Samples of AISI 1045 carbon steel were surface hardened by micro plasma transferred arc (PTA) process. The hardened layer was characterized using both light optical and scanning electron microscopy and microhardness techniques. The tribological properties of the surface hardened layer and untreated substrate were investigated using a block-on-ring tribometer sliding against GCr15 steel under unlubricated condition. The worn surface morphologies and dominant wear mechanisms were identified using microscopy techniques. Results show that the surface hardened layer consists mainly of martensite and retained austensite with fine and dense structure, the microhardness of hardened layer increases from approximately HV 200 to HV 600. The wear volume loss of plasma hardened layer was 81.86×10-11m3 much better than that of untreated AISI 1045 carbon steel (743.44×10-11m3). Wear of untreated AISI 1045 carbon steel occurred by combined mechanisms of adhesion, abrasion and plastic deformation. While the worn surface of surface hardened layer is quite better with slight track and thin oxides on the worn surfaces. Plasma surface hardening has essentially changed the wear mechanism of the AISI 1045 carbon steel to slight abrasion and oxidation wear.