would probably be to contact Scamp for instructions.

Kurt & Ann K.
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Old 04-12-2007, 05:36 PM   #4
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On your Scamp, the blue wire should be inside the cable harness coming from the tow vehicle connector to the battery area -- I don't know if it actually goes into the battery box or if it exits the harness and ducks under the trailer, but that is the place I would connect the brake-away wires. Be sure the brake ground is also attached to the trailer frame and can get back to the ground of the battery.

The external brake battery is only needed when the trailer does not have its own battery (aka house battery).

Here's the instructions/wiring diagram for the installation in case anyone is interested.
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Old 04-12-2007, 06:48 PM   #5
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Thanks everyone for there thoughts.

Indeed the brakeaway switch works off the house battery no need for another battery. The house battery is mounted outside at the front of trailer. The wiring of the switch is pretty simple. The problem is getting at the blue wire.

I can see the blue wire on the underside were it goes to the brakes but then it goes back inside and disappears. I can't see inside the area of the trailer were all the wires come out of the trailer - suspect they are hidden between the trailer underside and the bottom area of the front bunk storage or at least that is the point they exit the trailer. So it appears there is no way to get at them from inside the trailer that is close to where I need to mount the breakaway switch on the tongue.

I do have the Scamps wiring diagram which shows the blue (which I need to connect to) exiting out of the trailer and wrapped up in the harness going to the connector. The wiring diagram for the Scamp does not show the blue wire going to the battery which seems right as it would not make sence for it to do so and I can actually see that it is only the white and black going to the battery as they should.

Peter your right in that I need to connect to the blue wire just at the point it leaves the trailer or just before but as it's all so neatly wrapped up was hoping not to have to cut the harness off to get at it. Also worry about having the slice exposed as well as messing up my nice looking harness. ;-) I see that the harness has a retaining ring with a screw holding in place were it enters the trailer.

Wondered if I took that off if there might be enough slack wires to pull it all out and slice in and then stuff it back inside. Then I would have only the wire from the breakaway switch leaving the trailer outside the harness.

Would I be making a big mistake to try and take the retaining ring off? Is there normally a fair bit of extra wire length in behind were it exits the trailer that I would be able to pull out to get at?

Any words of advise on how best to slice the harness to get at the need wire without making a mess of the harness if all else fails?


Carol
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Old 04-12-2007, 10:16 PM   #6
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Pete and Carol:

I recently installed one of Tekonsha's breakaway switch systems to satisfy the legal requirements in states other than Oregon. This kit came with its own little battery and charger which is kept up by the regular electrical system. Some other variations of this kit do not have the battery.

I didn't question the inclusion of the battery, and the installation did not present any special problems in getting the two systems meshed. The reason I accepted it was that in the deep dark recesses of my mind the thought had been planted that at least some states required the system to have an independent battery source. Can anyone deny or confirm?

An aside: this little battery serves my purposes well, since I sometimes leave home with fully charged batteries, switch the batteries out of the system and run the refrigerator off the TV from an inverter (the AC element is bigger and does a better job than the 12v) without any chance of the batteries being even minimally discharged. Works for me.
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Old 04-13-2007, 07:50 AM   #7
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I looked that switch system up at etrailer. Here it be: http://www.etrailer.com/pc-BAK~2026.htm
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Old 04-13-2007, 09:47 AM   #8
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The way the local RV shop explained it to me was that by law the breakaway does need to be on an independent power supply but only as far as its independent from the tv. That way if along with everything else the harness to the tv unplugs the breakaway switch will still have a power source. Lets hope that never happens!

They indicated we could just hook into the house battery and that we only needed the brakeaway package that included the seperate battery if we were towing a trailer that did not already have a battery to hook into. A cargo hauler or boat trailer were given as examples of when a breakaway switch package that included the small seperate battery would be needed.

That being said I have no idea what the rule is in other areas.......

