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In-Depth Review on Work Wheels | Aftermarket Wheel Buying Guide

Ever turned your head for a second glance at a set of wheels to just say “woah, those are rad!”? Odds are they’re either a set of Volks, Advans, or Work Wheels. The Japanese wheel brand has been around for 5 decades, sports some of the most iconic wheel designs of all time, and can also cost a fortune. So what are they, where did they come from, and are they worth it? Well…Let’s talk about it.

History of Work Wheels

Back in 1977, a fella by the name of Takeshi Tanaka had a vision. With just a 4,000,000 YEN budget, or $25,000 in his pocket, he ignited the spark for what would become Work Wheels. Takeshi wanted to create wheels that weren’t just parts ‚Äď they were the very spirit of the cars they graced. His slogan? “If you work hard, anything can be achieved.”

They say the company name “Work” was derived by that statement, and that by working on what he believed, he would go on to build one of the most successful aftermarket wheel companies to this day.

To be fair, it didn’t take long to grow. By 1979, Work Wheels wasn’t just thinking big; they were doing big, setting up their first 3-piece wheel assembly plant in Japan and quickly becoming the hub for aftermarket wheel production. A couple years down the lane, in 1981, they brought paint facilities into the mix to control the entire Work Wheel production flow. This marked a shift in Work Wheels becoming not just a wheel company but a pioneer in the wheel industry, breathing life into every creation with customization that was available from the factory; not a dealer.

Takeshi Tanaka Previous Work Wheels President

Based in Osaka, Japan, Work Wheels continued stretching out, establishing international dealers in the United States, Mexico, and Europe. Even after Takeshi Tanaka’s unfortunate passing in 2015, his vision and belief would carry on within the Work Wheels name. The result of this pursuit? A brand that’s been rolling out designs that many JDM fan boys would call “wheel perfection” and well…they’re mostly right.

What’s our expertise in this? Well at MartiniWorks, we’ve been alongside Work Wheels for quite a stretch of that ride. With over 40 combined years of selling, fixing, and running Work Wheels under our belts, we’ve come to be a place where we can help make sense of the brand’s confusing series lines, technology definitions, and¬†maybe¬†overhyped marketing wordsmithing. So if you’re looking for someone who can help get you the right set of Work Wheels, we’re here to help. Chat with us or Browse Work Wheels here.

Work Wheels – Motorsport

It’s easy to see Work Wheels as only a “show-style” wheel and to be honest, we would still say that Work definitely prioritizes looks to race wheels nowadays, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do the job. In the early 80’s for instance, Work had a racing team known as “Team Equip.”

Then came ’85, Work Wheels launched one of the most popular wheel ever made; the WORK Emotion product line. It was a game changer. The Work Emotion would spark a new way to build wheels; multi-configurable and with multiple color options that quickly found their way onto thousands of vehicles across the globe. It’s important to note that while the Emotion product line was one of the wheel manufacturers greatest successes, it wasn’t the only thing they did to win.

Work Wheels | Emotion D9R

Over the years, Work Wheels would go on to compete against brands like Advan with their Meister L1 and Meister M1. The brand would go on to fight against Enkei with their ZR10 and T5R model. Work Wheels would even go on to compete against Volk with their own models that matched Volk’s style and performance. But we’re an honest group of folk here. Throughout the years we’ve seen Volk prioritize a motorsport oriented focus whereas Work Wheels has found their home in the motorsport and car show scene. Not only that, but you’ll find the occasional Work VS-KF on a drift S13 or a T7R on a slammed Ford Mustang. For the price, most people would rather protect these wheels than dirt drop them.

Different Work Wheel Series

Alright, let’s shift gears from the history of Work Wheels and dive into the heart of what makes these wheels so dang special: the series.¬†

  • Work Equip Series: The legacy model that never goes out of style. Available in colors like anodized bronze and black polish, this model spans a fitment range that’ll snugly house your rubber on anything from classic JDM icons. The Equip 40 is a chunky 4 spoke wheel that looks great on Miata’s. The Equip 03 seems to fit the bill on Datsun’s and old mini-trucks. The Equip 01…well that looks good on about anything. 4 bolt focus and lightweight, the Equips are perfect for period correct builds.
Datsun 510 on Work Equip40 Credit: Work Wheels Japan
  • Work S Series: A little less common, but built for SUV’s and 6-lug applications. You’ll experience a small lip in these designs, along with a flat face. Looks great on the Lexus platform.

