How to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchSource: Rebecca Spear / iMore

If you're like me, then you probably love the Nintendo Switch and the Switch Lite. Nintendo's latest consoles can go anywhere and can even be played on your TV (at least the regular Switch), and there are a ton of amazing games to choose from. But you may have experienced this little thing called Joy-Con drift, where your on-screen characters or cursor just starts moving around without you touching the joysticks. Thankfully, there are a few ways to fix the dreaded Joy-Con drift issue.

Products used in this guide

But why is this happening?

Many other controllers with analog sticks can be subject to the same problem, but it seems as if the Switch is uniquely vulnerable to drifting. Here are some common reasons why this happens:

  1. After some frequent use, dust and grime can build up inside the sticks, which can then hurt the contacts within. This isn't surprising considering that the Switch devices are portable and therefore get subjected to more contaminants both indoors and outdoors.
  2. After taking their Switch apart, some gamers have discovered that the joystick contacts get worn down over time, causing them to work improperly.

Aside from the two reasons listed above, there could be other reasons why your joysticks are doing this. Whatever the reason, it's something that nearly everyone is going to want to fix when it starts happening to them.

How to conduct a system update on the controllers:

OK, enough chitter-chatter! You have a drifting analog stick, and you want to fix it. Here's what you should try! It's possible your controllers just need an update. Here's how to make that happen:

  1. From the main menu, go to System Settings.
  2. Click on Controllers and Sensors.

    How to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchHow to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchSource: iMore

  3. Scroll down to Update Controllers.
  4. If the controllers are already up to date, a message will pop up saying so. Click OK. If you didn't get this message continue to the next step.

    How to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchHow to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchSource: iMore

  5. Wait until the controllers finish updating with the latest firmware.
  6. A message will pop up reading Update Complete. Click OK.

    How to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchHow to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchSource: iMore

Now you can check to see if the drift issue has been fixed. If it hasn't, you can also try recalibrating your Joy-Cons by following the next set of steps.

How to recalibrate your Joy-Cons and joysticks through software:

It's possible that your joysticks might just be off. Here's how to recalibrate your analog sticks through the software:

  1. From the main menu, click on System Settings.
  2. Scroll down to Controllers and Sensors.

    How to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchHow to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchSource: iMore

  3. Select Calibrate Control Sticks.
  4. Press down on the stick that you want to calibrate.

    Nintendo Switch Joy-Con  system settingsNintendo Switch Joy-Con select your analog stickSource: iMore

  5. If your joystick is behaving normally, you should see a green cross in the middle of the crosshair. If it shows a circle or if the cross isn't in the center, click the X button to calibrate.
  6. A message pops up warning you to only recalibrate if something is wrong with your joystick. Click Calibrate.

    Nintendo Switch Joy-Con check analog stick workingHow to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchSource: iMore

  7. What follows are several instructions for you to complete. First, maneuver the joystick towards the green triangle and release it when it changes color. This will repeat a few times. It can be tricky if there is something wrong with your joystick. If it proves too difficult, exit by pressing the B button.
  8. Next, it will ask you to rotate the sick. Follow the direction it indicates.

    Nintendo Switch Joy-Con calibration processHow to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchSource: iMore

  9. A message will pop up stating Calibration complete. Click OK.

    How to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchSource: iMore

How to fix drift with compressed air:

  1. Identify the analog stick that is giving you problems.
  2. Follow the instructions on the compressed air can. This usually means you'll need to shake the can thoroughly before using it.

    How to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchHow to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchSource: iMore

  3. Place your thumb on the joystick and pull it to one side.
  4. Gently use the straw to lift the rubber skirt of the joystick.

    How to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchHow to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchSource: iMore

  5. Give your stick several quick cleansing blasts from different angles.

  6. Leave the Switch Lite, or the Joy-Con tilted to one side and allow any debris to run down the side.

    How to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchHow to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchSource: iMore

  7. Wipe up any debris that got dislodged onto the Switch Lite or Joy-Cons.
  8. Let the joysticks dry thoroughly before using them.

    How to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchHow to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchSource: iMore

Hopefully, that dislodged any debris or dust that was causing problems for your joysticks. If controller drift continues after cleaning, you might want to send your Switch in for repairs or replace the joysticks.

DIY fix by replacing the analog stick

If you're still having drift issues after using the canned air method and recalibrating the Joy-Cons, you may need to replace the analog sticks. There are some cheap options available on Amazon, such as this one from Veanic, but keep in mind that this may void your warranty.

