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Old 09-03-2012, 07:10 PM   #1
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Newbie Question #2: Battery/Electrical Issues

Hi Friends,

Unhappy and puzzled husband here with a question for you electrical experts out there. Today we connected our 2363 to 'shore power' for the first time. We do not have 120V/30A service available, so with the proper pigtail we connected to 120V/15A. Prior to connecting to AC, I turned on several interior lights as the Sunline manual recommends when the battery has not been used for an extended period. I also turned off the breakers for the microwave, AC, furnace (the HWH breaker was of course already off as the system is dry). Additionally, I found that for whatever reason the PO had disconnected the white (negative) wire from the battery.

At once the interior lights which had I turned on lit up, dimly. I then plugged into the 120V...and the lights began to 'surge,' as wife put it, slowly pulsing on and off. The lights were at first somewhat brighter than when they were running only off of the battery. While this was happening, I noticed two noises from the converter [a Centurion Cs4500, by the way]. The first was the normal sound of the fans; so far, so good. The other was a strange, high-pitched 'hissing' sound. I've noticed this sound before in other Sunlines we had checked out, and figured it was simply something to do with the rectifier in the converter. However, in our case the sound was intermittent. When the sound was present, the lights got brighter; when it was not, they dimmed. I then turned off all interior lights at their switches and checked the voltage at the battery terminals: 10 VDC. I then asked wife to turn on a light; when she did so, the voltage dropped to 5 VDC, then moved up to 8, then down to 4, and so on. As I called out the voltages to wife, she stated that the fluctuations corresponded to those times when the converter was making its 'hissing' sound: when the converter made the noise, the light got brighter, and when it was not making the noise the light dimmed.

Concerned that this condition might somehow damage the converter I turned off the main breaker and disconnected from the 120V. Wife found Alan's thread entitled 'Battery Charge,' and we both read it. I next went back to the RV and checked all fuses, including the glass slow-blow one which Alan had discovered. All fuses are intact.

So, anyone out there have any idea what's going on here? Is it possible that our problem is occurring 'only' because the battery is low and we don't have a full 30A of AC power coming into the converter? Is it possible that this problem will right itself if the unit is connected to 120V for several days with no load other than the converter? Of course, there's no schematic or order of operation anywhere in the Sunline book or in the converter itself, so it's a bit hard to know what to check next. I'm wondering, though, if the fact that the PO had disconnected the negative wire might point toward a diagnosis. Wife and I believe, based on conversations with PO, that they NEVER boondocked, and therefore always had the TT connected to 120V when camping. At home they had a 30A outlet mounted on an exterior wall next to where they parked the trailer. Did he disconnect the battery and leave it disconnected, not knowing that having the battery connected is necessary for proper operation of the converter? And, not having the battery connected, did he let it drain to the point at which it no longer will take a charge?

Any advice would be extremely appreciated, as wife and I really want to take the trailer out for its break-in run this weekend.

Thanks.
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Old 09-03-2012, 08:31 PM   #2
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Hi Matthew,

I'll answer the easy question first....

Unless someone added it, your year camper did not have battery disconnect switch out on the main frame header to "disconnect" the battery when you are not using the camper. They started on 2004 models. The way to do that is to unhook the white negative cable from the battery so the battery does not drain itself dead over time. Inside the camper the LP detector is always on drawing power and so is the radio and will drain your battery dead if left hooked up for days/weeks on end without the converter running. This is one very likely possible explanation of why the white battery cable was off. He may have forgot to tell you this.

The next easy question, you do not need 30 amp 120 VAC service to run the main camper. It will work "most" things just fine on 15 amps. Do not try and start the Air Conditioner as that does need 20 amps supply to start and you do not have that much and do not use the 120 VAC part of the HW heater. Running the converter on just 15 amps is plenty fine.

Now to the real problem... The good news is you have a volt meter! This really helps. First we need to know what brand and model converter you have before we type a bunch on the wrong stuff on the converter. A 2002 "might" have a Centerion converter or maybe not.

Tell us what you have and ideally take a pic or 2 of the converter with the cover off. Then we really know what you have.

Tell us this, with no shore power hooked up and no lights on in the camper, what is the voltage at the battery posts? This will tell us how drained down your battery is. This page has a chart on the bottom of it of resting voltage of a 12 volt wet cell battery.

Trojan Battery Company

If you are really reading 10 volts, your battery is dead. Check the water in it, fill it if needed and ideally charge this battery on a stand alone battery charger. Your converter may not be able to handle a battery that dead.

