Abstract A WC–Co–Cr coating was deposited by a high velocity oxy-fuel thermal spray (HVOF) onto a 1Cr18Ni9Ti stainless steel substrate to increase its cavitation erosion resistance. After the HVOF process, it was revealed that the amorphous phase, nanocrystalline grains (Co–Cr) and several kinds of carbides, including Co3W3C, Co6W6C, WC, Cr23C6, and Cr3C2 were present in the coating. The hardness of the coating was improved to be 11.3GPa, about 6 times higher than that of the stainless steel substrate, 1.8GPa. Due to the presence of those new phases in the as-sprayed coating and its higher hardness, the cavitation erosion mass loss eroded for 30h was only 64% that of the stainless steel substrate. The microstructural analysis of the coating after the cavitation erosion tests indicated that most of the corruptions took place at the interface between the un-melted or half-melted particles and the matrix (Co–Cr), the edge of the pores in the coating, and the boundary of the twin and the grain in the stainless steel 1Cr18Ni9Ti.