Abstract The effect of rare earth salts, YCl 3 and LaCl 3, as corrosion inhibitors on corrosive wear of 1045 and 304 steels in a 0.1 mol l −1 NaCl solution was investigated. The objective of the research is to investigate the role of the corrosion inhibitors in resisting corrosive wear of the steels. Results of the study demonstrated that corrosion and corrosive wear of the steels were markedly decreased when 1000 ppm YCl 3 and LaCl 3 were added to the corrosive medium, respectively. In this work, polarization, nano-indentation, micro-scratch, and scanning Kelvin probing techniques were employed to investigate effects of YCl 3 and LaCl 3 additives on the corrosion behavior of the steels and on properties of surface films formed on the corroded steels. It was demonstrated that YCl 3 and LaCl 3 improved the protective role of oxide films formed on the steels. The modified films did not only suppress corrosion, but also improved surface mechanical properties of the steels. As a result, the corrosive wear of the steels in the dilute NaCl medium was effectively diminished.