AbstractThe use of light-weight materials for industrial applications is a driving force for the development of joining techniques. Friction stir welding (FSW) inspired joints of dissimilar materials because it does not involve bulk melting of the basic components. Here, two different grades of high strength steel (HSS), with different microstructures and strengths, were joined to AA6181-T4 Al alloy by FSW. The purpose of this study is to clarify the influence of the distinct HSS base material on the joint efficiency. The joints were produced using the same welding parameter/setup and characterised regarding microstructure and mechanical properties. Both joints could be produced without any defects. Microstructure investigations reveal similar microstructure developments in both joints, although there are differences e.g. in the size and amount of detached steel particles in the aluminium alloy (heat and thermomechanical affected zone). The weld strengths are similar, showing that the joint efficiency depends foremost on the mechanical properties of the heat and the thermomechanical affected zone of the aluminium alloy.