3icroalloyed or high strength low alloy (HSLA) steels are carbon-manganese steels containing small amounts of Nb, V or Ti. The excellent mechanical properties of these alloys, particularly high yield strength, usually obviate the need for expensive quench and tempering operations. Furthermore, the presence of a significant amount of nitride-forming elements in some microalloyed steels has generated interest in the applicability of these alloys as a new generation of nitriding steels. In this paper, a study of the plasma nitriding behaviour of a commercially available microalloyed steel MAXIMATM is reported. A comparison is made with a traditional quenched and tempered nitriding steel (En19), plasma nitrided under similar conditions. Optical and scanning electron microscopy in conjunction with microhardness measurements and X-ray diffraction were utilized to characterize the nitrided surfaces. The observed differences in the thickness and structure of the compound layer and the diffusion zone are discussed in terms of chemical composition and microstructure of these steels. © 1995.