This study was designed to investigate the influence of oil temperature and contact pressure on the tribological performance of three industrial gear oils but also on the corresponding changes taking place beneath the metal surfaces in contact. The result shows that increase in the oil temperature and contact pressure increases surface–additive interaction, promoting the formation of low-friction tribofilms. Subsurface characterisation of the worn surfaces shows that higher oil temperature and contact pressure promotes surface hardening of spheroidised AISI 52100 steel, degradation of the near-surface (< 0.8 µm) microstructural integrity and corresponds to an increase in wear. This study clearly shows that the gear oil formulations and the tribofilms they form uniquely influence the extent of subsurface deformation and wear.
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