Abstract We have studied the influence of boron ion implantation on the friction and wear behaviour of 304 stainless steel. We find an increase in microhardness following implantation. We also observe a reduction in wear and coefficient of friction. We have measured the microhardness, inside the wear tracks and have found a large increase in the values in the unimplanted specimens and only a small increase in the implanted specimens. These observations have thrown light on the change in the wear mechanism between the two cases. We have also used Scanning Electron Microscopy and Energy Dispersive Analysis of X-rays, to characterize the differences in the mode of wear. The change in wear behaviour is brought about by the ability of boron to prevent the surface from transforming into a hard brittle layer during wear.