It sounded like you have some kind of lights before things went nuts off of only the battery. If that is the case, having light does not line up with a dead battery. Again tell use the voltage at the battery posts with no lights on inside and no shore power plugged in.

Also, check the polarity of the battery and the cables. Sunline used Red at the + positive and White as the - negative.

If you have 11.8 volts or higher at the battery a light bulb might light very dim. While at the battery with the volt meter, then turn on 1 light and see how far the volts drop.

What I'm trying to do is figure out if the battery only part of your wiring is working right and if the battery is good. If a charged battery lights up the camper good, the water pump runs, the furnace runs then odds are high the 12 volt side is pretty good. We then have to hone in on the converter.

I myself would start with a charged battery, make sure the polarity is right at the hook up, Crawl under the camper and make sure the white cable goes to frame ground. Then we know for sure no one changed the colors.

Then check that the 12 VDC side of the camper works inside correctly then turn on the converter. If your battery was totally dead it may have sent the converter into a mode that it cannot handle as the battery resistance is so high.

Hope this helps

John
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Old 09-03-2012, 08:38 PM   #3
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Ah ha!!! you added this [a Centurion Cs4500, by the way] while I was typing. Good now I know exactly what you have.

Again we are back to the battery. A dead battery may send that charge circuit going nuts. This may be real easy once a battery with more life in it is put in the camper, or not...

Your converter may look similar to this. This is a 60 amp unit, yours is a 45 amp





Thanks
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Old 09-03-2012, 09:30 PM   #4
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Hey John,
Thanks so much for getting back to us so quickly.
Voltage at battery (a 24M) without any load: 12VDC.
Voltage at battery with one light turned on: 5VDC.
Water level in all cells is perfect.
Polarity at battery is correct. Will have to check tomorrow whether the polarity is properly carried through to the frame attachment.
We have a friend who has a standalone battery charger, and will ask him if we can charge the battery on his rig.
Thanks again.
Matthew and Lisa
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Old 09-04-2012, 05:50 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wannabes View Post

Voltage at battery (a 24M) without any load: 12VDC.
Voltage at battery with one light turned on: 5VDC.
The above says a lot. Your battery may be suffering from a dead cell or heavy sulfation. 1 light taking the volts down from 12 to 5 is an indicator. The 12 volts is a surface charge and not a real indication of the battery condition. If it cannot sustain voltage with 1 light bulb, on the 12 volts is not real.

If by some strange chance you have a hydrometer you can check each cell and if one is bad it will show up. Advance Auto or NAPA has battery testing services and many times for free. Even Wal-Mart auto should.

Try your friend’s battery charger. It is going to take time to attempt to bring that battery back up to 100% if it will even get back up. You may find after 2 days it is not going to cut it and finding a new battery is soon in your future.

With that voltage swing at the battery I can see why the converter of that era would go nuts. I think you found your problem or at least one big part of it. The battery health is not good. Which if it is only the battery, then that is not that bad of a deal. They only last so long.

You mentioned 24M on the battery. That sort of points to a RV/Marine combo battery. It is not a bad battery but it is a not a total deep cycle either. The combo allows it to be used as a small level of a starting battery and has deep cycle capabilities. If during this troubleshooting mission you come to needing a new battery, look for deep cycle only. They could use 24DC as the model name. 24 means group 24 case size. DC = deep cycle. The Group 24 was the standard battery Sunline would install. It is a good choice especially if most of what you are camping at is when you have shore power.

Those of us who do a lot of boondocking off the grid up size to larger or more batteries but then you need new battery cases, have to deal with the mounting angles and many times a new converter upgrade to work better off of a genny. And then there are folks who just bring extra Grp 24 batteries and when they are drained down, they change the battery to a 2nd Grp 24. Unless you are totally gun ho on boondocking, staying with a standard Grp 24 now is not a bad choice.

If you make it to needing a new battery, Wal-Mart has 2 versions. The standard 24DC and then that have a MAXX version. The MAXX version costs a little more, has a better replacement warranty. They use to be made by Johnson Controls. I actually have one on my camper from them and so does my son on his PU. Long term getting a Battery Minder Plus to maintain and desulfate the battery is a good thing to do. I have mine plugged in all the time when I’m not out camping. It keeps the battery to 100% and desulfates it. Any brand or size battery will last longer if properly maintianed and often desulfated. Most get neither done to them.

Good luck, your on the right track now.

John
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Old 09-04-2012, 06:11 AM   #6
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John has been very thorough as usual. The only thing I (well not me, but Steve) would ask is if this is the original battery. If so, it's over 10 years old, and points to needing a new battery. Since you say the original owners always had an electrical hookup, it would make sense that they never replaced the battery.
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Old 09-04-2012, 05:30 PM   #7
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Hi All,

Thanks once more for all of your expertise and advice.

