The first sign of xbox controller drift is usually unwanted movement during a game. You might not even notice that your Xbox controller has developed drift at first because it can be so subtle.
Over time, though, drift often gets bad enough to impact your performance in games. It doesn’t always mean you need a new controller. There are a few ways to fix it yourself without having to dig up a spare.
What is Controller Drift?
Like most hardware, controllers wear down over time and develop problems. Because they’re something you have your hands on, move around, and often grip hard during stressful matches, they’re probably more prone to issues than hardware that just sits on a shelf. Understanding the mechanics behind drift is easier if you know a bit about how a controller works.
Controllers use current to complete circuits and report what buttons you’re pressing. Since thumbsticks also have to determine what directions and how far they’re being moved, a wheel and wiper system respond to the exact positioning of the joystick and determine how much current flows and where. That’s how your input changes based on the movement.
Any part of this system can experience problems that create a drift. Solutions range from a quick cleaning to a more in-depth teardown to replacing parts to using a different controller.
Why is My Controller Drifting?
Either the parts inside the controller are worn, a part is broken, or some kind of debris keeps it from moving freely.
Using a controller normally has a high chance of leading to drift at some point in its lifetime. While keeping your controller clean and gentle with it can help, there’s no guarantee that it will keep your motion smooth and proper.
How to Fix Xbox One Controller Drift?
Start with the most straightforward fixes and move on to the more difficult or expensive ones if they don’t work. Remember to always clean and repair your hardware with caution. It’s okay to ask for help from a specialist if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself.
Before You Begin
Take a moment and examine your controller. Look for worn-out parts and areas where the buttons or thumbsticks are sticking. Roll the thumbsticks around to see whether you can find anything hindering free and smooth movement.
Sometimes a little dust or something similar can wedge itself in there and keep the stick from moving quickly. Doing this before starting allows you to locate and mark areas to target when cleaning or disassembling the controller.
Some players have had luck just moving the joysticks in multiple quick rotations until the drift went away. However, if that fixes it, it’s probably a sign that you need to deep clean your controller.
Use isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs to give your controller a thorough cleaning. Even if you aren’t experiencing significant drift yet, it’s a good habit to get in to keep your controller clean of dust, skin flakes, oil, and other debris.
When choosing your isopropyl alcohol, make sure to get one with the highest percentage of alcohol you can find. It’s safer to use a higher rate when cleaning electronics.
- Dip your cotton swab in the isopropyl alcohol.
- Pull back the left thumbstick and clean around the base. Rotate it as you move around to expose the most surface area possible.
- Repeat the procedure on the other thumbstick.
- Dip a cotton pad in the isopropyl alcohol. Don’t thoroughly soak it. Instead, leave it damp and not dropping.
- Clean the rest of the stick with the pad.
- Use another alcohol-soaked swab to clean the edges of the buttons and any other areas you have a hard time cleaning with the pad.
- Run a fresh alcohol-soaked pad over the rest of the Xbox controller.
- Hold it up at different angles in the light to see if there’s a spot you missed. If so, clean that spot too.
- Set it aside to dry for a few hours before using it again.
Once the controller is dry, try to go into another game to see whether you’re still experiencing drift.
Take the Xbox Controller Apart
To take apart an Xbox controller, you want a pry tool and a Torx tool. Some Xbox models use Torx 8, and others use Torx 9. Check the screw size on your controller model before purchasing one.
- Slide the pry tool into the slit next to the textured grip and slowly work it off. Repeat this on the other side of the controller.
- Remove the battery from the controller and leave it out during the procedure.
- Remove the screw under the sticker in the battery pack with the Torx tool.
- Remove two screws on the left side of the controller.
- Remove the two screws on the right side of the controller.
- Lift the back panel off of the controller.
- Press on the top and button middle of the edge of the upper board. Pull gently to remove.
Once you remove the back panel, everything is very simple. You can remove the internal electronics and work on cleaning the area around the buttons and thumbstick.
- Rub a very soft brush gently over the areas of the controller without panels, wires, or visible electronics. You just want to remove any stubborn dirt building up around the buttons.
- Manipulate the area around the thumbsticks and buttons. Check to make sure nothing is preventing them from moving freely.
- Wipe the entire surface down with a cotton pad damp with isopropyl alcohol.
- Clean the smaller and difficult-to-reach spaces with a cotton swab. Don’t press down too hard, and never try to move around anything on the board. Just gently wipe it on the plastic surfaces to remove anything inside.
- Allow the pieces to dry separately. It would be best to wait for at least six hours before reassembling it.
Make sure to focus on the front of the controller as you’re cleaning. You’ll have more access to the parts that are usually hidden, and it will be much easier to see if something is hindering them. Clean all the sides and faces of the buttons and joysticks.
Now that the controller is clean try to play your favorite games again. Try to do some of the same activities where you noticed you were getting controller drift. If the problem is gone, you can likely continue using your controller like normal. If the problem persists, you might have worn-out parts you will need to replace.
Repair and Replace Parts
Replacing the joysticks on your controller might fix drift if cleaning the controller isn’t working.
- Test to see whether the joysticks wiggle or feel loose. If so, consider replacing them with new ones.
- Pull your thumbsticks directly off the disassembled Xbox controller. They should pull entirely off.
- Clean them and allow them to dry.
- Press the thumbsticks back down.
- Reassemble the controller.
Repair And Replace Joystick Sensors
- Use tweezers for popping the green covers off the side and bottom of the joystick assembly. You need to press in and pull out gently. They won’t come entirely off.
- Remove the sensor by pulling it out with your nails or tweezers.
- Clean the sensor if you aren’t planning to replace it. Wash it with a cotton pad dampened with isopropyl alcohol and allow it to dry for six hours.
- Slide a clean or new sensor back into place.
- Close the green covers and reassemble the controller.
Remember that the joystick sensors are on the actual electronic area of the controller. You could brick the entire thing if something goes wrong. Only attempt to replace the springs if you’re comfortable with it. Use a light touch.
Replace Your Controller
Sometimes there’s something wrong with the controller that you can’t quickly fix at home. In that case, controllers are easy enough to find that it might be time to replace it.
When you shop for an Xbox controller, remember that you don’t always have to choose an OEM one. Look for one that fits your hands, looks neat, or has lighting options you want, if you prefer. You can also find used controllers online if you’re looking to save a little cash.
Either way, try to prevent future issues with drift by treating your controllers gently and keeping them clean. Wash your hands before you touch them and try to avoid leaving them out where they can collect dust. By doing this, you’ll have adequately responsive controllers that help keep your game on point.