The experimental researches was made on X3CrNiMo17-13-3 stainless steel samples ion nitrided at different temperatures, duration and work atmospheres. The analysis of superficial layers was made in order to identify the microstructure of the ion nitrided layer using X-ray diffraction, and also the determination of the superficial hardness and hardness gradient. The nitrided samples were subjected to two thermal shock regimes, one in the range of 500-20°C and the other in the range 600-20°C. The crack and crack networks initiation process as a result of thermal fatigue was analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively using optical microscopy. The study of the cracking process highlighted the fact that thermal shock resistance is influenced by the characteristics of the superficial layer and also by the maximum temperature of the thermal stress cycle.