Since last we met, the saga has taken another turn. This afternoon I checked the polarity on the wiring under the frame, and found it all correct. While I was under there I tightened all of the connections for good measure. Then I pulled the battery from its case and discovered--drum roll, please--that it has a small leak from one of the bottom seams. This was somewhat surprising, given that when I looked last night at the water levels, they seemed fine. But, no doubt about it, the battery is leaking a bit. So, as it can't be recharged in this condition, we're going to get a new battery. The battery is a WalMart special, by the way, and is only 3 years old. Given its young age, I'm now wondering if perhaps the converter was not charging it, but determining that will have to wait until we actually have a useable battery on hand.

The question now is, What brand and size? We're very interested in boondocking (at least, we think we are, never having been out anywhere yet ). So the idea of stepping up in battery size with the possibility of getting significantly more time out of a charge is appealing. Wife did quite a bit of internet searching and found that the length of a 27 is only 1.5" greater than a 24, and that a case to fit a 27 costs only about $10. We'd rather put the money out now for a 27 with an eye toward boondocking with it in the future, than spend on a 24 and replace it less than a year hence.

Can we simply upgrade to a 27 battery without having to do any other mods than changing out the battery case? Will doing so in any way impact negatively on our converter or other equipment?

Last, who's making the best batteries these days? Wife's research indicates that Trojans are number 1. We don't shop WalMart for ethical reasons, so their stuff is out. Interstate makes a fairly well-rated battery, but thus far the feedback on Trojans is that they top them all. The Trojan model we've been looking at is the 27TMX 12V.

Think that's all for now. Again, thanks much to all for putting up with newbie questions, and for all of the great advice.
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Old 09-04-2012, 08:54 PM   #8
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Hi Matthew,

Good hunting!

Batteries, you cannot go wrong with a Trojan. The Interstate, these we had issues long ago going bad in the tractors back on the farm. I'm talking 30 years back now... We had a monster battery on the diesels, about 24 inch long, cost a small fortune back then. They are stated to be a good battery just we didn't have much luck with them over the original Ford Motorcraft battery. This has been my only experience with them.

The size, a Grp 27 is a step up from a Grp 24. I myself have 2 Grp 27's. Since I converted to LED lights and have becomes a power miser, between the 2 Grp 27's and a genny, I have never run out of power when boondocking. That said when ever these die... I would be looking at the Trojan T105 or T125 6 volt golf cart batteries. A lot more money and power too. An inverter setup may be in the cards then. I do not want to steer you that way, just mentioned it. It is always a , well how big a battery do I need question? The need depends on the loads you want to use. A Grp 24, 27 29 or 31 are all good. More $$ for each along with more power. The standard 921 light bulbs in the camper literately suck power... 1.4 amps each. Having 4 lights on is 5.6 amps all by themselves. Switching to LED lights and you can use less battery.

Your battery shelf. On my T2499 the battery shelf was the same width in the 6 3/4 dim that can hold a Grp 24,27, 29 or or 31. I do not recall the exact width. If yours is this way, then yes you can add any of those sizes without dealing with a battery rack. On my T310SR, they turned the battery 90 degrees. Only a Grp 24 would fit on the battery angles. I had to make a converting platform to hold the Grp 27 length.

Your battery converter size is still fine with a Grp 24, 27,29 or 31. You can add 2 batteries and it will still be OK.

You asked about the 27TMX 12 volt deep cycle. The case size is 12 3/4" long x 6 3/4" wide x 9 3/4" long. It is rated at 105 amps at the 20 hour AH rating.

They also make a SCS200 12 volt deep cycle. Same case size but delivers 115 amps at the 20 hour AH rating. By the rating this has more power over the 27TMX. I cannot find on the Trojan site what the difference is. It some how is more efficient in the same case size. I myself would ask the Trojan guy what is the difference?

If the camper is stored next to the house or barn where you can get 120 VAC to it, I recommend using one of these all the time you are not camping. Even if you put the camper in a storage lot, bring the battery home and hook it up at least once a month and all the time in the winter. They maintain the battery and desulfate it. You will get longer life from the battery by properly maintaining it.

Batteryminders Specials | BatteryMinders.com

They can be found for ~$40 plus freight. Here is one place
BatteryMINDer Charger/Maintainer/Desulfator — 1.3 Amp, 12 Volt, Model# 12117 | Battery Maintainers| Northern Tool + Equipment

The VDC unit uses pulse wave desulfation. There is another brand Ctek which is very good that also uses Pulse desulfation. CTEK Battery Chargers | The World's Smarter Battery Charger They have a lot of chargers, just need to find the maintainer. HenryJ I believe has one of these.

