The Nintendo Switch has seen massive success since its launch in 2017, but we’re now seeing the console’s first big scandal, in the form of failing Joy-Cons.
The specific issue seems to be drifting joysticks, mostly with the left Joy-Con. This causes your character or vehicle in a game to drift left or right, even though the joystick is centered and the player isn’t applying any input.
Users have dug into the issue to find the cause, and thanks to this joystick teardown from Reddit user rainbopython, it’s easy to see the contact pads on the joystick’s circuit board wear down over time. The pads are made of a softer material than the metal prongs from the joystick that press down on these pads, accelerating the wear process and causing the joystick to drift, often within a matter of months.
This isn’t a new problem, though it has been gaining traction across the web. Nintendo has yet to address the issue, even though tons of Switch owners are experiencing it—a Reddit post discussing the flaw has over 27,000 upvotes.
If you’re having this drifting issue on your own Joy-Con, you have some options if you want to take matters into your own hands.
First, Try to Recalibrate Your Joy-Con
While the hardware flaw itself has nothing to do with calibration, a mis-calibrated stick can still cause drift—so it never hurts to recalibrate the controller first, just in case. It’s quick, free, and doesn’t require fixing any hardware.
This feature is found in “System Settings” on the Home menu. From there, scroll down and select “Controllers and Sensors” on the left-hand side. Then select “Calibrate Control Sticks.”
Again, this probably won’t solve the problem, but it never hurts to try.
Talk to Nintendo If Your Switch Is Still Under Warranty
If your Switch is still under its one-year warranty, your best bet is to contact Nintendo directly and get them to replace the faulty Joy-Con free of charge.
Of course, this is easier said than done, as dealing with warranty claims isn’t all that convenient. You’ll likely have to pay to ship the Joy-Con to Nintendo, and you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to receive a replacement. Even for the most casual of gamers, this can be unacceptable.
If you don’t want to be down a Joy-Con (or if your Switch is out of warranty anyway), there are a couple other options you can go for, as long as you’re willing to put in a bit of grunt work.
Try Cleaning Debris Out of Your Joy-Con
If you’re up for it, you can disassemble your Joy-Con and clean off any dust or debris that makes its way into the joystick assembly.
We have a Joy-Con repair guide that goes through the process of disassembling the controller, and the joystick teardown from rainbopython gives you a closer look at the contact pads that can be cleaned off to hopefully fix the issue, using a cotton swab and some contact cleaner.
However, as rainbopython notes, cleaning the contact pads is just a temporary fix, as the pads wear down over time, which is likely the culprit for the drifting problem. So if you want your fix to last longer, you’ll need to replace the entire joystick assembly.
Replace the Joystick Entirely
It’s not the most ideal solution, but replacing the joystick assembly is your best bet if you want a properly-working Joy-Con again. (At least until it fails the next time.)
In any case, it’s a little disheartening that Nintendo hasn’t said a word about this yet. Plus, this issue doesn’t bode well when it comes hot on the heels of the Switch Lite announcement, which doesn’t have removable controllers. Hopefully Nintendo changed the joystick assembly to prevent this kind of issue from happening, but we’ll have to wait until we get our hands on the new console and tear it down.