Nickel composite coatings have been prepared on mild steel substrates by sediment electro-co-deposition (SECD) technique. Silicon nitride, fly ash and calcium fluoride are used as the reinforcements. Metallographic studies, microhardness, friction and wear tests under various loads and sliding speeds have been carried out on these coatings. Optical and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) studies on the worn surfaces were conducted. A theoretical model was used to predict the wear rates of the composite coatings. All the composite coatings exhibited a lower coefficient of friction and better wear resistance when compared with nickel coatings at all loads and sliding velocities studied. However, nickel-calcium fluoride composite coatings possessed the lowest coefficient of friction and wear rates. Significant effect of load and sliding speed on both the coefficient of friction and wear rates of nickel, nickel-silicon nitride and nickel-fly ash coatings has been observed. SEM studies of the worn surfaces reveal delamination process at higher loads. The predicted wear rates are in reasonable agreement with the experimental values. © 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.