Abstract— Experiments have been performed on specimens subjected to strain cycles similar to those experienced by sub-surface elements of material in rolling/sliding contact. It has been observed that if the strain cycle is closed then failure takes place by low cycle fatigue and the Coffin-Manson relationship may be used to predict the number of cycles to failure. If however, the strain cycle is open, so that the material accumulates unidirectional plastic strain (the situation known as “ratchetting”) a different type of failure, which is termed ratchetting failure may occur. It occurs when the total accumulated plastic strain reaches a critical value which is comparable with the strain to failure in a monotonic tension test. The number of cycles to failure under these circumstances may be estimated by dividing this critical strain by the ratchetting strain per cycle. It is suggested that low cycle fatigue and ratchetting are independent and competitive mechanisms so that failure occurs by whichever of them corresponds to a shorter life. The results of both uniaxial and biaxial tests reported in the literature have been re-evaluated and these, together with new data on biaxial tests on copper, found to be consistent with this hypothesis.