Carol
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Old 04-13-2007, 12:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
The way the local RV shop explained it to me was that by law the breakaway does need to be on an independent power supply but only as far as its independent from the tv. That way if along with everything else the harness to the tv unplugs the breakaway switch will still have a power source. Lets hope that never happens! ...
This is the interpretation which makes sense to me. The idea of the harness unplugging is not unreasonable: in any situation in which the breakaway switch is triggered, the trailer must have pulled away from the tug enough to pull the triggering steel cable, and even if the trailer is still attached by the safety chains the electrical cable may well have unplugged.

If the electrical cable were still functional, the breakaway switch would not be needed at all, as the controller in the tug would still work.
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Old 04-13-2007, 12:34 PM   #10
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Based on my experience with a variety of trailers with brakes and breakaway systems, the Motor vehicle code in British Columbia states:

Any trailer with brakes shall have an on-board wet cell battery, fully charged so that when the trailer breaks away the battery will lock up the trailer brakes for 15 mins.
This applies to trailers with 4 wheel brakes such as horse trailers and boat trailers.
I would venture to guess that would also apply to 2 wheel systems, but it would be advisable to check it out. That was the code some years ago so it may have changed since then.
On-board dry cell batteries were NOT acceptable in B.C. but are in Alberta.
When we had to take our trailers through the testing station in Vancouver they used to pull the pin to make sure the system worked. They also check that all wheels have the same ft.lbs. of braking force on each wheel.

When we brought our Featherlite horse trailer from Alberta to BC I had to change the battery immediately. While I was at it I rewired it so that the trailer battery was charged while towing and could be parked and have the lights working without out having to be hooked up to the tow vehicle.
I have used the same setup on our other trailers over the years and also our Boler except the Boler has no brakes.
Unfortunetly the rules and codes and rules in Canda and the US states are not consistant
across the country. Bad for us!

Best advice, check with the Motor Vehicle Branch first.
All you need is some smart cop who knows the code to stop you and give you a ticket, ruins
a good holiday!
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Old 04-13-2007, 03:47 PM   #11
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Quote:
Based on my experience with a variety of trailers with brakes and breakaway systems, the Motor vehicle code in British Columbia states:

Any trailer with brakes shall have an on-board wet cell battery, fully charged so that when the trailer breaks away the battery will lock up the trailer brakes for 15 mins.
This applies to trailers with 4 wheel brakes such as horse trailers and boat trailers.
I would venture to guess that would also apply to 2 wheel systems, but it would be advisable to check it out. That was the code some years ago so it may have changed since then.
On-board dry cell batteries were NOT acceptable in B.C. but are in Alberta.
When we had to take our trailers through the testing station in Vancouver they used to pull the pin to make sure the system worked. They also check that all wheels have the same ft.lbs. of braking force on each wheel.

When we brought our Featherlite horse trailer from Alberta to BC I had to change the battery immediately. While I was at it I rewired it so that the trailer battery was charged while towing and could be parked and have the lights working without out having to be hooked up to the tow vehicle.
I have used the same setup on our other trailers over the years and also our Boler except the Boler has no brakes.
Unfortunetly the rules and codes and rules in Canda and the US states are not consistant
across the country. Bad for us!

Best advice, check with the Motor Vehicle Branch first.
All you need is some smart cop who knows the code to stop you and give you a ticket, ruins
a good holiday!
Thanks for this info. MUCH appreciated. When I called around to various RV places and hitch places no one could tell me what the code read in full! Odd as that may seem. I tried to find the code on line to read the whole thing but only found the part that states all trailers with brakes must have a breakaway system.... nothing further.... will have to look into it further.
Carol
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Old 04-13-2007, 04:05 PM   #12
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Carol, Best to go down to the Motor Vehicle office and talk to them, or failing that go to your local RCMP office and talk to the traffic division. The code they pack around in their cars is a big black binder 4"to 5" thick. You may have to talk to several people at the MV office till you find someone who knows what you are talking about. They are not the sharpest knives in the drawer.
Just try registering snowmobiles or trailers that come from Alberta. Bin der, don dat. Much frustration involved as there are so many dummies there. You will 3 different answers from 3 different people.
If your going to do it, do it right! Then they can't hassle you. I have been stopped on the highway on a few occasions over the years and they could not find anything wrongto complain about.
Best of luck.
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Old 04-15-2007, 08:25 PM   #13
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Quote:
Based on my experience with a variety of trailers with brakes and breakaway systems, the Motor vehicle code in British Columbia states:

