There’s a lot to like about the Nintendo Switch, and the recent pandemic has given everyone the perfect excuse to enjoy the popular console — assuming you were able to buy one before they sold out. But all that extra playtime does have a dark side: There’s a good chance you’ll fall victim to the dreaded Switch Joy Con drift, which is reportedly a “matter of when, not if.”
If your controller seems to have a mind of its own, inputting commands when you’re not even in the same room, then your Joy Con may require some repair. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to fix your drifting sticks no matter your tools or budget.
Repair your Joy Cons and get back in the game. Here’s how you can restore your Joy Cons.
1. Recalibrate the Control Sticks
Don’t spring for your wallet when you first notice the signs of Joy Con drifting. It may not be a hardware issue at all. Maybe all your Joy Con needs is a quick recalibration.
Before you recalibrate the Joy Con in question, remove the device from your Nintendo switch. Find System Settings then scroll down to Controllers and Sensors. In this menu, select Calibrate Control Sticks.
The software will walk you through a variety of tests. With your hands away from the Joy Con, you’ll notice a reticule with a plus sign. If you see a dot instead, press the X button to begin the recalibration process.
Recalibrating is as simple as following the on-screen directions. Once the calibration process is complete, your Joy Con should be working again as intended. Take it for a spin by testing it in the game where you first experienced trouble.
If you’re still noticing an unintended drift, it may still be possible to save your device without a major intervention.
2. Clean the Joy Con
The verdict is out on why, exactly, Joy Con drift is so prevalent. The leading theory is dust or debris slips under the thumbstick and inhibits normal functioning.
When you know you’re dealing with a hardware issue, cleaning the control stick should be your first plan of action. It’s non-invasive, and compared to other repair techniques it doesn’t introduce a great deal of risk. It may not always fix your device, but things aren’t likely to go wrong, either.
First, apply contact cleaner or 70% isopropyl alcohol onto a Q-tip. Total saturation is fine, but you don’t want the Q-tip so wet that it’s dripping. The moisture can damage your Joy Con.
At the base of your thumbstick is a protective rubber cap. Worm the Q-Tip beneath this layer of rubber and work your way around. Once you’re happy with your coverage, rotate the thumbstick in alternating circles to ensure the cleaner is evenly distributed.
Now be patient. Wait 15 to 30 minutes before testing your device.
If you’re lucky, your Joy Con should be behaving normally once again. You may have to repeat the process in the future should Joy Con drift return. When cleaning the thumbstick doesn’t get the job done, you’ll have to turn to more invasive repair options.
3. Contact Nintendo
You’ve done as much as you can without invalidating the warranty. If you aren’t a hardware expert, you may want to leave the repairs up to Nintendo.
So long as your Joy Con is within its one-year warranty, you shouldn’t experience any complications. Though, as rumor has it, Nintendo repairs Joy Con drift if it’s outside of warranty, too. Just note that it’s not necessarily a sure thing.
Of course, even if you do qualify for free repairs, Nintendo doesn’t guarantee they can replace an unfixable Joy Con if yours is limited edition. You’ll also be waiting for several weeks — or longer, as the pandemic has slowed down Nintendo’s repair services.
4. Use a Replacement Thumbstick
Technically, you can replace a drifting joystick without outside help. Note that doing so will avoid your Joy Con’s warranty. You should only attempt this procedure if you have a good sense of hardware repair or you don’t mind if your Joy Con breaks in the process.
The entire process is too complicated for this article, but you can find several videos online. All you’ll need is a replacement thumbstick and a few basic tools.
Even if you follow the directions exactly, the new thumbstick may not repair your Joy Con’s problem. You’ll also introduce plenty of dust to the interior of your controller which can cause some trouble in the near future.
Consider this process as the nuclear option. It’s not as easy as PS4 repair.
5. Get a New Joy Con
If you can’t fix it yourself and Nintendo won’t accept your repair request, you may be tempted to purchase a new Joy Con. This is the most expensive option by far.
Buying a new Joy Con is also a significant challenge, as many other Switch users deal with drifting issues and buy new Joy Cons rather than waiting on repairs. They’re often out of stock, and those you find may not be the correct color.
Still, there’s something to be said about the convenience of buying a replacement if you don’t mind paying for it.
Repair Switch Joy Con Drift
Don’t want to wait on Nintendo or buy a new Joy Con? There’s one other way to fix Switch Joy Con drift. Visit a local repair shop for a fast fix that doesn’t break the bank.
Fruit Fixed has multiple locations and years of experience, so you can rest easy knowing your Joy Con is in good hands. Visit one of our stores and enjoy quick, no-fuss game console repair.