  • Work VS Series: A multi-spoke design that features a lip, convex spokes, and a Japanese design on an iconic European look from BBS. We still coin these wheels as “Original” but you can see that Work was looking at their German friends to get some inspiration on this one. With available sizing of 18,19, and 20″ wheel diameters
Work Wheels Japan Feat. S14 W/ Work VS-KF
  • Work Emitz Series: Bold and assertive, the Emitz demand attention. With a design that speaks to the VIP builders at heart, these runners come in finishes like chrome and black polish, along with a 2 piece reverse step lip in 20-21″ diameter versions or 2 piece full reverse in 19-20″. If you’re building a VIP car, these wheels will almost always look iconic.

  • Work Zeast Series: A multi-piece 5 or 6-spoke wheel line from Work. The BST2 and ST2 feature a minimal design that comes in some wicked finishes, with nothing too loud. The six spoke design here is likely one of Work’s most progressive designs in terms of “trendiness.”¬†

  • Work Gnosis Series: Refined aesthetics paired with advanced engineering. The Gnosis series caters to those with an eye for luxury, presenting colors like brushed and clear coat to complement their sophisticated style. Think Japanese Vossen for the Gnosis line and it’ll all make sense.

  • Work Emotion Series: They’re the heartthrobs of the lineup, known for their solid build and their fitment range as wide as the open road. With color options like matte bronze and white, it’s clear why these wheels have stolen the spotlight. Not only that, but the Emotion line is the most well supported line in the Work Wheels lineup, offering 1 piece, 2 piece, and 3 piece configurations.
    • Emotion RS11 – An iconic Rally Design that comes in a 2 piece design from 15″, up to 17.” The 11 spoke design has a larger center hub and features a more legacy-style design.

      • ZR10 – A 10 spoke design that is one of our favorites. Concave and convex designs are featured in this wheel and enough technology to handle the track and street. We had these on our 2023 Nissan Z and¬†absolutely loved them. You can learn more about the build here.¬†

      • T5R – A simple five spoke design that maximizes brake clearance without sacrificing design. Subaru builds look iconic with the Work T5R or ZR10 wheels. Oh, and have we mentioned that they look killer on the S-chassis?

        • CR – Windowed five spoke, this model used to be the most popular design in the Emotion series until the ZR10 took its place. We love the CR Kiwami as it still has our hearts on time attack inspired car builds.

        • D9R – A little more heritage in its looks, the D9R is almost exclusively seen on Nissan, Subaru and Toyota builds. A solid design with a chunk of lip to boot, the D9R is a looker but requires a bit of fitment sauce to make look 10/10.

  • Work Meister Series: Second to the Emotion series, the Meister series from Work feature some wildly good designs; but are only available in multi-piece configurations.
    • L1 – A flat 6 spoke style design; great on 4 door tuners.
    • S1 – The most common Work Meister variant. This wheel features chunky spokes with a flanged end and comes available in the 4 lug or 5 lug configurations.
    • M1 – The most motorsport “looking” wheel in the lineup, again taking some inspiration from the reign that BBS has on the mesh design.

Overview of popular Work Wheel models

It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? They do a great job making wheels, but it’s not exactly the easiest to navigate which ones are the top players. Over the years, these are the ones that have stuck out as consistent and well supported by the brand.¬†

  • Work Meister: These wheels are downright legendary. The Meister series has been selling strong for years, raking in fans for their unbeatable combination of classic styling and modern-day tech. The wide fitment range makes them a go-to for anything‚ÄĒfrom period-correct vehicles to the latest tuner cars. Plus, the array of colors available, like the ever-popular anodized lip with gloss black face, makes them work for nearly every platform.¬†
  • Work Emotion: The emotion hits a perfect spot of budget or big dollars, and with nearly thirty different variations within its series, there’s something nearly for everyone in this line. The one piece versions still feature Work’s flowforming technology while the multi-piece configurations feature forged assemblies and bespoke fitment options.
    • Work Emotion ZR10: A special call out to this wheel as it’s our most popular sold on the site. This wheel is a¬†1 piece, flow-formed wheel available in 15-19″ diameter and comes in some insane colors.¬†Azure white, Titanium Diamond Lip cut (HGLC), Black Diamond Lip Cut (BLKLC) / Glim Black Diamond Cut Rim are just some of the finish names that are available in this model and it can’t be understated,¬†it looks wicked good.¬†A 10 spoke design with a two-piece style colorway, the wheels can come in up to 4 different spoke concavities depending on offset and lug hole size to ensure that no matter the wheel size, the design always looks its best.
  • Work Equip: It doesn’t get much more of a JDM classic than this. With their deep roots in racing heritage, the Equip series wheels are sought-after by those looking to embrace true vintage vibes while also rocking fitments that complement everything classic imports.
  • Work VS: Sleek and stylish, the Work VS series brings a touch of luxury to the table with their intricate spoke designs. Available in an array of finishes and sizes, these wheels are frequently chosen for their ability to cater to a plethora of street applications, from eye-catching show cars to pavement-pounding performance machines.
  • Work ZR10¬†