Any trailer with brakes shall have an on-board wet cell battery, fully charged so that when the trailer breaks away the battery will lock up the trailer brakes for 15 mins.
This applies to trailers with 4 wheel brakes such as horse trailers and boat trailers.
I would venture to guess that would also apply to 2 wheel systems, but it would be advisable to check it out. That was the code some years ago so it may have changed since then.
On-board dry cell batteries were NOT acceptable in B.C. but are in Alberta.
When we had to take our trailers through the testing station in Vancouver they used to pull the pin to make sure the system worked. They also check that all wheels have the same ft.lbs. of braking force on each wheel.
Hmm, if one's house battery is a large AGM or gel-cell, does this mean it's not suitable? This law was poorly written, IMHO -- The 15 minute spec should be sufficient... And I hope the inspectors are astute enough to disconnect the TV cable before pulling the pin and perhaps destroying the controller.

Remember that any separate battery either has to be charged before a trip or connected to the TV charge wire.

Carol, I wouldn't hesitate to remove the retainer, in fact, you may want to do that anyway to renew the sealant so road water doesn't enter the underbunk area -- The lighting wires should all be available inside the underbunk area underneath the ratfur and likely continue to the driver's side of the trailer, down the side and around the back and I would make an educated guess that the blue wire is right there with them (at least as far as the axle area) -- Likely there isn't enough slack, but you should be able to tap in a length of blue wire inside and then run it back out again to the switch (this way the tap will be out of the weather). While you are messing about inside the bench, find the 30Amp inline fuse so you will know where it is in case it ever needs replacement.
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Old 04-15-2007, 09:15 PM   #14
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Quote:
Hmm, if one's house battery is a large AGM or gel-cell, does this mean it's not suitable? This law was poorly written, IMHO -- The 15 minute spec should be sufficient... And I hope the inspectors are astute enough to disconnect the TV cable before pulling the pin and perhaps destroying the controller.

Remember that any separate battery either has to be charged before a trip or connected to the TV charge wire.

Carol, I wouldn't hesitate to remove the retainer, in fact, you may want to do that anyway to renew the sealant so road water doesn't enter the underbunk area -- The lighting wires should all be available inside the underbunk area underneath the ratfur and likely continue to the driver's side of the trailer, down the side and around the back and I would make an educated guess that the blue wire is right there with them (at least as far as the axle area) -- Likely there isn't enough slack, but you should be able to tap in a length of blue wire inside and then run it back out again to the switch (this way the tap will be out of the weather). While you are messing about inside the bench, find the 30Amp inline fuse so you will know where it is in case it ever needs replacement.
Thanks Peter, I had a better look today under the bench (did not look high enough up the first time) and the blue wire is right where it should be heading out the retainer. There is a fair bit of slack on it so should be able to tap in just inside the house as the switch wire is long enough to run back out. I also found the fuse as well. Thanks for the tip.

I plan on trying to find out more tomorrow about the rules regarding what type of battery the switch can or can not run off of.

I will be watching to make sure they unplug from the TV before testing it. Would have to think though that it is standard procedure to do so, as the rule is that the switch must be powered by something other than the TV ..... but stranger things have happend! -:-o



Carol
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Old 04-16-2007, 12:49 PM   #15
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Hi Pete, since they aren`t dry, are gel and agm batteries not considered wet cells? ...just not flooded... ..Benny
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Old 04-16-2007, 02:26 PM   #16
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Hi Pete, since they aren`t dry, are gel and agm batteries not considered wet cells? ...just not flooded... ..Benny
After a few more calls today I am very confident that the rules do not state what type of battery can or can not be used in B.C. Only that it must be charged and working! So it looks like the RV shops that said "just hook it to the house battery" were correct.