Hope this helps and good luck

John

PS, drill 2, 3/8" or 1/2" holes in the bottom corners of your new battery box. They let the rain water drain out verses filling up over the top of the battery.... place the holes so they drip out into the open and not on the battery angles. Helps the paint job last longer.
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Old 09-05-2012, 09:03 PM   #9
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The latest: Bought a Trojan 27 TMX today and installed. Turned on some lights and immediately noted that they were much brighter than with the previous battery. Measured the voltage at the terminals: 12 VDC. I had looked on the battery for a date code, but did not find anything that could tell me when it was made, so I don't know how long it's been sitting on the distributor's shelf.

Plugged into shore power. The lights right away began to pulse, very faintly and infrequently, but still noticeable. The converter began making its intermittent--and very annoying--high-pitched sort of screeching sound. Turned off all lights, checked voltage at battery: 12V. Left the trailer to sit for awhile plugged in.

Checked the situation after two hours and found everything basically the same as when we hooked everything up. Still 12V at the battery terminals with no load. Converter still making the odd sound.

Questions now: Does all this sound 'normal' for a new battery, first installed? Approximately how long should it take to fully charge a new battery? If we leave the rig charge overnight and come out tomorrow morning to find no more than 12V at the battery without any load, does this indicate that the converter is not charging the battery? Once again, any assistance is most appreciated.
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Old 09-05-2012, 10:09 PM   #10
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Hi Matthew,

If you mean 12.0 volts, the decimal place matters in this case, then your new battery is pretty drained down which is common for a new battery off the shelf.

Any new battery from the store generally needs to go on a charger before using it. Or in a system that can for sure charge it.

The hi pitch sound you are referring to and the pulsing lights is not a great one. This here says a lot too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wannabes View Post

Plugged into shore power. The lights right away began to pulse, very faintly and infrequently, but still noticeable. The converter began making its intermittent--and very annoying--high-pitched sort of screeching sound. Turned off all lights, checked voltage at battery: 12V. Left the trailer to sit for awhile plugged in.

Checked the situation after two hours and found everything basically the same as when we hooked everything up. Still 12V at the battery terminals with no load. Converter still making the odd sound.
The 1st thing that is "wrong" is when the converter is plugged in and the battery is connected, you should not have 12 volts at the battery. If the charger is actually working, the voltage in the system should be 13.2 volt or higher. In your case with a new battery that needs a change it should be 13.6 volts.

Basically putting it, the converter is not doing anything to help charge the battery. The question now is, is the converter not working or is there a wiring problem?

See this pic. Yours should be very similar. If you feel you can do this check safely then try this.

Flip the 30 amp break off or unplug the shore power.
Take the front cover off the converter to expose this picture.


Then turn the power back on and the converter should come back up.
Use your meter and check the DC voltage on the big yellow (+) and white wire (-) coming out of the converter. The yellow is on top of the fuse block, the big white is just below the fuse block.

Those 2 heavy wires are the output for the converter. They should be up at 13.6 volts. If they are at 12.0 volts just like the battery then the charger is not doing anything. In order to charge the converter needs to get up to 13.6 volts.

Now if you have 13.2 plus volts there and the battery is still at 12.0 then the power is not getting to the fuse block buss bar.

Look at the top 2 green fuses in this pic. The big red wire is the battery


Yours may be a different size as it is a 45 amp converter and this one is a 60 amp. They may have 2, 20 amp fuses where I have 2 30 amp fuses.

Those 2 top fuses feed the fuse bus bar from the battery. Both need to be good. If a volt check from yellow to ground (DC -) and the big red to ground is the same, then the fuses should be good just the converter is not doing anything to raise the voltage. See here


If those fuses are blown or the terminals some how corroded then the convertor cannot make connection with the camper 12 volt system on both sides of the fuse blocks to feed the battery.

My old American (was Centurion) did not hiss or high pitch whine that I remember. The fans rattled like an old cement mixer but I do not recall the high pitch sounds and the lights never pulsed.

Here is another question, have you yet tried just shore power and no battery? I thought the Centurion's where smart enough to create camper voltage with no battery. Just pull the negative cable off the battery and try it with some lights on.

If it works, then what is the voltage in the camper? do the volt meter test again on the big yellow and white wire at the converter.