Work Wheel Popular Fitments

Next up, do they look good on everything? We can confidently state¬†yes,¬†but not all models look best on all platforms. Some of our go-to’s for the most popular platforms are below

  • Toyota GR86: We’ve seen this platform take the 1-piece Work Wheels by storm. You’ll see a¬†18×9.5 +35¬†in the Kiwami, ZR10, and T5R fitments look fantastic on the platform.¬†

  • Mark 5 Toyota Supra: Likely one of our favorite platforms from a tuning and performance perspective. These cars look incredible with a bit of lip and mesh style wheels. Personally, a set of 19×9.5 +22 & 19×10.5 +35 on 265/30R19 & 295/30R19 tires is chefs kiss. (Our tire recommendation? Continental Tire. Learn more about those folks here)

  • Honda Civic Type R / Si: Proof that the Work Meister’s look good on just about everything; but the Civic Type R / Si has a special place in our heart with the model. (Recommended sizes: 18×9.5 +38)

  • 2015-2021 Subaru WRX STI: We’ve seen loads of multipiece wheels sit on Subaru’s, but the 18×9.5 +38 Work Emotion ZR10 sits best on this car. Why? Because the thin spokes allow you to see the huge brakes on this thing and can really pull together that sport-coupe look unlike a chunkier 5 or 6 spoke wheel.¬†

  • 2015-2021 Ford Mustang: You can do a ton with this platform, but a clean setup has to be the¬†Work T7r¬†in a 19″ staggered setup. Ideally a 19×9.5 +25 & 19×10.5 +32 is the best way to go. If you need help with tire size, let us know and we’d be happy to help! (Wheels shown are the GT Silver finish)

  • The New Toyota Corolla: We’ve seen the Corolla car enthusiast nail some insanely good fitments. With that said, the Work Meister S1 3P in 18×9.5 +30 225/40 is one of our favorite wheel & tire setups. You’ll see people play a bit with the offset (down to +27 and up to +32) but with coilovers or air suspension, this is about as tight as you can get on the platform.¬†
Credit @not.a.rolla. / @lower_media
  • Nissan 350Z and 370Z: The best part about the Nissan chassis, especially the 350Z and 370Z is its ability to fit¬†huge¬†wheels in the fenders. While conservative fitments of 19×9.5 & 19×10.5 +22 can be found within any brand, Work Wheels took theirs a step further by offering a¬†19×9.5 +23 & 19×10.5 +23 for a more styled size¬†for the 370Z. You can go wider if you want, but we think this looks fantastic without sacrificing ride quality.¬†For our 350Z fanatics,¬†we’ve seen the same mild or wild sizes, so it’s all up to you. A more aggressive spec would be what you see below on the¬†Zistance¬†wheel model. You do you boo.
Work Emotion D9R 19×9.5 +23 & 19×10.5 +23
Work Zistance / 19×11 +6 & 19×12 +23 Rear

How Work Wheels Are Made

Introduction to the Manufacturing Process of Work Wheels

Low pressure cast, forged, and multipiece wheels all feature different manufacturing processes and while not all are considered equal, Work does a killer job setting a high level of quality for anything they make. They’re also one of the few factory direct brands meaning that they own the factory which produces the wheels they make. In most scenarios, Work Wheels uses a¬†Work Flowforming Technology¬†on their 1 piece wheels and some 2 piece wheel¬†faces (meaning the barrel is flow formed but the face of the wheel is low-pressure casted). Keep in mind that this can get confusing so let’s keep it simple:

Work 1 Piece Wheels:¬†Most of their lineup will feature a low-pressure cast face with a flow-formed barrel. While some of their older series are only low-pressure cast, nearly all of their new releases use this technology as it’s more standard practice.

Work 2 Piece & 3 piece Wheels: Typically you will see a forged barrel & lips with a either a cast face or forged face. Depending on the model, size, and age, each wheel can be a bit different in this department.

What Makes Work Wheels JDM?

We get this asked a lot; mostly because people feel bad if they¬†don’t buy¬†a Japanese wheel. Let’s be clear, there are some¬†incredible¬†brands located here in the United States, Europe, and Mexico that are competitive, if not better than Work Wheels in certain scenarios. A products origin does not always dictate quality. In short, don’t let wheel snobs tell you to buy ONLY this thing. It’s your car, you do you boo boo and we’ll be here along the way.

That being said, “JDM Wheels” typically refers to wheel brands and models that were derived exclusively for the Japanese car community. While nearly everything is exported nowadays, wheels that are manufactured in Japan are typically considered “JDM” even though it goes against the actual definition of “Japanese Domestic Market.”

