The subject of the present paper is the characterization of third bodies of run-in systems. By means of continuous friction and wear measurement, lubricated steel-steel and steel-aluminum contacts were evaluated. Microstructure, chemical composition and response of the materials to shear were analyzed by XPS/AES and focused ion beam technique. After a proper running-in, both systems developed a third body. The third body differs significantly from the base materials. In addition to adapted microstructure and near-surface chemistry, the third body exhibited a substructure characterized by a near-surface zone that accommodates shear and a second, deeper region that ensures strengthening.