While gamers love the portability of the Switch and its light, detachable controllers, one problem haunts players until it finally happens: Joy-Con drift. It’s such a pervasive issue that Nintendo even changed their policies in 2019 to repair Joy-Cons free of charge, even for customers who weren’t covered by the warranty anymore. Despite the well-known problem, it hasn’t been fixed, and many Switch users will eventually come up against Joy-Con drift.
What is Joy-Con Drift?
Joy-Con drift is when the controller stops responding to your movements correctly and, instead, seems to select options you didn’t choose. Instead of detecting the location of the input where you’ve moved the indicator, it chooses a different place.
Often, the first time people notice Joy-Con drift is when they see the controller move their character or input without pressing the thumbstick. Other problems occur with Joy-Cons, but drift seems to be the most common.
Do Both Joy-Con Get Drift at the Same Time?
You won’t necessarily notice both controllers developing the problem at once. It’s more likely that one will have the problem. Once you fix it, you may find the other begins drifting later in its life.
That being said, some players have noticed drift issues in both controllers simultaneously. It just depends on your particular luck.
Why is Joy-Con Drift Bad?
Once you’ve played a game on a drifting Joy-Con, you’ll understand why it’s not desirable. Your character can move without you directing the action, exposing you, or leaving you open to attack. The camera that follows the action on the screen could also swing away to a different location, leaving you scrambling to refocus on what matters.
Joy-Con drift can affect the quality of not just a single game but many games. It’s definitely something you’ll want to fix as soon as you notice it.
Why Do Joy-Con Develop Drift?
There’s not one reason why they develop drift – or at least, no one knows exactly why. Two likely culprits are dirt inside the control sticks or the contacts inside the Joy-Cons wearing down over time.
Can I Fix Joy-Con Drift?
You can fix Joy-Con drift at home with various degrees of effort, depending on what method you try. If none of these suggestions work, you should consider contacting Nintendo to discuss getting your Joy-Con repaired, even if you’re out of the warranty period.
Cleaning the Joy-Con
Sometimes the fix is as simple as cleaning the Joy-Con to ensure the drift isn’t caused by dust or dirt creating feedback inside the controllers.
- Dampen a cotton round with 99 percent pure isopropyl alcohol and wipe the body of the Joy-Con, focusing on any visibly messy areas.
- Look under the control stick to find the flap.
- Lift the flap and aim compressed air into the exposed space.
- Blow the air into the space to clear any debris.
- Wipe down the controller once more. Let it dry before attempting to use it again.
Some people also recommend using electronic contact cleaner instead of compressed air around the control sticks. It might not be a permanent solution, but there’s a chance it could work for you. However, if you aren’t sure whether it’s worth the risk, stick with compressed air.
Sometimes an update to the Joy-Cons might help fix any problems you have with them. It’s good to try it before sending them in for repair since it’s much quicker.
- Press the Home Button.
- Choose System Settings, and then choose Controllers and Sensors.
- Click Update Controllers.
Don’t use your Joy-Cons while it’s processing the firmware upgrade. It shouldn’t take very long before you can get back on them and test whether the drift has been resolved.
Reset Your Buttons
Some players say that returning the buttons to their default configuration can help stave off drift on customized controllers, at least temporarily. Make sure to save your custom mapping beforehand if you don’t want to lose track of how you set it up in the first place.
You can always tell if you’re using custom button setups by looking for a Switch icon on the bottom of the Home screen. If there’s a wrench by it, then you’ve customized your button setup.
- From the Home screen, click on the System Settings icon.
- Choose Controller and Sensors, and then click Change Button Mapping.
- Press Reset on the first Joy-Con.
- Press Reset on the second Joy-Con.
Restart your system before testing whether this helped fix the problem. If it worked, you could change your button mapping back anytime.
Calibrate Your Controls
Sometimes it’s not actually drift causing the issues you’re having with your Joy-Cons. Instead, your calibration might not be as good as it needs to be. The Switch has a built-in feature that lets you fix that.
- Open your System Settings, and then choose Controllers and Sensors.
- Choose Calibrate Control Sticks.
- Press down on the stick as instructed on the screen. Follow the prompts until it tells you the process is done. Keep an eye on the icon to ensure it’s a plus image when you’re not moving the stick. You can press X if the control stick isn’t working properly during the process.
This shouldn’t be something you have to do regularly, but it’s an excellent way to get your Joy-Cons into a better state.
Internal Repair and Fix
This is only for advanced users who are comfortable with taking apart hardware. If you go too quickly or don’t do a step right, you could brick your Joy-Con, which may never work again. Only proceed with these steps if you’re willing to take that risk. This method was initially discovered and cataloged by IGN and works wonders for Joy-Cons with drift issues.
You’ll need several compatible screwdrivers, a spudger or wedge, and card stock.
- Remove the screws on the back of the Joy-Con to access the internals. These four screws require the Y100 screwdriver to remove. When the screws are done, set them aside so you can easily find them again.
- Use the slender wedge to work the battery panel up and off the Joy-Con. Slide it into the space between pieces and then move it to slowly release the tension until the two parts come across. Keep in mind that there are two ribbons inside that hold the pieces together, and these should not be removed or separated. Go slow.
- Use the spudger to remove the battery connector from its socket. You’ll feel a tactile release when it comes free.
- Lift the battery free of its casing. It’s okay if you feel a slight resistance as you attempt to remove it. As always, go slow and don’t force anything.
- If you’re doing the right Joy-Con, you’ll have to remove the small antenna and its coaxial cable. Use the spudger to help work them out of place.
- Remove the Three Gold Screws holding the center piece of plastic on the unit.
- Place a Piece of Card Stock above the metal place you’ve exposed on the Joy-Con. Trace the outline so it’s a perfect match, and then cut the card stock into the shape of the metal place. Set it down on the plate when you’re done.
- Replace the center plastic piece and its screws. It should put pressure on the card stock below, keeping it in place.
- Replace the antenna and coaxial cable if you’re working on the right Joy-Con.
- Replace the battery and put its connector back in the socket, using the spudger to press until you feel a click.
- Replace the back panel and screws, tightening them until they’re firm.
Now you shouldn’t have any more drift problems with your Joy-Con. Just remember to go slow, especially when disconnecting wires or parts while you work.
How to Avoid Joy-Con Drift?
Although there are no official suggestions on how to avoid Joy-Con drift from the beginning, Switch users have suggested several ways you might keep it from happening.
- Play a little less rough with the controllers: Controllers are meant to be used and moved around, but button mashing and hard grips or pushes on the thumbsticks won’t help them stay in great condition for long. You don’t have to slam the stick to the side to make your character move; inputs are detected well enough with a light press. It can be hard to rein yourself in when things are hectic in-game, but it’s worth the effort to preserve your controllers.
- Keep them clean: Since dirt can prevent the Joy-Con buttons and sticks from moving correctly, avoiding the buildup in the first place might keep them in better condition longer. Give them a nice dusting every so often, check the spaces around the keys for anything that slipped by, and store them in a place where they’ll avoid dust or spills.
- Don’t eat over the controllers: Many people seem to have this issue where crumbs fall in and impede the controllers’ movement, causing what looks like drift.
- Use an alternate controller: Many players suggest using alternate controller when playing the popular switch game Super Smash Bros. They believe that the movement of the game requires such quick and frequent key and stick presses that it wears down the controller more quickly. If you play a lot of Smash and have recurring Joy-Con issues, an alternate controller may help improve them for other games on the system.