The effect of three-dimensional defects such as voids and inclusions on the sliding contact subsurface stress distribution and fatigue limit is investigated. Three-dimensional finite-infinite boundary elements are utilized to model the body by discretizing its surface and the interface between the solid and the defect. The multidomain boundary element formulation is employed to accurately model the effect of the inclusion on the stress distribution. It is shown that the void has a greater near field effect on the stress distribution while the effect of a stiff inclusion applies over a larger distance. The critical stress points during a load passage are predicted based on a search of the maximum distortional strain energy. The stresses at the critical points are used for the fatigue limit pressure estimation by incorporating the equivalent stress concept with the Haigh diagram. The model predicts that a near surface spherical void of given size and depth reduces the maximum allowable fatigue limit design pressure by 75 percent while a stiff inclusion of the same size, shape, and location reduces it by 25 percent.

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