Martensitic steels are tempered to increase the toughness of the metastable martensite, which is brittle in the as-quenched state, and to achieve a more stable microstructure. During the tempering of steels, several particular overlapping effects can arise. Classical dilatometric investigations can only detect effects by monitoring the integral length change of the sample. Additional in-situ diffractometry allowed a differentiation of the individual effects such as transformation of retained austenite and formation of cementite during tempering. Additionally, the lattice parameters of martensite and therefrom the tetragonality was analyzed. Two low-alloy steels with carbon contents of 0.4 and 1.0 wt.% and a high-alloy 5Cr-1Mo-steel with 0.4 wt.% carbon were investigated by dilatometry and in-situ diffractometry. In this paper, microstructural effects during tempering of the investigated steels are discussed by a comparative study of dilatometric and diffractometric experiments. The influence of the chemical composition on the tempering behavior is illustrated by comparing the determined effects of the three steels. The kinetics of tempering is similar for the low-alloy steels and shifted to much higher temperatures for the high-alloy steel. ... mehrDuring tempering, the tetragonality of martensite in the steel with 1.0 wt% carbon shifts towards a low carbon behavior, as in the steels with 0.4 wt.% carbon.