We'd recommend checking out this video from TronicsFix on how to replace your Joy-Con analog sticks.

How to prevent it from happening!

If you haven't had this issue yet and you would like to try to avoid it, or if you had it and don't want it again, there are a few things you can do to try to keep it from happening.

  1. One suggestion is to make sure that you are using your Switch with clean hands. This may seem obvious, but if you have young ones playing on your Switch, they don't always wash off Cheetos crumbs before they start playing.
  2. If you are taking your Switch on the go, I would recommend a case. If you are just tossing your Switch into a backpack without a protective case, your sticks may be subject to collecting some particulates or getting smashed against various surfaces. For the best options, check out these articles on the best Nintendo Switch cases or the best Nintendo Switch Lite cases.

Little issues like this can be incredibly frustrating. There have been times when I had a controller stopped working as it was intended, and I sure did want to toss it across the room. Hopefully, these tips will help keep you in the game and frustration-free!

Nintendo warranties and sending them back for repairs

Joy-Con drift has been an issue for many Switch fans since launch and unfortunately, it affects Nintendo Switch Lite owners as well. The prevalence of this problem has resulted in lawsuits against Nintendo. With so much attention brought to the issue, the gaming company has made it much easier to start a ticket for repairing your Joy-Cons on its customer support page.

"At Nintendo, we take great pride in creating quality products, and we are continuously making improvements to them," a representative from Nintendo told Kotaku in response questions about Joy-Con drift. "We are aware of recent reports that some Joy-Con controllers are not responding correctly. We want our consumers to have fun with Nintendo Switch, and if anything falls short of this goal, we always encourage them to visit so we can help."

According to Vice, Nintendo's customer support reps have been instructed to aid anyone who contacts them about Joy-Con drift by first going through troubleshooting steps. If that doesn't fix the problem, Nintendo will make repairs at no charge without requiring proof of purchase. What's more, anyone who contacted Nintendo previously and paid to get their Joy-Cons fixed will be issued a refund.

Of course, some people find this process too time-consuming and prefer to purchase a new pair of Joy-Cons. It's more expensive, but that's another route owner of the larger Switch can take. Unfortunately, Switch Lites don't have removable controllers, so you won't be able to disengage the problematic joysticks this easily.

Cleansing blast

WD-40 Contact Cleaner Spray

Blast debris away from joysticks

This can contains a special spray specifically meant for cleaning electrical components. It's quick-drying and helps remove oils, dirt, and condensation from metals and plastics. It's the ideal cleaner for spraying your Switch joysticks.

The replacement

Veanic Replacement Joystick

A replacement joystick for your Nintendo Switch Joy-Con

This replacement joystick comes with a "Y" Tri-wing screwdriver, a cross screwdriver, tweezers, and pry tools to help you make replacing the part easier. It also comes with two analog caps that you can place on your joysticks to make them respond faster during gaming sessions.

New controllers

Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons: Neon Pink/Neon Green

Brand new Joy-Cons for the Nintendo Switch

This package contains both the right and left Joy-Con controller. It also features two Joy-Con straps for undocked play. The battery life lasts up to 20 hours, so you'll have plenty of time during gaming sessions. They feature rumble, amiibo support, and motion controls to enhance your gaming experience.

Additional products to help with controller issues

If you need more than one replacement joystick or if you'd prefer a new controller altogether, here are the products we recommend most.

Veanic 2-Pack Replacement Joysticks ($15 at Amazon)

If you need to replace both of your joysticks or if you'd prefer to have an extra joystick handy, consider purchasing this 2-pack. It comes with four thumbstick caps, a cross screwdriver, a "Y" screwdriver, a prying tool, and tweezers to help make the replacement process easier.

PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller ($39 at Amazon)

This wireless controller is a perfect replacement for defective Joy-Cons. It features motion controls and additional buttons on the backside to enhance your gaming sessions. Choose from one of six different colors and themes to get the look you like best.

Pro Controller ($70 at Amazon)

This is the mother of all Nintendo Switch controllers. In addition to having a battery that lasts up to 40 hours, it features motion controls, HD rumble, and built-in amiibo functionality. Should the battery get low, you can plug in a USB cable and keep playing. Its joysticks and buttons are larger than the ones on the Joy-Cons, making them easier to use.

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.