B. Žužek et alii, Frattura ed Integrità Strutturale, 34 (2015) 160-168; DOI: 10.3221/IGF-ESIS.34.17 161 provide the spring function in the suspension system. With the new spring designs, eventually aiming at a single leaf solution, savings of over 20% of the total weight of the spring can be expected. However, this would also lead to about 10-15% increase in spring maximum stress, which requires better spring steel with ultimate tensile strength of over 2.000 MPa [1,2]. Considerable efforts have been made over the last decades to develop high strength spring steels to meet the needs for weight and cost savings in the automotive industry [3]. Improved properties of spring steel can be achieved through precise control of chemical composition of steel, optimum heat treatment, micro-alloying, thermomechanical treatment and shot-peening [3-12]. For the martensitic steels the best possibility for strength improvement are achievable trough lowering the austenizing and tempering temperature, which leads to the increase of ultimate tensile strength but on the other hand it reduces the steel ductility and toughness [8,13]. However, in the case of springs improvement in strength should not degrade other spring steel properties such as formability and fatigue resistance [6]. Another way of improving spring steel strength is through grain refinement [5,6,14], mainly based on micro-alloying and thermomechanical treatment. The addition of certain alloying elements has been reported to effectively improve spring steel strength as well as sag resistance [3]. Si of up to 2% was found to improve properties through the refinement of tempered carbides obtained by retardation of ε-carbide conversion to cementite during tempering [3,15]. The addition of Nb and V, has also been reported beneficial due to the precipitation and dispersion of fine micro-alloyed carbonitrides [9]. Further improvement in tensile properties can be obtained through deformation of austenite prior to quenching [8]. Improvement is related to refined austenite grains and to the austenite grain substructure. Those conditions reflect into finer structured martensite, i.e. refined block size, with no or refined carbides at the prior austenite grain boundaries. Most commercial steels, including spring steels contain impurities that significantly influence the ductility and toughness, with the loss in properties being dependent on the impurity element concentration [16]. The well-known embrittlement phenomena observed around 350°C is such an example where grain boundary segregation of impurity element together with carbide films at grain boundaries deteriorate the mechanical properties of the steel [17]. However, there are also non- metallic inclusions, which depending on the type and size, may further degrade spring steel properties [18-20]. In the case of tool steels microstructure refinement and properties improvement can be achieved through utilization of electro-slag remelting (ESR) [21]. Uniform, relatively rapid solidification in ESR with highly reactive slag leads to an improvement in the chemical uniformity and uniformity of macrostructure, greatly improved cleanliness and reduced segregation tendency, removal of exogenous oxide inclusions and substantial sulphur reduction [21]. Microstructural features such as the eutectic cell size and the eutectic carbide particle size are also reduced. These features, beside other, result in improved hot workability and better ductility and fatigue properties of tool steels [22]. It has been shown, that the surface defects and inclusions have a huge effect on the fatigue life and on the fracture surface appearance, and it can also change the S-N property from duplex to single one or vice versa [23]. The condition of the surface of spring steel specimens, for instance just the grinding direction can change the fracture of the specimen from the surface-induced failure to the interior-induced failure [24]. The aim of the presented research work was to investigate the possibility of refining spring steel microstructure using electro-slag remelting and to determine its effect on the mechanical and dynamic properties of commercial 51CrV4 spring steel, with the focus on the resistance to fatigue crack propagation. E XPERIMENTAL Material and heat treatment aterial used in this investigation was commercial 51CrV4 spring steel produced by a conventional casting process used for the research in [25]. Two charges of steel (chemical composition of both charges is given in Tab. 1) were cast in a billets (180x180 mm). One charge, used as a reference and denoted CCC was directly hot rolled in strips (25x90 mm) and soft annealed, while the other, denoted ESR was first electro-slag remelted and then hot rolled and soft annealed under the same conditions as the first charge (CCC). For each charge adequate specimens were taken from hot rolled and soft annealed stripes in the rolling direction and vacuum heat treated in a vacuum furnace with uniform high-pressure gas-quenching using nitrogen gas at a pressure of 5 bar. After heating (10°C/min) to the austenitizing temperature of 870°C, specimens were soaked for 10 min, gas quenched to a temperature of 60°C, and then single tempered for 1h at 300, 375 and 475°C, respectively. M