Hello! I’m going to show you how to replace a faulty thumbstick in a Nintendo Switch Joy-Con. This will fix the joy-con drift that can develop over time.
I will also be showing how to swap the shell of the joy-con for a different style. You don’t have to do this if all you want is to do is repair your joy-con.
Watch the video!
The text below is a transcript of the video.
What is Joy-con drift?
Over time you might notice your Switch’s Joycon acting strangely. Maybe it doesn’t seem as accurate as it used to be, or more frustratingly your character will start moving about by themselves. This only affects the thumb stick and is known as joycon drift.
How to fix Joycon drift?
There are many theories about why this happens, ranging from dirt getting inside the mechanism to parts wearing out over time. My own personal Switch developed this problem on its left thumbstick, causing it to randomly register forwards pushes even when I wasn’t touching it. This seems to fit with the idea that it’s caused by wear and tear on the mechanism inside. Pressing forwards on the left thumb stick is a very common action in most games.
If you search online for this, you will find solutions that involve lifting up the rubber dust cap on the controller and putting something like IPA down into the stick to clean it. This might work temporarily as there could be some dirt inside, but if dirt is the problem, where do you think it’s going when IPA is added to the top? There aren’t any drain holes for it to come out of. And if it’s a mechanical problem, at best the IPA is merely working as a lubricant briefly. It’s my opinion this is a mechanical issue, and replacing the thumbstick is the only way to actually fix it.
If your Switch is still under warranty, do not do this. You will invalidate the warranty. Instead, you can attempt to send it back to Nintendo for repair. If you are out of warranty, then get stuck in, the worse you’ll do is break the joy-con, but you’re here because it’s already malfunctioning, right?
The joy-con contains a lithium battery that will be fully charged, along with several very thin and delicate ribbon cables and small surface mount components. For added excitement, the trigger buttons are spring loaded and likely to shoot springs across the room. Some parts are also stuck down with adhesive tape.
Tools needed to replace a joy-con thumbstick
- Your Nintendo Switch and its faulty joy-con controllers
- Replacement thumbsticks - these can be found off eBay
- Small tweezers
- Places to put tiny screws and components
- The correct screwdrivers
Buy tri wing screwdrivers for Nintendo Switch
It is vital you use the correct tools for this task. Nintendo likes to use what we call tri-wing screws to keep their products closed. These screws are small and easily damaged. Attempting to force a flat bladed screwdriver into the screw will damage it, possibly making it impossible to remove.
You can buy the correct tools incredibly cheaply from eBay. However make sure you buy tri-wing screwdrivers specifically for the Switch. There are larger tri-wing screws on other Nintendo consoles, and it can sometimes be confusing finding the correct sized one.
Step 1 - Open the Joy-con
The first step is to get inside the joy-con.
Detach it from the Switch console, put that out the way. It might be a good idea to turn it off. There’s a good chance you’ll press buttons and could potentially select things on the console’s screen by mistake.
On the back are four screws. Remove them, and put somewhere safe. Remember that these are the screws for the casing, we’ll be removing a lot of screws and they’re all different sizes.
Once removed, very carefully pry the casing apart. Use a plastic tool - if you’re only replacing the thumbsticks, don’t go chewing up the sides of the controller, that’s where your hands go.
Be very careful, the two halves of the joy-con are connected together with two small ribbon cables. We will disconnect them after first removing the battery.
Step 2 - Removing the battery
The battery is connected through this small black plug. To remove it, carefully lever it upwards until it pops off. Try to avoid pulling on the wires, or at least gently
Note that the metal contacts are connected directly to the battery, which is charged. If you short these out using your tweezers, it could damage the battery in quite an exciting manner.
The battery is stuck down using double-sided tape. Carefully pry it out, giving the tape time to unstick, rather than using force.
Step 3 - Removing battery holder
This plastic battery holder is screwed down using these two screws here. You’ll also need to watch out for the L or R trigger button, it’s only held in by pressure from this plastic piece, and it’s spring loaded.
Also note that the Z trigger button has a ribbon cable that needs removing.
Put the plastic and the trigger button to one side. Make sure the trigger button has both springs still.
Step 4 - Disconnect back shell
The back shell contains the joy-con docking connector, and it needs its ribbon cables disconnecting. We’re going to disconnect both ribbon cables, so they don’t get damaged by accident. Each cable is held in with a plastic clip. These need lifting up carefully, just enough so that they unclip the ribbon cables.
With all the ribbon cables removed, you can put the back half of the shell to one side.
Step 5 - Remove faulty thumbstick from Joy-Con
The thumbstick is held in with two screws, and it has a ribbon cable to unclip. The thumbstick will need wiggling to get the top part through the controller’s casing, but it will fit.
Step 6 - Replace thumbstick and reassemble
As they say in repair manuals, to reassemble, reverse the disassembly guide.
When reassembling the controller, be absolutely certain you have reattached all ribbon cables the correct way up, and that none have been trapped in the shell.
A good tip with ribbon cables is that they will have a memory of how they were installed. Just let the cables do their own thing, and it should be obvious where they go. There is no need to straighten or fold the cables to make them fit.
Check the controller works
Once back together, the controller should pair with your Switch automatically. You can then go into the controller test menu and check all the buttons and thumbstick work properly.