HiSiMo cast irons are frequently used as material for high temperature components in engines as e.g. exhaust manifolds and turbo chargers. These components must withstand severe cyclic mechanical and thermal loads throughout their service life. The combination of thermal transients with mechanical load cycles results in a complex evolution of damage, leading to thermomechanical fatigue (TMF) of the material and, after a certain number of loading cycles, to failure of the component. In this paper (Part I), the low-cycle fatigue (LCF) and TMF properties of HiSiMo are investigated in uniaxial tests and the damage mechanisms are addressed. On the basis of the experimental results a fatigue life model is developed which is based on elastic, plastic and creep fracture mechanics results of short cracks, so that time and temperature dependent effects on damage are taken into account. The model can be used to estimate the fatigue life of components by means of finite-element calculations (Part II of the paper).