Switch Owners Share Horror Stories Of Trying To Fix Joy-Con Drift

Photo: Nintendo

“Joy-Con drift,” which results in a thumbstick that reads movement without player input, has been an ongoing problem for Nintendo Switch owners since the console’s launch back in early 2017. Without large-scale fixes from Nintendo, however, players have taken to fixing their $100 controllers themselves, sometimes with disastrous results.

The jury is still out on what exactly causes Joy-Con drift, but there are a few compelling theories. Some ascribe it to dust finding its way below the Joy-Con’s thumbstick, while others lay the blame on the hardware itself, noting that the sensors connected to joystick movement have a tendency to flake away with repeated use.

In any case, it is common for players using Joy-Cons to find that their stick slowly drifts in unwanted directions, an annoyance at best and a game-ruining experience at worst, especially when it comes to games that require precise inputs, like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Just as there are multiple opinions on how drift happens, there are a handful of ways folks have found to fix it. The first is simple: Clean out the area beneath the joystick. Many have found success using things like compressed air, cotton swabs and alcohol, or WD-40 electrical contact cleaner spray to remove the small, intrusive particles that may be causing drift, but this is also only a stopgap measure that needs to be repeated as the issues continue to return.

Screenshot: Spawn Wave

More drastic fixes include replacing the Joy-Con thumbstick entirely. There’s no end to the number of YouTube videos purporting to help folks in this endeavour, the most popular of which have reached over 500,000 views since they were uploaded months ago. Various third-party retailers have even put together kits that bundle the necessary parts and tools in one complete package that can be purchased through platforms like Amazon.

Unfortunately for some Joy-Con owners, these repairs don’t always turn out well. After yesterday’s story about the problem went live, Kotaku US’ comments were filled with readers who had experienced these drifting issues, some of whom ran into further trouble when they tried to fix the problem themselves.

Reader gokartmozart drew attention to the “delicate” ribbon cable connectors they encountered inside their Joy-Con. MFTWrecks mentioned shattering an irreplaceable component in the same area during a joystick replacement.

Reddit, too, is full of horror stories and public service announcements after repairs went wrong, including instances of thumbstick pads with newly-formed “hemorrhoids” and a Joy-Con that registered a full up input as merely a partial tilt. One mishap even resulted in a controller that stopped working entirely.

So why go through so much trouble if there’s a possibility of damaging your Joy-Con further? A lot of it has to do with the age of the Switch. Early adopters have seen their one-year warranty from Nintendo run out long ago, meaning repairs that would typically only incur a relatively small shipping charge now cost upwards of $60.

That’s quite a bit considering the $100 retail price for a brand new set of Joy-Cons. When compared to the $20 repair kits mentioned earlier, it’s easy to understand why some players would much rather fire up an instructional YouTube video and try to fix the offending thumbstick themselves. That said, since the issue likely lies with Nintendo’s hardware, any replacements have the possibility of being inflicted with the same problem somewhere down the line, necessitating further repairs.

As video game hardware becomes more and more sophisticated, prices will only continue to rise. Staying on the cutting edge is an expensive hobby, and players rightfully expect the high-priced consoles and peripherals they purchase to function as intended for years, if not into perpetuity.

Needless to say, Switch owners have been frustrated with Nintendo’s handling of the Joy-Con drift issue for some time, emotions that are only compounded by the company’s complete silence on the matter.

While many of the repair problems mentioned in this story were likely caused by user error, the circumstances that have forced people into personally trying to fix the video game devices on which they have already spent hundreds of dollars are untenable.

Here’s hoping this issue is corrected sometime between now and the Nintendo Switch Lite and the improved battery life model.


Comments

    It will be interesting to see someone complain to the ACCC over this. With their rulings about hardware and manufacturing faults needing to be covered for periods greater than the standard 12 months, and this being potentially a widespread issue you would think a determined customer could cause some headaches for Nintendo, at least here in Australia.

    Also, whats going to happen with the Switch Lite, if they haven't acknowledged a problem exists, and are still making them the same way, when they bugger up on the Lite you will have to send the entire console to Nintendo...

      Exactly. Where there is a reasonable expectation that the product should be used for longer than the 12 months, a warranty can be implied by law. I copied the below from the ABC on the topic:

      In determining what is an appropriate period for a guarantee to apply, the law forces courts to consider the nature of the goods, the price of the goods, and statements made about the goods either on the packaging or by the supplier or manufacturer.

      In layman's terms, that means a consumer can expect a longer legal guarantee to apply for goods that generally last a long time, that are relatively expensive, and where any claims are made about the quality and/or durability of the product by either the salesperson or manufacturer.

      For example, if consumers generally buy a television with a reasonable expectation for it to last five years, then they may have a statutory guarantee against the retailer that lasts substantially longer than the one year manufacturer's warranty.

        FYI decent brand TVs are meant to lay 6-7 years on Australia minimum. Panasonic court case ruled 6 I believe. Precedent is officially set. No I don’t have sources right now.

    We just recently went through a painful process of dealing with Nintendo customer support here in Australia over 7 (yes 7!) Joy-cons all with drift issues. You would think with 7 controllers all having the same issue (we have 4 switches in the house) that their support would be wanting to help sort it out without fuss. Instead we were hounded for weeks over receipts and had blame put on to "damaged" boards being the cause with several the controllers. Their support were completely useless and unhelpful to deal with and even claimed to be unaware of any drift issues with their hardware.. Nintendo wanted $50 per unit (so $100 for a pair) to replace them with "refurbished" ones. If we didn't want to pay the $50, we would be charged $20 per unit to return them unrepaired. At the time Big W had them on sale for $99 a set - brand new. So it would be cheaper to buy a brand new set from a retailer over their used refurbished junk. I don't know how they justify that. In the end we refused to to pay the $20 per unit unrepaired return fee and managed to get them back. I purchased a few kits on ebay at $8 each and repaired them myself. Unsurprisingly, the controllers they claimed had "damaged boards" were not damaged at all and the replacement analog stick got the controller working 100% again. We logged a complaint with the ACCC over it and also contacted consumer affairs. I'm left amazed at just how useless and unhelpful the Nintendo support staff were through all of this.

    Last edited 18/07/19 10:43 am

      Looking at the pictures at https://imgur.com/gallery/58bBc43, I suspect your controllers did have damaged boards within the thumbstick assembly. But that shouldn't be relevant to Nintendo's obligations.

      Instead the question is whether the damage represents expected wear and tear for the device, or whether it results from a design fault. If the thumbstick works by having a metal contact scraping across a conductive pad, that conductive pad better last.

        It's probably a manufacturing/materials fault. Resistive contact joysticks like the one in the joy con have been around for decades. If they are wearing it could be poor quality (impurities) in the metals. Or they have been made in a way putting excessive force on the contacts.

      I’m not surprised at all. Nintendo never does the normal thing. The entire switch is proof of that.

    Interesting that this is a huge switch issue - this has happened to at least two of my xbox one controllers. Never had it happen with a dual shock

      I had it happen a fair bit with the PS Move controllers due to the gyroscope, but I suspect that is a different issue. It could also be re-calibrated to fix it up.

        This seems to be physical degradation of the thumbstick assembly rather than a simple calibration problem though.

        While it might start out looking like a calibration issue, once the conductive pad wears through, the thumbstick is going to become non-functional.

    My left one has just started recently doing this as well. Very annoying in botw

    My left joycon has this issue..bought mine one day one. So don't like my chances on a warranty claim. Doesn't bother me I use the pro controller mostly. My worry is have they fixed this obviously widespread problem on the lite version ? Can't just replace these dodgy controllers on that baby !

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