The BC website has the full act. I have included the link to section on brakes for those who may want to read more:

BC Gov Rules

Here is what it actually reads:

"Breakaway and emergency braking"
"6.07 (1) The service brakes with which a commercial trailer is equipped shall be of such manufacture and design and so installed and maintained that they will be applied automatically upon the separation of the commercial trailer from the vehicle by which it is being towed, and so that after such automatic application they will remain fully applied for not less than 15 minutes"


The sites definition of a Commercial Trailer:

""commercial trailer" means a trailer, or semitrailer, or house trailer, with a gross weight of more than 1400 kg, but does not include a towed motor vehicle that weighs less than 2000 kg and is less than 40% of the gross vehicle weight rating of a motor home towing it via a tow bar; "

For those across the line 2000 kg is 4,409.25 lbs. So although our trailer does not my law need brakes the tow requires them for anything over 1000 lbs. The rules are also such that once you put brakes on the trailer even if you did not need them in the first place you need a breakaway.

Thanks everyone for your input.

Carol
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Old 04-16-2007, 03:17 PM   #17
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That's the commercial trailer rules, Carol. Here's the corresponding section for non-commercial trailers, which would include most eggs, including my Boler and presumably the Scamp 16' (if its GVWR is under 1400 kg / 3086 lb)...
Code:
Division 5   Brake

Brakes required
5.01  No person shall drive or operate a vehicle upon a highway unless the vehicle is equipped with brakes and equipment as required by these regulations
...
5.02
...
Trailer brakes
(3)  A trailer shall be equipped with brakes at each end of each axle, but brakes are not required
  (a) on one axle of a house trailer that is equipped with more than 2 axles,
  (b) on any axle of a trailer other than a towing dolly if the licensed vehicle weight of the trailer
    (i)  is 1 400 kg or less, and
    (ii)  is less than 50% of the licensed vehicle weight of the vehicle by which it is being towed,
  (c) on any axle of a towing dolly towed by a motor vehicle where
    (i)  the aggregate of the net weight of the towing dolly and the gross vehicle weight of the motor vehicle one axle of which is being carried by the towing dolly does not exceed 1 400 kg, or
    (ii)  the motor vehicle towing the towing dolly has a gross vehicle weight rating in excess of the aggregate of
      (A)  the net weight of the towing dolly,
      (B)  the gross vehicle weight of the motor vehicle one axle of which is being carried by the towing dolly, and
      (C)  the gross vehicle weight of the motor vehicle towing the towing dolly,
  (d) on any axle of a motor vehicle one axle of which is being carried by a towing dolly, and
  (e) on any axle of a trailer that consists of a piece of construction machinery towed by a truck where the truck has a gross vehicle weight rating in excess of the aggregate of the gross vehicle weights of the trailer and the truck.
(4)  Brakes with which a trailer is equipped shall
  (a) when applied be adequate to maintain control of the trailer,
  (b) when applied not affect the direction of travel of the trailer, and
  (c) where the licensed vehicle weight of the trailer exceeds 2 800 kg, be capable of being applied by the driver of the motor vehicle towing the trailer from his normal seated position.
Division 5 of these regulations (unlike Division 6, for "commercial" trailers) says nothing about breakaway switch requirements.

1400 kg is about 3086 lb, so my Boler B1700RGH would be just under the limit (I think the GVWR is 3000 lb, despite the 3500 lb axle), but with a 2580 kg (5688 lb) GVWR, my Sienna could not legally pull it without brakes. I have the same (454 kg) 1000 lb limit in my owner's manual, so good sense and the manufacturer's requirement both call for trailer brakes, regardless of the B.C. law.

