In order to improve properties of complex automotive components, such as crankshafts, in an application-oriented way, several surface hardening treatments can be applied. Concerning the material performance the definition of adequate process parameters influences the resulting surface properties and, thus, the effectiveness of surface hardening treatments. To analyze most relevant process-microstructure-property relationships, the present paper reports results obtained by two different well-established surface hardening procedures, i. e. deep rolling as a mechanical treatment and induction hardening as a thermal treatment. For each hardening process widely used crankshaft steel grades, i. e. a medium carbon 38MnSiVS5 microalloyed steel and a quenched and tempered 42CrMo4 were selected and thoroughly characterized upon processing, using equal parameter settings. The results reveal that deep rolling in contrast to induction hardening proves to be a less sensitive surface layer treatment with regard to small differences in the initial microstructure, the chemical composition and the applied process parameters. Differences in microstructure evolution with respect to the applied surface hardening treatment are studied and discussed for the highly stressed fillet region of automotive crankshaft sections for all conditions. In this context, high-resolution SEM-based techniques such as EBSD and ECCI are proven to be very effective for fast qualitative evaluation of induced microstructural changes.