Friction Stir Welding (FSW) induces thermal residual stresses resulting in distortions in thin-walled structures. In order to understand and quantify this phenomenon, simulations and experiments of FSW on aluminium alloy (AA) 2024-T3 have been performed using different rotational and welding speeds. A sequentially coupled finite element (FE) model was used to study the residual stresses caused by the thermal cycling induced from FSW. The 3D FE model used temperature-dependent mechanical and thermophysical material properties. The predicted longitudinal stresses peaked at ~300 MPa and had a ‘‘W’’ profile with tensile stress peaks in the weld and compressive stresses outside the weld. In the FE model, the influence of process parameters on residual stress distribution was studied. The application of ‘hot’ welding conditions, i.e. low welding speed and high rotational speed, increased the residual stresses significantly, mainly in the transverse direction. Conversely, ‘cold’ welding conditions resulted in lower residual stresses. The magnitude and distribution of the residual stresses predicted by the FE model were validated by neutron diffraction. The results indicate a good agreement between the measured and predicted residual stresses in AA2024-T3.