Don’t Bother with Joy-Con Drift “Hacks”, Just Fix It

You might have heard of the “one simple trick” to fix Joy-Con drift going around. Turns out, it’s almost as clickbait-ish as it sounds. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but there’s rarely one simple solution to a complex electro-mechanical issue. The good news is for just a smidge more effort than the kinda-fix requires, you really can fix Joy-Con drift!

The fix is in

VK's Channel adds a spacer shim to the Joy-Con to reduce drift.
Source: VK’s Channel video “How To Fix Your Joycon Drift Permanently!”

YouTuber VK’s Channel seems to indicate that a drifting Joy-Con can be healed simply by applying pressure to the case—via external squeeze or an internal spacer. A piece of cardboard as thin as one millimeter puts enough pressure on the joystick sensor to restore full contact and stop drift. For Victorstk, this fix worked flawlessly, turning a badly drifting Joy-Con into one that worked like new. But it turns out there’s a lot more to this story.

As mentioned when we explored PlayStation 5 joystick drift, almost all console controllers use the same joystick technology. That means they use the same materials and suffer the same flaws, only one of which is the plastic deformation mentioned in VK’s video. Other failure modes include sensor wear—the erosion of the resistive material used to measure movement—centering-spring fatigue, and grime. Any one of these can haunt your Link into walking off a cliff. More likely, they’re working together to do it.

Will it drift?

But Victorstk had a great pitch and instructions, and we had a few drifting Joy-Cons, so we were excited to try out a (relatively) simple fix.

First we measured the baseline. Our Joy-Con drifted “Northeast” about 50-60% of the time—according to rigorous Animal Crossing: New Horizons testing. Squeezing the controller from the outside, as demonstrated in the YouTube video, didn’t seem to do much: strike one. 

So we cracked open the Joy-Con casing and placed some folded masking tape onto the back of the joystick module. This shims the joystick module against the Joy-Con shell, eliminating any play in the stick’s metal shroud. We reassembled the Joy-Con and started to get worried. Even with a mere millimeter extra filler, the midframe was visibly distorted—great news for a deformation fix, bad news if it’s squishing the battery inside the Joy-Con. Batteries may look like they have “extra” space around them, but that space is allotted for natural swelling and as a safety margin.

But did it fix the drift? Sorta! We crossed some more animals and saw about 10-15% drift action—a serious reduction, but not a flawless victory.

TL;DR—Just tell me if it works

Does the quick-and-dirty spacer fix work? For certain kinds of drift, sure. For a mostly non-invasive option, it helps a lot, and maybe with some deadzone calibration tossed in, you’re 99% of the way there. But there are two better fixes: the easy way and the long road. 

Removing the joystick from a Joy-Con.

Victorstk’s fix is a cool win, and we’re happy they’re spreading the word about both the issue and the DIY fix. But if you’re going to open your Joy-Con for a 40% reduction in drift, why not spend the two extra minutes (and yes, some money) to replace your joystick? It’s easier than you think—check out our team’s mid-pandemic attempts—and is a much safer, longer-term solution. 

Yet the fact remains, that joystick will wear out too. All joysticks are consumables with a limited lifespan. Nintendo, Sony, and every other console maker expects you to shell out for their controllers rather than taking the fix into your own hands. The real solution is treating joysticks as the consumables they are, and making them easily replaceable—batteries too! And that’s where the right to repair comes in. Who’d have thought video gamers, farmers, and car guys would have so much in common? The Right to Repair can help your gaming hardware last longer, work better, and reduce waste. What are you waiting for? Let’s unlock elite game console repair—fight for it!