We investigated the mechanical and tribological properties of hydrogenated amorphous carbon (a-C:H) films on silicon substrates by nanoindentation, ball-on-disc tribotesting and scratch testing. The a-C:H films were deposited from an argon/methane gas mixture by bias-enhanced electron cyclotron resonance chemical vapour deposition (ECR-CVD). We found that substrate biasing directly influences the hardness, friction and wear resistance of the a-C:H films. An abrupt change in these properties is observed at a substrate bias of about −100 V, which is attributed to the bias-controlled transition from polymer- to fullerenelike carbon coatings. Friction coefficients in the range of 0.28–0.39 and wear rates of about 7 × 10−5 mm3/Nm are derived for the polymeric films when tested against WC–Co balls at atmospheric test conditions. On the other hand, the fullerenelike hydrogenated carbon films produced at ion energies > 100 eV display a nanohardness of about 17 GPa, a strong reduction in the friction coefficient (∼ 0.10) and a severe increase in the wear resistance (∼ 1 × 10−7 mm3/Nm). For these films, relative humidity has a detrimental effect on friction but no correlation with the wear rate was found.