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How to fix Joy-Con drift on Nintendo Switch

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch
How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

I absolutely love the Nintendo Switch, Switch OLED, and the Switch Lite. Nintendo's latest consoles can go anywhere, there are a ton of amazing games to choose from, and the larger hybrid can even be played on your TV. But if you're like me, you may have experienced this annoying 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.

WARNING: Opening Joy-Cons and performing home fixes can permanently damage parts if done incorrectly. Additionally, replacing parts or customizing Joy-Cons will void any active warranty. Proceed at your own risk.

But why is this happening?

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

  1. There's some build-up: After frequent use, dust and grime can build up inside the sticks, which can hurt the contacts within. This isn't surprising considering that the Switch devices are portable and therefore get subjected to more contaminants indoors and outdoors.
  2. The contacts are worn down: 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 will 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.Source: iMore

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: iMore)

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Scroll down to Update Controllers.
  2. 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.Source: iMore

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: iMore)

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Wait until the controllers finish updating with the latest firmware.
  2. A message will pop up reading Update Complete. Click OK.Source: iMore

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: iMore)

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: 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 also possible that your joysticks could 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.Source: iMore

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: iMore)

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Select Calibrate Control Sticks.
  2. Press down on the stick that you want to calibrate.Source: iMore

Nintendo Switch Joy-Con system settings (Image credit: iMore)

Nintendo Switch Joy-Con select your analog stick (Image credit: iMore)
  1. If your joystick is behaving normally, you should see a green cross in the middle of the crosshair. If it shows a circle or the cross isn't in the center, click the X button to calibrate.
  2. A message pops up warning you only to recalibrate if something is wrong with your joystick. Click Calibrate.Source: iMore

Nintendo Switch Joy-Con check analog stick working (Image credit: iMore)

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: iMore)
  1. 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 tricky, exit by pressing the B button.
  2. Next, it will ask you to rotate the sick. Follow the direction it indicates.Source: iMore

Nintendo Switch Joy-Con calibration process (Image credit: iMore)

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: iMore)
  1. A message will pop up stating Calibration complete. Click OK.

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: iMore)

Add foam or cardboard inside the Joy-Con

Spawn Wave's channel on YouTube discovered a critical fix that has relieved Joy-Con drift for many users. They found that placing some kind of padding between the analog stick and the Joy-Con casing can solve the drifting issue. Best of all, you can do it using things you find around your house. For step-by-step assistance, you can follow the video above and find the basic steps below.

  1. Use a Tri-Wing Screwdriver to open your drifting Joy-Con and be careful to remember where each screw goes.
  2. Cut out a small square of foam or cardboard. The thickness should be 1mm or less and have roughly the same shape as the metal casing surrounding the analog stick.
  3. Use some adhesive to attach this square cut out to the back of the metal casing. Be careful what adhesive you choose to use, and don't put it on too thick.
  4. Screw the Joy-Con casing back into place. Once that's done, the Joy-Con should be ready to use.

If that doesn't do it, then there's one more thing you can try before getting really drastic.

How to fix drift with compressed air:

It's possible that removing particles from your Joy-Con sticks using compressed air could make them work properly again. Joy-Con controllers have slightly different designs between the original Nintendo Switch and the Switch OLED, but this method will work on both.

WARNING: If you're going to use compressed air, make sure to use the WD-40 Specialist Electrical Contact Cleaner (or something similar) and not the regular WD-40 as the regular version can cause additional problems for your Joy-Cons.

  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.Source: iMore

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)
  1. Place your thumb on the joystick and pull it to one side.
  2. Gently use the straw to lift the rubber skirt of the joystick.Source: iMore

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)
  1. Give your stick several quick cleansing blasts from different angles.
  2. Leave the Switch Lite, or the Joy-Con tilted to one side and allow any debris to run down the side.Source: iMore

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)
  1. Wipe up any debris that got dislodged onto the Switch Lite or Joy-Cons.
  2. Let the joysticks dry thoroughly before using them.Source: iMore

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

How to fix controller drift Nintendo Switch (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / 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, if you're handy, you can replace the joysticks.

DIY fix by replacing the analog stick

If you're still having Joy-Con drift issues after using the canned air method, foam fix, and recalibrating the controllers, you may need to replace the analog sticks. Some cheap options are available on Amazon, but remember that replacing the joystick will void any active warranty your Joy-Cons may have.

We recommend checking out this video above from TronicsFix on how to replace your Joy-Con analog sticks for additional help.

How to prevent it from happening!

Tomtoc Mars Switch Lite Case Open Games (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

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. Make sure your hands are clean: One suggestion is to make sure 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. Use a protective carrying case: When taking your Switch on the go, I seriously recommend using 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. If you don't have one yet, check out the best Nintendo Switch cases, or the best Nintendo Switch Lite cases, or even the best Nintendo Switch OLED cases.

Minor issues like this can be incredibly frustrating. There have been times when I had a controller stop 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 Joy-Cons in for repairs

Luigis Mansion 3 Multiplayer Pack Dlc Review Hero (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

Joy-Con drift has been an issue for many Switch fans since its 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 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 to 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 http://support.nintendo.com 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 larger Switch owners can take. Unfortunately, Switch Lites don't have removable controllers, so you won't be able to disengage the problematic joysticks easily.

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.

2 replacement joysticks

2 replacement joysticks (Image credit: Veanic)
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Veanic 2-Pack Replacement Joysticks (opens in new tab) ($11 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 make the replacement process easier.

PowerA controller

PowerA controller (Image credit: PowerA)
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PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller (opens in new tab) ($55 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.

Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

Nintendo Switch Pro Controller (Image credit: Nintendo)
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Pro Controller (opens in new tab) ($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.