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In this paper, the complicated arc phenomena in air dc circuit breakers that are widely used in rail transit and vessels are investigated with both experimental and numerical approaches. Initially, the basic arc motion characteristics in the switch are presented by the recorded waveforms and images in the carefully designed breaking experiments. Phenomena of arc stagnation and back commutation are revealed and the influence of arc chamber width on the arc stagnation is preliminarily discussed according to the experimental results. Then, to make the nature of arc motion clear and to determine the influence details of the arc chamber width on arc motion characteristics, a simplified model based on magnetohydrodynamics theory is built and four cases with the arc chambers of different widths are calculated. The simulated arc behavior is presented by the temperature distribution sequences. In addition, the formation process of back commutation is described in detail by the variation of arc column. The influence mechanism of arc chamber width on arc motion is analyzed according to the differences of pressure propagation and temperature distribution in the arc chamber. Furthermore, the calculated arc displacement curves show that the arc stagnation time could be shortened and the risk of back commutation could be reduced by decreasing the arc chamber width within the reasonable extent.