Quote:
... So although our trailer does not my law need brakes ...
Carol, if you are thinking that the brakes are not required because the Scamp is under 1400 kg, then is it under 50% of the GVWR of your tug? If the Scamp GVWR is over 1400kg, then it seems to require brakes. If it is over, it needs them because it's not being towed by a motorhome. I realize that you're using them anyway...
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Old 04-16-2007, 11:04 PM   #18
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That's the commercial trailer rules, Carol. Here's the corresponding section for non-commercial trailers, which would include most eggs, including my Boler and presumably the Scamp 16' (if its GVWR is under 1400 kg / 3086 lb)...
Hi Brian, when I spoke directly with the inspector today they pointed me to Division 6 as it is the section that covers how a breakaway switch must work. I wanted to know if the battery type was an issue as it had been suggested here that it might be.

As noted the definition of commercial in this situation does not seem to be what we might normally assume i.e. commerically used trailer. Trailers can fall into this division on weight alone - although it is not our trailers weight or combo that brings us to Division 6.

You are very correct that the Division 5 covers most light weight travel trailers (including ours) but it does not address a breakaway switch - as far as I know only Division 6 does. Under Division 5 rules our trailer does require brakes as the trailer is slightly more than 50% of the cars weight. Now this is were it gets interesting! We were told by the RV shop that if you have brakes on a trailer regardless of whether you require them by law or not you are also suppose to have a breakaway switch. I forgot to ask in what section this is in when I was talking to the inspector but I did ask if this was true and they responded "Technically Yes". Wish I had asked the section as I also noted after I got off the phone and read it in full that it says nothing about a breakaway. I got the impression though that they may not necessarily look for brakes on a trailer as light as ours so the lack of a breakaway may be a none issue in the event of a road side check. It's more of a concern to us that they will look for it when the trailer goes for its import inspection were the inspector has more time to worry about the fine print. :-) Would like to avoid any problems with that so that we can actually use the trailer, right now it is just a neighbourhood attraction.

I did bookmark this site the other day that pretty well says the same thing. Look under Recreational Vehicle Towing:

britishcolumbia.com

You would think they would make it way easier for the average person who just wants to get it right to figure it all out. Having spent a good deal of time on this issue I am still not 100% sure that I clearly understand the whys! Suspect the time would have been better spent figuring out how to replace a rivit or two....

Carol
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Old 04-16-2007, 11:41 PM   #19
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Well isn't that typical government gobbly goop. When I went through this whole process on our first horse trailer (Twin axle- 4 wheels brakes) the inspectors insisted that we have a fully charged wet cell battery on-board. No gel cells or dry cells period. They would not pass it till I modified it. $140 later I got it trough. From that time on I never registered a trailer in Vancouver again. But as it has turn out, I have done that with all our trailers over the years and it has been a god send with our own on-board power supply. We could park any where and unhook the truck and still have lights etc.
I was so incensed over this I went to the Motor Vehicle Office in downtown Vancouver and talked the head goof there. He told me "that is the code, no exceptions."
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Old 04-17-2007, 12:05 PM   #20
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Sure, Division 6 is the place with the breakaway switch rules... but that doesn't mean they apply to every trailer.

The ICBC site certainly does say that with brakes, one must have a breakaway switch. It is also a paraphrasing of the actual rules, and I'm guessing it errs on the side of requiring stuff that may not be a legal requirement. There may also be another regulation which we have missed, and the inspector didn't mention... which makes no sense (why have one brake rule separate from all of the others?)

So the regulations are clear, and the ICBC site is misinterpreted "information", further propagated by people in RV shops who prefer rumour to solid research. I wish I could say I was surprised but that, but I am surprised that inspectors apply non-existent rules. If it were my trailer, would ask to be shown the specific regulation (so I could comply, of course).

There seems to be a theme in many statements about BC rules, in which the province is supposed to be very strict. In at least two cases (ST tires and breakaway switches), the reality of the rules is quite different. Suspiciously, the source of the misinformation tends to be shops selling trailer equipment and services...

In the end, of course, we all want the safest trailer, so a breakaway switch (legally needed or not) is in order. The wet-cell battery thing is just stupid - gel and AGM cells certainly are "wet", although not "flooded", and the AGM would be more suitable than a flooded-cell battery.
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