In this work, the corrosion behavior of tempered AISI 420 martensitic stainless steel (MSS) was studied by in-situ atomic force microscopy (AFM) in 0.1M NaCl and correlated with the microstructure. Thermocalc simulation, dilatometry, and X-ray diffraction (XRD) were performed to investigate phase transformation which showed the formation of M3C, M7C3, and M23C6 type of carbides and also retained austenite. Optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and AFM characterization revealed undissolved carbides and tempering carbides in the martensitic matrix. Volta potential mapping measured by scanning Kelvin probe force microscopy (SKPFM) indicated higher electrochemical (practical) nobility of the carbides with respect to the martensitic matrix whereas regions adjacent to carbides showed lower nobilities due to chromium depletion. Open circuit potential and cyclic potentiodynamic polarization measurements showed metastable corrosion activities associated with a weak passive behavior and a risk for localized corrosion along certain carbide boundaries. In-situ AFM measurements revealed selective dissolution of certain carbide interphases and martensitic inter-lath regions indicating higher propensity to localized corrosion. (C) The Author(s) 2017. Published by ECS.