This work focuses on the effects of crack free friction on Mode II stress intensity factors, KII, for a vertical surface crack in a two-dimensional finite element model of TiN/steel subject to rolling line contact. Second-order extrapolation of KI and KII from nodal stresses ahead of the crack tip is found to be a more consistent technique than linear extrapolation. Results indicate that maximum KJJ values, which occur when the load is adjacent to the crack, may be significantly reduced in the presence of crack face friction. The reduction is more significant for thick coatings than for thin. Crack extension and increased layer thickness result in increased KII values. The effect of crack face friction on compressive KI values appears negligible. Comparative results are presented for MoS2/steel and diamond-like carbon/Ti systems. © 1998 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.