This study was initiated with the aim to assess the influence of boundary films on the tribologically induced metallurgical transformations and deformations of metals in lubricated contacts and their effect on wear. For this, the tribological behavior of a carbon steel contact was studied in two commercially available oils expected to form boundary films of quite different chemistry and structure. Surface analysis by AES and XPS revealed that under the investigated conditions the first oil led to the formation of an iron-zinc oxide surface film while the second to a calcium-carbon-oxygen rich film. The results show that, without influencing the coefficient of friction, the nature of the formed films significantly affected the metallurgical transformations (characterized by electron microscopy of focused ion beam cross sections) occurring in the near surface region of the metal and the corresponding wear response. The effect of boundary films on wear was attributed to their capability to influence the plastic flow of the nano-grained structures generated in the studied tribological contacts. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.