The effect of secondary hardening of tempered AISI 420 martensitic stainless steel on the corrosion behavior in aqueous 0.01 M NaCl has been studied, in-situ, using atomic force microscopy (AFM) tomonitor real-time localized corrosion processes. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction analyses confirmed the presence of undissolved and secondary carbides (Cr23C6, Cr7C3, Cr3C2, Cr3C, Cr2C, and CrC) as well as retained austenite, all finely dispersed in the tempered martensitic matrix. Electrochemical measurements, consisted of monitoring of the open-circuit potential vs. time and cyclic polarization in 0.01 M NaCl solution, were performed to evaluate the passivity and its breakdown, and it was seen that initiation sites for localized corrosion were predominantly peripheral sites of carbides. In-situ AFM measurements revealed that there was a sequence for localized corrosion in which the neighboring matrix next to secondary carbides dissolved first, followed by corrosive attack on regions adjacent to undissolved carbides. Tempering at 500 degrees C reduced the corrosion resistance and the ability to passivate in comparison to tempering at 250 degrees C. (c) 2017 The Electrochemical Society. All rights reserved.