Joy-Con deflection has been plaguing Nintendo Switch owners since the console’s launch, creating the illusion of a phantom thumb pulling on the joystick even when you’re not touching it.
Several years later, there is no permanent solution. But there are a handful of troubleshooting tips you can use to fix the Joy-Con drift yourself.
What is Joy-Con Drift?
Joy-Con drift is an issue where a Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controller acts as if something is moving the joystick even when there is nothing. This can mean that the camera, cursor, or video game characters on your Switch keep moving even when you’re not touching the controller.
This problem is worryingly widespread. It also tends to get worse over time, possibly as a result of wear or dust buildup inside the controller. Ultimately, however, it is caused by a faulty design.
If you are experiencing Joy-Con drift on your controller, you can try using the troubleshooting steps below to fix it. These steps have helped many people, but most of the time, the only permanent solution for Joy-Con drift is to get a repair or replacement from Nintendo.
To visit Nintendo Joy-Con Repair Page to start configuring a repair right away. If not, here are all the solutions you can try yourself.
1. Reset any button assignment
Button mapping on your Switch allows you to change the functions of the various buttons to make the controllers more accessible. You can also use the button mapping to change the orientation of the joystick.
To check if button mapping is active on your Switch, go back to the House screen and look in the lower left corner for a Switch or Joy-Con icon with a Wrench in that.
If you see it, go to System Settings > Controllers and Sensors > Change Button Assignment and touch Restart for each of the Joy-Cons to return them to the default button mapping.
2. Check that your controllers are connected correctly
Nintendo Joy-Con Support Page suggests that you check to make sure your Joy-Con controllers are properly talking to the Switch system. To do this, access the House screen and press the controllers button.
The image on the left side of the screen shows all controllers currently paired with the Switch, and whether they are registering as connected or disconnected from the Switch. Make sure this matches reality and slide your Joy-Cons in and out of their place on the console to see if the image updates accordingly.
If your Joy-Cons do not register correctly, please go to change grip/order and press the button less (-) either plus (+) button. Then follow the onscreen instructions to pair your Joy-Cons again.
3. Upgrade your switch system
Although most Joy-Con drift issues are hardware related, there’s a chance your problem is software based, which means you can usually fix it with an update. Updating the operating system is a great way to fix all kinds of Nintendo Switch issues caused by software bugs.
You will first need to make sure your Switch is connected to Wi-Fi. Then all you have to do is go to the House screen, select System Settings > Systemand touch Upgrade system. Your Switch will check for new updates, downloading and installing those that are available.
4. Update the firmware of your Joy-Con
In addition to the operating system of your Switch, you also need to update the Joy-Con firmware. It’s important to update your Switch system first because you may need the latest operating system in order to use the latest firmware for your Joy-Cons.
After updating your Switch system, go to Home > System Settings > Controllers and Sensors and hit update drivers. Your Switch will update each driver, one at a time. Please wait for all updates to complete before testing your Joy-Cons again.
5. Recalibrate your joysticks
Your Joy-Con joysticks may be pulling to the side because the calibration is incorrect. That means the joystick sensors have lost perspective of what a centered joystick looks like. This is easy to fix by recalibrating your joysticks in the Switch settings.
Go to the House page and select System Configuration > Controllers and Sensors then scroll down to Calibrate Control Sticks. Follow the instructions on the screen to recalibrate your joystick. You need to make sure that the cross icon appears in the center of the circle.
You can also press Y to automatically return the joystick to the default setting, but this will only work if there is no physical problem with the joystick.
6. Check for game software updates
If your Joy-Cons are always drifting while playing the same games, there might be a problem with those particular games. Highlight the relevant game on your Nintendo Switch home screen, then press the button more (+) button and select Software update > Via Internet to check for updates.
Also, take a look at the game details online to find out if it uses tilt controls. Your Joy-Cons may be working normally, but they keep pulling to the side because you’re tilting them without realizing that it makes a difference. This is particularly common with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Breath of the Wild.
7. Remove any skin or covering
You may have chosen to accessorize your Nintendo Switch with skins, covers, cases, and other accessories. While these are great ways to add some extra personality to your Switch, decorations can sometimes get in the way of your Joy-Cons working perfectly.
To test if this has any effect, remove any skins, stickers, or covers from your Joy-Con controllers, especially if they wrap around the front of the controller near the joysticks.
8. Clean the Joy-Con controllers
Often times, Joy-Con drift is caused by dust and dirt buildup inside the joystick mechanism. If you don’t want to completely disassemble your Joy-Con, voiding your warranty in the process, you can still clean this dirt off to repair your Joy-Con.
To do this correctly you will need:
- needle nose tweezers
- Compressed air
- Contact cleaner, sometimes coincidentally called switch cleaner
To clean your Joy-Con, pull the joystick to the side, then use the tweezers to pry up the slim cover to reveal the mechanism. Blow it up with some compressed air to remove any dirt or grit. Repeat this from various angles around the control stick.
If that hasn’t worked, apply a small amount of contact cleaner to the mechanism, then push the joystick in to get it working. Don’t apply a lot of fluid and don’t use anything other than contact cleaner, commonly found in hardware stores.
Using any other liquid such as lubricant, oil, water, or alcohol may break your Joy-Con.
9. Send your Joy-Con to Nintendo
If nothing else has worked and your Joy-Con is still drifting, it’s time to send it in to Nintendo for physical repair. This means you’ll have to go a few weeks without your controller, but it’ll be worth it in the end.
If your Switch is still under warranty, Nintendo should complete the repair for free. That being said, even if it’s out of warranty period, Nintendo would be able to repair the problem for free as Joy-Con drift is widespread.
To visit Nintendo Joy-Con Repair Page and follow the steps to send your Joy-Con away. You shouldn’t need to ship in your Switch console or any other accessories, just the affected Joy-Con.
If all else fails, try a DIY solution
Sometimes you cannot send your Joy-Con to be repaired by Nintendo, possibly because Nintendo repair service is not available in your country or because you have already disassembled the Joy-Con and voided the warranty. But even if this is the case, you still don’t run out of options.
There are many DIY solutions for Joy-Con drift online. These range from completely disassembling your controller and replacing components to slipping a piece of paper under your joystick.
If Nintendo won’t accept your Joy-Con and none of our other solutions have worked, you can also try fixing it yourself because there’s not much else to lose.