Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Drift

Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Drift

Alisha C and 3 contributors
Last updated on

Chances are if you have access to news media, you’ve heard of this phenomenon—joysticks are drifting. Even though it sounds like it, it's not the latest electronics trend. It's a term for joysticks acting as though they are being tilted in a particular direction even when they are not. So stop getting skeptical glares for blaming your lackluster gaming skills on your Joy-Con. This issue might be easier to fix than you think!

Also note, Nintendo may fix this for free! But, if you’re too impatient for mail-in repair, crave the satisfaction of doing it yourself, or want to put in some upgraded sticks, this page should get you back on track.

Before undertaking any of the more time-consuming solutions below, there are a few fundamentals to give a go.

  • Update your Joy-Con firmware. The Switch will typically prompt you to update when it is available, but to check manually navigate to System Settings > Controllers and Sensors > Update Controllers.
  • Update your Switch. Update settings can be found in System Settings > System > System Update
  • Clean the outside of the controller using a damp cloth. Your latest snack crumbs may be stuck, not allowing the joystick to return to the center.

Causes

1

In order for a joystick to work properly, it needs to have an idea of what the “neutral” position is, and what other values mean in relation to that. Calibration is the process the Switch uses to determine that. Based on the widespread nature of this issue, this is unlikely to resolve the problem, but is easy enough it warrants a try.

  1. Select the System Settings Application on the Home Screen.
  2. From there navigate to Controllers and Sensors > Calibrate Control Sticks.
  3. Tilt the joystick that needs calibration.
  4. Follow the directions to evaluate the joystick’s current response.
  5. Press the X button to initiate calibration.
  6. Follow the guide to calibrate the joystick.
2

Any gamer knows that your controller is going to get downright disgusting. No matter what you do. Even though the internals are shielded from most debris, there’s no keeping it out altogether. Giving the joystick mechanism a good clean can get you back on track.

  • Use the Joystick Replacement Guide to get the joystick out of your controller.
  • Have a look at a teardown of the joystick itself to get at its insides.
  • Use electronics contact cleaner or isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab to remove any debris. You’ll want to clean both the flexible circuit board bit, and the small metal contacts on the bottom of the joystick.
    • If you don’t want to open up your Joy-Con, you can give the no disassembly method a go, but this sort of cleaning is best done directly. The no-open approach is also more likely to disturb the lubricant on the inside of the joystick, which could lead to further problems.
3

If cleaning does not make a difference, the joystick itself may just be worn out. Due to the mostly mechanical nature of the joystick, wear is inevitable and given enough time, drift of this kind may occur regardless.

  • Replacing the joystick itself is the most effective tactic in this case.
  • The process varies slightly for the right Joy-Con versus the left Joy-Con, but is equally doable with the proper tools.
  • Consider replacing your joysticks with ones driven by hall effect sensors rather than the analog ones Nintendo uses. These sticks use magnetic fields to detect direction are are much more resilient to grime and dirt. A very worthy upgrade!
4

If you're still getting drift even after joystick cleaning and replacement, this issue can extend to the board level. It is usually related to liquid spill, but can arise in some cases even without.

  • Inspect the connector for the joystick to be sure it's free from damage or corrosion.
  • Be sure the cable is seated properly and the latch for the connector is flipped down.
  • No damage to the connector? A chip in each Joy-Con (or on the motherboard in the Switch Lite) is responsible for inputs and outputs. They will be responsible for managing the signals from the joysticks.
Block Image

Joy-Con Serial IO chip

Block Image

Switch Lite Microcontroller

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