In this paper, thick and hard oxide coatings resistant to wear were produced on 2017A-T6 Al alloy by the microarc oxidation (MAO) technique in an alkali electrolyte consisting of different sodium silicate concentrations (0-8 g/l). The coatings were characterized by means of optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD) and surface profilometry. Microhardness, scratch adhesion and pin-on-disk sliding wear tests were also performed to evaluate the tribological properties of the coatings. The influence of sodium silicate concentration on the structural and tribological properties of the MAO coatings was discussed. Results reveal that increasing sodium silicate concentration from 0 to 8 g/l in the electrolyte caused an increase in the electrolyte conductivity (from 7.71 to 18.1 mS/cm) and a decrease in positive final voltage (from 627 to 590 V) in the MAO process. In response to the increase in sodium silicate concentration, the thickness, surface roughness (R-a) and critical load (L-c) corresponding to adhesive failure of the coatings were increased simultaneously from 74 to 144 mu m, and 4.4 to 6.58 mu m, and 127.76 to 198.54 N, respectively. At the same time, the phase structure and composition of the coatings also varied by the participation of silicate ions in the reactions and their incorporation into the coating structure. Moreover, it was observed that the coating formed in the low sodium silicate concentration (4 g/l) had higher surface hardness (2020 HV) and improved wear resistance than the one (1800 HV) formed in the high sodium silicate concentration (8 g/l). The coatings produced in three different electrolytic solutions provided an excellent wear resistance and a load carrying capacity compared to the uncoated aluminum alloy. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.