You did say that when you first put the battery in, the lights where brighter inside. If so then that means the wiring and fuses from the battery to the fuse bar must be at least partly working. If one of those top fuses are blown, then only half your DC items may work.

Everything you are saying now points to a converter problem. You may have had both a battery issue and a converter problem. Or the battery having a dead cell accelerated the issues with the converter. We now know the battery had issues. Now have to hone in on the converter.

Hope this helps

John
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Old 09-06-2012, 06:19 AM   #11
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Thanks, John B.

With shore power connected, I get 12 VDC between yellow and white, and that only when the converter is making its mystery noise. Never more than 12 V. When the converter is not making this noise, the voltage drops to 0.

With the battery connected I get 12 V between red and white.

Lights will not work on shore power unless battery is connected.

By the time we wrapped things up last night, voltage at the battery terminals had dropped to 11 VDC, with shore power connected and with one or two lights on. Also, the negative wire was quite warm.

All 30A fuses are intact, even the one in the box under the sofa.

What now?
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Old 09-06-2012, 07:56 AM   #12
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Sure sounds like it's time for a new converter/charger. I had one that would charge and light the lights as long as it was plugged in but if you unplugged it the battery would be dead with in an hour or two. There are several little gadgets inside that only allow power to flow in one direction only they can go bad and conduct both ways or not at all.
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Old 09-06-2012, 08:20 AM   #13
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Here is a picture of the CS4500 Centurion in my 2363. The second picture shows where I had a coil touching the heat sink causing a buzzing noise and the lights would get bright and dim. I don't think the hissing noise is the same problem but it may be worth a look.





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Old 09-06-2012, 11:16 AM   #14
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Matthew,

You have done well troubleshooting this. Pat yourself on the back!

From these comments:
Quote:
With shore power connected, I get 12 VDC between yellow and white, and that only when the converter is making its mystery noise. Never more than 12 V. When the converter is not making this noise, the voltage drops to 0.
Quote:

With the battery connected I get 12 V between red and white.

Lights will not work on shore power unless battery is connected.
Your converter is not working. In fact it may be hurting you. I thought I read in one of your posts you where trying to go camping this weekend. Here is an option to make this still maybe possible.

Unplug shore power. Unhook battery negative cable.
Unhook and tape off the 2 big wires, yellow and white, on the converter output.
Unhook the 120 VAC feed wires to the converter board. Tape them off and tuck them away.
Basically you have totally unhooked the converter from the system, yet the 120 VAC system and the battery 12 volt system are intact.
Hook battery back up when you area ready to go camping. It will need to be on for travel as it works the emergency breakaway switch for the brakes.

Borrow your buddies battery charger. Start charging your battery now. It will take a full day and then some. Ask him if you can borrow it over the weekend but I dought you will need it.

Go camping with a fully charged battery. You can still plug into shore power and use the microwave or the AC unit or any other 120 VAC need. You can use the entire camper, just you do not have a converter to recharge the battery.

Do not waste DC power, bring your volt meter, turn lights off when not needed. The standard 921 bulbs suck a lot of power. 1.4 amps each. If it gets cold and you need heat, you can use the furnace to break the chill. The blower however is a power draw. If you have a ceramic electric heater bring that.

If you conserve power I see no reason you cannot camp Friday come home on Sunday and still be OK on the original battery charge. On late Saturday, do a voltage check on the battery. If you are at or close 50% discharged (see the chart I linked you to on the Trojan site) then plug in the battery charger.

You are bookdocking in style complete with full 120 VAC shore power….

I would no longer continue to run the converter with the battery. If you have a large enough ampmeter you could even find out if the converter is discharging the battery.

If you have a buddy who is electronics PC board level kind of person, they may be able to find what component on the board is dead. To actually pay someone at shop rates to fix it, odds are high the cost will not be effective to a new converter. And you still have an old generation converter.

If you looking for new, suggest you look at these:
http://progressivedyn.com/pd4600_converter_replacement.html

I have had good luck buying from these folks. Shopping the web may find better deal.
http://www.bestconverter.com/Progressive-Dynamics-Converters_c_81.html

If you want to get into bookdocking, this is a good start. The PD converter offers float mode, standard charge, boost and desulfation mode. Just make sure you pick one with the charge wizard or that it can be added and add it from the get go.

Good luck

John
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Current Sunlines: 2004 T310SR, 2004 T1950, 2004 T2475, 2007 T2499
Prior Sunlines: 2004 T2499 - Fern Blue
2005 Ford F350 Lariat, 6.8L V10 W/ 4.10 rear axle, CC, Short Bed, SRW. Reese HP trunnion bar hitch W/ HP DC

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