Confused? Same. JDM is meant to define things exclusively made for Japan but car enthusiasts refer to JDM wheels as any aftermarket wheel that was built in Japan.

FYI, the reason we plug ourselves is because we really do like to help people find the right wheels for their car (and hopefully other car parts too). So if you have questions, reach out to us via Help@martiniworks.com or just shoot us a message in the chat bot!

Technical Information About Work Wheels

Work Wheels specailizes in making different rims, faces, and barrels to accomodate a huge range of vehicles. From sport cars to SUVs, big brakes to EV’s, they really do it all. The way they do this is by changing the technical aspects of their rim, lip, and assembly. Let me explain:

Work uses 3 different types of rims in their 1 piece wheels; standard rim, step rim, and full-reverse rim. Standard rims are the basics and allow a large inner area for a big brake kit and is typically what we recommend if you’re building your own wheels. Step rim or a “step lip” is a reverse rim type where the outer lip of the rim has a small “step” to give the wheel a bit of definition. We recommend this design if you don’t need to worry about a big brake kit¬†or¬†your vehicles is a little “bland” on the side profile. Finally, a full-reverse lip or “rim” as Work calls it gives you the maximum flexibility in disc face sizes, a cleaner overall look, and a larger lip than the two other options. If you want style, most people will go with a full-reverse lip from Work Wheels.

So now you know that Work Wheels can come in a 1-piece, 2-piece, or 3-piece configuration and are typically made via flowform and fully forged materials depending on the components and models. But how does that differ from any other multi-piece wheel company?

Work Wheels Exclusive Manufacturing Processes

Work wheels has a few tricks up their sleeves that make them properly good. If you’re looking to understand¬†why¬†you’d pay the price, this paragraph is dedicated to you.

  • Dag Lip Rim Feature –¬†For Work Wheels to become TUV certified in Germany (the hardest certification to achieve in the world of aftermarket wheels), Work developed a “Dag lip rim;” also known as a Work Solid Rim. This manufacturing process involves a process which strengthens and flanges the edge of the lip rim for their wheels which results in a much stronger rim lip. Typically if you hear of wheels bending vs. breaking upon impact, that is because of this technology.
Credit: Work Wheels Japan
  • Flowforming With Purpose¬†– Everyone uses this term now, but Work Wheels¬†actually does it right.¬†Traditional mold thickness of a wheel barrel is right around 4-5mm. While thick, that metal isn’t aligned and typically is formed via a low pressure casting process. Work Wheels uses their Work Flowforming technology to thin out your future Work Wheels to a miniscule 3.2mm! While thin, this doesn’t run any risk of breaking due to the grain structure of the wheel becoming aligned during the flowforming process.
  • Finishes that Last¬†– Work Wheels is known for having some of the best finishes in the industry and that’s because they own their own paint factory. Why this is important is because most wheel companies only own the brand and their designs; with the painting, assembly, packaging, and shipping all being done by the factory or 3rd party company. And while those factories are packaging Brand X’s wheels, they’re also doing Brand Y, Brand Z, and more. This “sell to all” mentality means quality can dip on brands as factories don’t care as much as you do. That’s a shame. Since Work Wheels owns the painting process, they developed their own exclusive finishes and processes for their wheels. That’s typically why you hear of people loving their “Composite Buffing Brush” for their Gnosis or “Super Chrome” on their Zeast models wheels.

The truth about Work Wheels

If you’ve made it this far you’re already likely to buy some Work Wheels (which we hope you get from MartiniWorks), but if you need a final summary to decide on if they’re right for you; here it is. Work Wheels is a Japanese aftermarket wheel company that’s been in the business of engineering and distributing quality wheels for nearly 50 years. Their wheel models may not all be gorgeous, but there’s almost always a model for you. They specialize in in multipiece wheels but the greatest value for dollar is in their 1 piece line. Their expensive but that’s due to their flowformed technology, dag lip rim engineering, finishes, and attention to detail. Production on a custom set of wheels can take upwards of 6 months and their 1 piece wheels can be available as early as tomorrow if you get them through us. You’re spending a good chunk of change on a brand that’s done¬†almost all of it.¬†

I wouldn’t typically consider a car part an investment but in our eyes we can say that buying a set of Work Wheels is a bit like making your first investment in a 401K…

Hope you enjoyed the read. Talk to you soon.

AlexMartini

Alex Martinez

My name is Alex, or Alex Martini (Alex.Martini__) and I love building unreliable cars. From track, road, drag and drift, there really isn't a motorsport I love. PS if you're reading this, just know that we've got some WILD builds coming for MartiniWorks that we're really excited to share with you :)