How to Fix Your Nintendo Switch’s Drifting Joy-Con Joystick

How to Fix Your Nintendo Switch’s Drifting Joy-Con Joystick

This post was originally published July 2019; it was updated in May 2024.

The Nintendo Switch has seen massive success since its launch in 2017, but that doesn’t mean  the console didn’t experience issues. Arguably, failing Joy-Cons are one of its biggest pain points.

The specific issue seems to be drifting sticks, mostly with the left Joy-Con. This causes your character or vehicle in a game to drift left or right, even though the joystick is centered and the player isn’t applying any input.

Users have dug into the issue to find the cause, and thanks to this joystick teardown from Reddit user rainbopython, it’s easy to see the contact pads on the joystick’s circuit board wear down over time. The pads are made of a softer material than the metal prongs from the joystick that press down on these pads, accelerating the wear process and causing the joystick to drift, often within a matter of months.

This isn’t a new problem, though it has been gaining traction across the web since it was identified. A Reddit post discussing the flaw has over 27,000 upvotes. For years, Nintendo did not respond to reports about drifting Joy-Cons, but in 2019, a class action lawsuit forced Nintendo to acknowledge the issue and a year later Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa even apologized.

If you’re having this drifting issue on your own Joy-Con, you have some options if you want to take matters into your own hands. And before you get going, make sure you have the right tools for the job at hand.

First, Try to Recalibrate Your Joy-Con

While the hardware flaw itself has nothing to do with calibration, a mis-calibrated stick can still cause drift—so it never hurts to recalibrate the controller first, just in case. It’s quick, free, and doesn’t require fixing any hardware.

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This feature is found in “System Settings” on the Home menu. From there, scroll down and select “Controllers and Sensors” on the left-hand side. Then select “Calibrate Control Sticks.”

Again, this probably won’t solve the problem, but it never hurts to try.

Talk to Nintendo If Your Switch Is Still Under Warranty

If your Switch is still under its one-year warranty, your best bet is to contact Nintendo directly and get them to replace the faulty Joy-Con free of charge.

Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers

If you are located in North or Latin America or the UK, Switzerland, or an European Economic Area (EEA) country, Nintendo will even repair or replace your Joy-Con for free outside the warranty period.

Of course, this is easier said than done. You’ll likely have to ship the Joy-Con to Nintendo, and you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to receive a replacement. Even for the most casual of gamers, this can be unacceptable.

If you don’t want to be down a Joy-Con (or if your Switch is out of warranty anyway and you’re not located in an area with free out-of-warranty repairs), there are a couple other options you can go for, as long as you’re willing to put in a bit of grunt work.

Try Cleaning Debris Out of Your Joy-Con

If you’re up for it, you can disassemble your Joy-Con and clean off any dust or debris that makes its way into the joystick assembly.

We have a Joy-Con repair guide that goes through the process of disassembling the controller, and the joystick teardown from rainbopython gives you a closer look at the contact pads that can be cleaned off to hopefully fix the issue, using a cotton swab and some contact cleaner.

However, as rainbopython notes, cleaning the contact pads is just a temporary fix, as the pads wear down over time, which is likely the culprit for the drifting problem. So if you want your fix to last longer, you’ll need to replace the entire joystick assembly.

Replace the Joystick Entirely

It’s not the most ideal solution, but replacing the joystick assembly is your best bet if you want a properly-working Joy-Con again. (At least until it fails the next time.)

Using our same Joy-Con repair guide linked above, you can disassemble the controller and replace the joystick, using either the traditional option or a hall-effect replacement that is less prone to stick drift. It certainly beats paying $40 for a new Joy-Con.

In any case, it’s a little disheartening that Nintendo wasn’t able to remediate the issue with either the Switch Lite, which was announced shortly after the drift issue became apparent to gamers, or the 2021 Switch OLED. With the Switch Lite, getting the drift fixed means opening up the handheld console or sending it in for a repair as the sticks are non-removable.

Still, it’s good to have Nintendo acknowledge the issue and improve the situation somewhat. We can only hope that Nintendo’s engineers, who are very aware of the issues of wear and tear, find a solution in the future. May we suggest Hall-effect sensors?