It's nearly two-and-a-half years since Switch launched and Nintendo deserves a lot of credit for delivering a console to suit multiple purposes and lifestyles. Its success as a portable device relies on it being a hard-wearing piece of hardware and – on the whole – it’s a solid, durable bit of kit.
That’s not to say it’s perfect, though. From launch there were Joy-Con connection issues and there are a couple of oversights in the design - why is it even possible to attach Joy-Con the wrong way up? Hairline cracks seen by some owners around the heat vents are concerning, but by far the biggest complaint we’ve got is the infamous Joy-Con ‘drift’ – a phenomenon where debris in the analogue stick mechanism (either from external sources or from the worn contacts themselves) causes movement to register without any pressure being applied.
A quick survey of Nintendo Life staff reveals that almost all of us have had problems at one time or another. Some have sent controllers back to Nintendo for repair, while others resigned themselves to buying new ones (possibly using the faulty sticks as an excuse to pick up some of the more adventurous colours released since launch). While wear-and-tear will take its toll on even the sturdiest hardware, we don’t recall any other Nintendo hardware failing so rapidly. All-in-all, a bit shoddy, no?
While some games enable you to alter dead zones and work around the problem, most titles don’t which makes most games unplayable, unless you’re a sucker for watching Link repeatedly jog off cliff edges. New Switch owners are covered by the one-year manufacturer’s warranty but sending controllers back to Nintendo is a pain in the backside, especially if you don’t have another controller to tide you over while it’s at the repair shop.
Nintendo is now reportedly repairing Joy-Con free of charge in some territories (even outside of the guarantee period), but that's not true for all regions. Replacing Joy-Con is a pricey prospect and infuriating, too, when only the stick is malfunctioning. Unwilling to fork out £40 for a dull grey replacement, the more industrious amongst us got down to a little DIY and found success with a variety of solutions (plus the odd failure, but we’ll get to that).
This guide should get you back on track if drift is getting you down (or just irritatingly to the left or right). These options increase in severity and we’ve provided a list of the necessary tools and items you’ll need for each solution. Following these steps will hopefully mean you can spend that money on a new game rather than a duplicate controller.
A word of warning
Disclaimer time! We recommend opening up your Joy-Con only as a last resort. Doing so will likely invalidate your warranty (assuming you still have one) and we obviously can’t take responsibility if you snap ribbons or strip the heads off screws.
That said, it’s a lump of plastic and electrical components, not Pandora’s Box; it’s really not as scary as you may think and you’ve got nothing to lose if you’re outside the guarantee period. While there are various tiny screws and clasps to negotiate – and it’s essential to take your time and have the correct tools at hand – you shouldn’t have too many problems doing all but the last solution on our list.
Let’s get cracking!
Solution 1: Update Firmware and Recalibrate
What You’ll Need:
- Your Switch
- An internet connection
Okay, we hate to be Captain Obvious, but you don’t want to jump to conclusions and open up your precious controllers if you can avoid it; the first thing to try is a good old-fashioned turn-it-off-and-on-again, then make sure the firmware is up-to-date and try recalibrating the sticks.
- Head into System Settings from the main menu and scroll down the left menu to Controllers and Sensors.
2. Scroll down the right menu to Update Controllers – press this to download the latest firmware, just in case.
3. Next, scroll to Calibrate Control Sticks and give that a press. Follow the onscreen instructions to click the stick you wish to calibrate. The left one causes the most problems in-game, but we’ve had drift on both.
4. If your stick is working perfectly, you should see a green cross dead centre in the crosshair. Otherwise, a green circle will be hovering to one side – press ‘X’ to recalibrate.
5. The following screens instruct you to push in the cardinal directions and release, although this can be challenging if the drift is so severe that the circle doesn’t return to the centre. Persevere and it should register – you can always cancel out with ‘B’.
6. Finally rotate the stick several times, as instructed.
If your Joy-Con is now fully-functional, well done - you’ve saved yourself a lot of bother. However, if it’s still playing up, continue to the next stage…