Abstract The wire beam electrode (WBE) and the scanning reference electrode technique (SRET) have been applied in a novel combination to measure, for the first time, electrochemical parameters simultaneously from both the metallic and electrolytic phases of a corroding metal surface. The objective of this work is to demonstrate the application of this combined WBE–SRET method in obtaining unique information on localised corrosion mechanism, by investigating typical corrosion processes occurring over a mild steel WBE surface exposed to the classic Evans solution. The WBE method was used to map current and potential distributions in the metallic phase, and the SRET was used to map current or potential distribution in the electrolytic phase. It has been found that the combined WBE–SRET method is able to gain useful information on macro-cell electrochemical corrosion processes that involve macro-scale separation of anodes and cathodes. In such macro-cell corrosion systems, maps measured using WBE and SRET were found to correlate with each other and both methods were able to detect the locations of anodic sites. However the movement of the scanning probe during SRET measurements was found to affect the SRET detection of cathodic sites. In micro-cell corrosion systems where the separation of anodic and cathodic sites were less distinct, SRET measurement was found to be insensitive in detecting anodic and cathodic sites, while the WBE method was still able to produce results that correlated well with observed corrosion behaviour. Results obtained from this work suggest that the WBE–SRET method is applicable for understanding the initiation, propagation and electrochemical behaviour of localised corrosion anodes and cathodes, and also their dependence on externally controllable variables, such as solution pH changes and the existence of surface coatings.