Machine components suffer from corrosion degradation of fatigue characteristics and improvement can be attained by the application of a nitriding treatment, particularly to low alloy steels. In the present study, the effect of ion nitriding on corrosion fatigue performance of AISI 4140 steel has been investigated by conducting a series of rotary bending corrosion fatigue tests at 95 Hz, in 3% NaCl aqueous solution. Hourglass shaped, 4 mm diameter fatigue specimens were ion nitrided at 748 K for 1, 3, 8 and 16 h prior to the tests. It was observed that distinct fatigue limit behaviour of ion nitrided steel in air completely disappeared in corrosive environment besides severe degradation in fatigue characteristics. An improvement reaching to 60% in corrosion fatigue strength can be attained by successive ion nitriding practice based on a fatigue life of 107 cycles. An attempt was made to establish an empirical relationship between corrosion fatigue strength and relative case depth, which considers the size of the ion nitrided specimen. It was also determined that a power relationship holds between corrosion fatigue strength and fatigue life of ion nitrided steel. The presence of white layer has resulted in additional improvement in corrosion fatigue resistance, and it was observed that corrosion fatigue cracks were initiated dominantly under the white layer by pit formation mechanism. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science S.A. All rights reserved.