This paper describes the results of dry sliding wear tests and wear surface analysis of boron-fibre-reinforced aluminium composites. The wear tests were conducted for normal and parallel orientations, rubbing against a rotating steel disc at different loads at speeds of 0.6 and 1.6 m s(-1). In addition, the wear surface analysis of the aluminium-based composites was investigated by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). The metal-matrix composites showed excellent wear resistance compared with the unreinforced matrix. Fibre orientation had a small effect on wear rate: at low speed the normal orientation gave the lowest wear rate, with the performance of the parallel orientation being slightly worse, but this trend reversed at high speed. The XPS analysis revealed that there was no significant variation in the amount of oxide over the surface under the test conditions used. At low speed in the normal orientation boron oxide and iron boride were formed, while at high speed the proportions of these components were slightly different and showed alloyed material with more iron boride and aluminium but less boron in total. (C) 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers.