How to fix controller drift Nintendo SwitchSource: 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 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.

    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 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.

    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 the cross isn't in the center, click the X button to calibrate.
  6. A message pops up warning you only to 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 tricky, 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:

It's possible that removing particles from your sticks using compressed air could make them work properly again.

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.

    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, if you're handy, you can replace the joysticks.

Add foam or cardboard inside the Joy-Con

Recently, VK's Channel on Youtube discovered a critical fix. 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. Open your drifting Joy-Con and be careful to remember where each screw goes.
  2. Cut out a small square of either 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.

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 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 GamesSource: 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.

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 HeroSource: 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.

Cleansing blast

WD-40

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

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

Neon Pink and Neon Green Joy-Cons

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 controllers. 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.

2 replacement joysticks

Veanic 2-Pack Replacement Joysticks ($13 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 Enhanced Wireless Controller ($46 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

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.