Nintendo Switch Fans Say They’re Fixing Joy-Con Drift With Tiny Cardboard

Nintendo Switch Fans Say They’re Fixing Joy-Con Drift With Tiny Cardboard
Photo: Nintendo

Earlier this week, a video by YouTuber VK’s Channel purported to finally have the fix for the pernicious Joy-Con drift plaguing countless Nintendo Switch fans. It is the latest in a wide-ranging number of home remedies attempted by desperate people who don’t want to see 70-80 dollars go down the drain. And since the method described actually seems to work for some people, the video has since gone viral.

Joy-Con drift, for those lucky enough to have never experienced it, is a known defect of the Switch controllers’ analogue joysticks. Over time, the controllers start acting as if you’re moving the stick in a particular direction even when you’re not touching anything. Even the Switch Lite isn’t immune to this. It sucks!

It especially sucks because even the just-announced Switch OLED model won’t do jack shit for what is probably the number-one issue with the console. The Japanese company does offer fast repair and replacement solutions at no extra cost, but not only is it a hassle to pack up your controllers and wait for them to come back (or your entire console, if you have a Switch Lite), this doesn’t really address the root problem at the manufacturing level. Sometimes, even Nintendo can’t fix it and the company ends up sending you a Joy-Con in a totally different colour than the one you submitted. Many people just end up learning how to live with it, though luck would have it that stick drift now appears in next-gen consoles as well.

OK, but what is this killer effective method that has overcome years of Nintendo ineptitude? Turns out, it’s a small piece of cardboard. You can watch VK’s Channel describe how he arrived at it below, though it’s 10 minutes long for something that takes much less time to explain. Skip to the 6:35 mark if you’re short on time. Note that if you don’t have any cardboard lying around, folks are also using multiple sheets of paper, pieces of business cards, and tape suited for electronics. Basically, anything thin that can be cut to fit the area shown during the video is fair game.

The simplicity of it all is a little deceptive. In a number of threads and comment sections reviewed by Kotaku, there were just as many people saying that this didn’t work for them as there were people who swore by it. The likelihood seems high that Joy-Con drift is caused by a variety of different factors, meaning that there’s no catch-all solution. It might be that your drift is caused by dirt, or because of hardware degradation. Maybe it’s something else entirely.

While it’s hard to suss out what, exactly, might be causing your particular case of drift, there is indeed an easy way to tell if the YouTube trick will work for you. A Switch owner who goes by the handle river_rage told Kotaku that before attempting the cardboard fix, they “verified that applying pressure to the casing, as shown in the video, neutralised the drifting.” If your drift doesn’t stop when you press down on the empty areas on your controller, likely this won’t help you at all.

This is where you should press down to test if the method will work for you. (Screenshot: VK’s Channel) This is where you should press down to test if the method will work for you. (Screenshot: VK’s Channel)

There’s also the more basic barrier of opening the controllers up in the first place. Kotaku staffer Ethan Gach wanted to try the fix, but found that he didn’t have the right screwdriver. Plus, there’s the prospect of voiding your warranty here — never mind potentially messing up your Joy-Con even further if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Then again, for people whose controllers are already beyond busted, what is there to lose? Alan Goodsmith, a Switch owner who tried the cardboard method, told Kotaku over email that he had already tried a couple of things since his Joy-Con stopped working in 2019. These included using cleaning alcohol to clean the innards and using and blowing compressed air through the controllers, both of which have helped some people tackle this problem in the past. The only reason he didn’t try more things, he said, is because he bought replacements rather than continuing to try and troubleshoot what appeared to be doomed devices. It’s what a lot of people end up doing, but since it’s such a pervasive issue, this approach can quickly become expensive.

“I already own an electronics repair kit from iFixit which contains the tri-wing bit required to open the shell,” he wrote, before detailing his procedure in full. Those of you curious about attempting it might find this useful:

After removing the screws you must carefully open the two halves of the shell as there are ribbons attached to the main PCB and the rail so your Joy-Con can talk to the switch when they are attached, but also to charge over the rail. After you are inside, with caution lift the battery … From there you would see a few Philips screws holding down the battery cell holder in place.

Once removed it opens up exposing the back of the joystick. From there I applied two thin pieces of card stock to hit the recommended thickness of 1mm, and reversed the steps to close it up.

The tri-wing screws, he also noted, should be handled with care, as there’s a risk of stripping them. It’s also not a bad idea to refer to guides on how to properly open your controllers. But since implementing the cardboard fix, he says, he’s been using the controller for over a day at this point and it now works perfectly.

“I spent about an hour trying to force drift by clicking the stick and pushing the direction it tended to drift,” he said. “Nothing.”

Even so, there’s uncertainty at play here. Yes, there are documented cases of people out there trying it, and testimonials of folks saying it’s legit. What we don’t know is how it works in the long term, as most people who have made this modification have only had it for a few days, if that. There is some concern that, while cardboard works right now, it may also make the problem worse in the long run. If issues arise from innards being damaged or taxed in some way, it’s possible that the cardboard might expedite that degradation. It’ll be worth seeing if this remains effective months or years down the line.

But even if it’s just a temporary alleviation, being able to squeeze a little more playtime out of your broken controller might not be such a bad deal. At least that seems to be the attitude on social media, where many are sharing their experiences with cardboard Joy-Con fixes after watching the video. But hey, better than that time everyone was licking their Switch cartridges, right?

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