To predict residual and thermal stresses which occur during water quenching of solid cylindrical rod and ring cross-sectioned steel tubes, a finite element technique has been used. The variations of residual stresses on different surfaces and cross-sections, e.g. in the radial, axial and tangential directions have been examined, and the effect of internal diameter of tubes on residual stress was investigated. The results show that the residual stresses act as a compressive force along the cooling surface and then by moving away from the surface begin to decrease and reverse their sign, near the centre of the cylinder are subjected to tensile stresses. Because of the reversal of the sign of stress, the effective stress goes to a minimum at some distance from the frontal surface and this may be vital since lower plastic deformation may cause cracking failure. As in solid cylinder, in cylindrical tubes also, the frontal and the upper cooling surface has significant effect on the stress distribution. From the comparison of the residual stress distributions of solid cylinder and cylindrical tubes and using their individual stress maps it was seen that they vary considerably along different cooling surfaces, especially at the frontal surface. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.