How to fix Nintendo Switch’s JoyCon drift with little money and effort
Have your Nintendo Switch’s JoyCons fallen prey to the terrifying malady known as JoyCon Drift? Well don’t worry! You don’t have to run out and purchase a brand new pair. There are actually ways to fix your JoyCons with very little time and effort. Try these steps to save you a lot of money and anguish over your poor drifting sticks.
Step 1: Recalibrate your JoyCon
This should be the first thing that anyone tries. In the controller portion of the settings menu you will find the option to recalibrate your JoyCon. Simply select the JoyCon that has been causing you problems and go through the steps to recalibrate it.
Over time a JoyCons center can sway to the left or right. If there isn’t a major hardware problem then recalibration should be enough to fix them.
Step 2: Clean your JoyCon
JoyCon analog sticks have small contacts pads in them that wear down after repeated use. This creates conductive dust that can cause small shorts that will cause your JoyCon to drift. Luckily you can actually come at this with compressed air in the hopes to blow the dust out of the JoyCon. Simply rotate the JoyStick and spray the compressed air around its joint. You can also spray some compressed air in through the top of the JoyCon afterward to make sure none of the conductive dust got on your PCB.
Step 3: The nuclear option
OK I called this the nuclear option because it sounds cool, but actually it’s pretty easy to do. You can find these repair kits all over the internet for $8 to $15 depending on how many replacement joysticks you order. They include everything you need to replace your joystick completely. New joystick means no drift!
The first thing you need to do is open your JoyCon. On the back, you’ll find four screws. These are Y screws and they are what the Y screwdrivers you received in your kit is for. BE VERY CAREFUL. These screws strip very easily. Gently rotate to feel the screwdriver lock in place and when you do, put a lot of forward pressure on the screwdriver to make sure it doesn’t strip. If you feel it slipping, back off. If you strip these screws you will have rendered your JoyCon unable to be opened and there’s not much you can do about that.
Once the screws are out, you’ll want to crack your case with the included case cracker. There is a joint right near the trigger that the cracker can slip into. Fit it there and then run it down the smooth edge. You’ll want to open it up in this direction, not on the side with the SL and SR buttons.
Once your case is open, you’ll be greeted with the battery. The battery is attached with a small piece of double sided tape (yes really). To get it out, you’ll need to use the included pry tool to get underneath it. With a tiny bit of force it pops right out. You’ll note that it’s attached to the PCB by a small connector. This too can pop right out with very little force. I actually suggest that you take the battery out so there’s no power going through the JoyCon as you do the replacement.
Another important note, there will be two ribbon cables attaching each half of your JoyCon case. You do not have to touch either of these cables. In fact, try not to. If they come out of their holders on the PCB you CAN slide them back in, but they can also tear and once again that will render your JoyCon useless.
Underneath the battery are four screws, two of which will be raised. These are the screws that you will have to unscrew next. This goes without saying but be sure to keep track of all these screws. You’ll need them to reassemble your JoyCon later. There is another screw on the bottom near the battery connector that you will have to unscrew as well.
Your JoyCon then opens up like a sandwich and you’ll have access to your broken joystick. Once again BE VERY CAREFUL about the ribbon cable connecting the battery compartment to the board. This is what connects the ZL button and once again you can accidentally tear it.
The joystick is actually only screwed on with two screws, one at the bottom and one underneath the ribbon cable connecting the plus or minus button to the PCB. There’s really no way around it, you’ll have to unseat the ribbon cables for both the +/- button and the JoyStick from their ZIF connectors. You can do this by putting a very small amount of pressure on the ZIF connectors in order to flip them upward. I suggest using tweezers. Unfortunately the repair kit I got didn’t have tweezers in it (despite being advertised as such) so I had to make do.
DO NOT USE METAL TOOLS ON THE PCB! EVER! I AM USING THE SCREWDRIVER JUST TO POINT OUT WHERE THE ZIF CONNECTORS ARE! NEVER USE METAL INSTRUMENTS OR PRYING TOOLS!
Once you’ve done that, your joystick is free to come out. You’ll note that a small rim of rubber is attached to it. Leave it there as it acts as a dust guard. Once you have your old joystick out, just put your new joystick in and reverse the steps to close it up.
You might want to test your JoyCon out before completely closing it however. Attach the battery and close it up before screwing it all in and give it a run on whatever game you want. This will save you some agony in the long run, since screwing in these screws is definitely the worst part of the repair job.
And there you have it! now you have a new joystick for your perfectly good JoyCon. If your JoyCon continues to drift after this, then you have a problem with your PCB and frankly there isn’t going to be a good fix for that. However, that’s extremely rare, and the nuclear option is sure to fix almost all your problems for a fraction of the price of a new JoyCon pair.