Solution 3: The Nuclear Option - Stick Replacement
What You’ll Need:
- A replacement analogue stick procured from the internet
- A small Phillips (crosshead) screwdriver
- A small Tri-wing (‘Y’-shaped) screwdriver
- A plastic shiv to help pry apart the casing without marking it (a guitar pick works well)
- A small pair of tweezers
- A receptacle to keep the tiny screws safe while you work
The next best solution is to replace the malfunctioning stick entirely. There are a great many alternatives available from outlets across the internet, including eBay and Amazon. The component should set you back around £5 and they usually come with all the tools you’ll need to operate on your beloved Joy-Con, so check what’s included.
There will likely be minor cosmetic differences between the stick unit you receive and the stock one you’re removing – markings on the metal casing, for example (even Nintendo's own stock varies). Of course, we haven’t been able to test all variants, but the ones we’ve used look cosmetically identical to the originals once the casing is reassembled, and quality-wise they seem indistinguishable. It’s worth bearing in mind that the workmanship of the ‘official’ product is the reason we’re here in the first place!
If you’ve got the necessary tools, clear some desk space and put on some nice relaxing music. Let’s begin…
1. Using the Tri-wing screwdriver, carefully remove the four black screws on the rear side of your Joy-Con. Be sure you have the screwdriver ‘seated’ correctly before turning anti-clockwise – stripping the head of the screw will make getting the back off a whole lot more difficult.
2. Once the screws are removed, slide the plastic shiv or chosen alternative down the seam between the two halves of the case to separate them. With a little encouragement, the two halves will come apart, but DON’T PULL THEM COMPLETELY APART. Separate them carefully.
3. Two ribbons connect the main board to the black spine/rail with the lights – these needn’t be removed so turn your attention to the battery. Slide the shiv underneath and lever the battery pack away from its housing, taking care not to penetrate the battery. There may be a small amount of sticky-tape holding it in place, but it shouldn’t give too much resistance. Again, DON’T JUST YANK THE BATTERY! Pull it away gently, leaving it connected to the board beneath.
4. Now you can see the battery housing and five screws securing it (there’s one hiding down by the white HD rumble motor at the bottom). Using the Phillips screwdriver, you need only remove the three screws indicated in the photo (the other two secure the circuit board to the case).
5. With the three screws removed, GENTLY pull the battery housing away. Again, it’s connected by a ribbon which you needn’t disconnect. Don’t worry if the ‘L’ button pops out – just keep an eye on the tiny spring that’s attached to it, and keep it safe.
6. You can now see the back of the analogue stick (the big silver square). The ribbon running out of it must be detached from the circuit board, so take your tweezers and VERY GENTLY lift the black clasp FROM THE BOTTOM. It should pop up easily and you can now use the tweezers to carefully pull the ribbon out.
7. Two screws on opposite corners hold the stick in place. Unfortunately, the top one is covered by the ribbon powering the ‘-‘ and ‘L’ buttons, so this must also be disconnected. This ribbon clasp is grey and approached from the top rather than the bottom, but it’s otherwise identical to the last. CAREFULLY use tweezers to open it and slide the ribbon out. Now you can access the screws holding the stick in place – remove them.
8. The stick should wiggle free with some encouragement – there’s a black tape surrounding the hole which the rubber head might catch on but extricate the unit carefully until it’s free.
Now, armed with your replacement, it’s time to do everything in reverse! So…
9. Put the replacement stick in its place and screw it in.
10. Reconnect the two ribbons. This can be awkward – use the tweezers and CAREFULLY manipulate the ribbon into the holders, applying a little pressure to make sure they’re ‘in’. The ribbons are relatively durable unless you slice or squeeze them – patience is the key. Once they’re in place, push the clamps down GENTLY to secure them.
11. If the ‘L’ button came loose, put it back in place (with the spring), then rest the battery housing in its position. BE CAREFUL not to crush the ribbon that’s attached to it (the ‘ZL’ one) – there’s space for it to come through, so make sure it’s in place before securing the housing with the three screws.
12. Put the battery pack back in and press down gently. Test all the buttons – pressing any of them (except clicking the stick) should cause the lights on the rail to cycle.
13. Carefully align the casing again, screw in the four tri-wing screws and voila! Your Joy-Con has a clean bill of health.
And breathe. That wasn’t so bad, was it?
That is by far the simplest way to get your Joy-Con analogue stick working if it’s out of warranty. If, however, you don’t like the idea of replacing Nintendo-approved parts with non-official components, there is another option, although we don’t recommend it. If you’re adamant, though, read on…