The compact tension (CT) specimens manufactured from AISI 4140 steel were plasma nitrided at 400 degrees C, 500 degrees C and 600 degrees C for 1 and 4 h in a gas mixture of 50% N-2 and 50% H-2. CT specimens were subjected to fatigue crack growth under constant amplitude loading in order to analyze the effect of plasma nitriding on fatigue crack growth (FCG). The crack sizes of specimens were correctly detected by a digital image monitoring system. Also, the structural and mechanical properties of specimens were characterized by XRD, SEM, optical microscopy and 3D profilometer and microhardness tester. The structural and mechanical examinations showed that the surface hardness, layer thicknesses and surface residual stresses continuously increased with increasing plasma nitriding time and temperature. It was found that plasma nitriding improved the FCG life of the material due to the formation of compressive residual stresses and nitride layers in surface and near-surface regions. Additionally, the highest FCG increase rate was obtained from 500 degrees C to 4 h plasma nitrided specimen with respect to untreated specimen. The formation of compound layer and braunite layer constrained the continuous increase of FCG life because of increasing embrittlement and cracking tendency of nitride layers. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.