How To Fix a Nintendo Switch Controller with Drift

Here’s a scenario no gamer wants to face: You’re going through a nail-biting mission when suddenly, your character starts sliding to the side. This phenomenon is “controller drift.” Many Nintendo Switch players have encountered this unwelcome surprise.

How To Fix a Nintendo Switch Controller with Drift

This article will guide you on how to win the real-life boss battle with your controller and stop it from acting up again.

What Is Controller Drift?

Controller drift, or stick drift, is a glitch where a controller’s analog stick registers movement when there is no input from the player. It isn’t exclusive to the Switch and can appear on any platform. However, the issue affecting Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con and Pro Controllers has garnered some hot criticism from fans. It was especially touchy considering that Nintendo has a long-term durability and reliability reputation.

Still, you don’t need to worry too much. This doesn’t reflect Nintendo’s quality. Even the Xbox One Elite Controller isn’t immune. And while it may seem like primarily a modern console issue, controllers for older systems also had this problem at times.

Before you pen a heated letter to Nintendo, let’s delve into possible home remedies.

Calibrating Your Switch Controller

Calibration is the first line of defense against controller drift. Calibrating a control stick means tuning the physical analog movement to the digital signals the console receives from the gamepad so that they’re aligned. It helps your Switch interpret your analog stick’s actions accurately.

Here’s a quick rundown of how to calibrate the joystick:

  1. Open the Switch’s “Home” menu.
  2. Head over to “System Settings.”
  3. In this menu, find “Controllers and Sensors.”
  4. Select “Calibrate Control Sticks.”
  5. Press X to start calibrating.
  6. Follow the instructions on the screen.

Now, you should test your stick. Try rotating or flicking it while in a (preferably 3D) game to see how it behaves. If the stick is back to normal – well done. You can relax and keep on gaming. If you notice the crosshair moving by itself or the stick resisting your touch, the drift may have a physical source.

Getting More Physical

If calibration doesn’t solve the drift, it’s time to take matters into your hands more literally this time.

Your controller could benefit from some scrubbing. Prepare a small Phillips head screwdriver, some compressed air, and contact cleaner to clean your ailing Pro Controller.

  1. Disassemble the Pro Controller carefully.
  2. Use the compressed air to blow away dust, debris, or hair that could be clogging it up.
  3. Spray a decent amount of the contact cleaner under the plastic stick cap, but don’t overdo it.
  4. Wiggle the stick gently so the cleaner can get into the crevices.
  5. Let your controller dry for about ten minutes. Reassemble the controller.

The process for the Joy-Cons would be similar, but be extra careful with them, considering their smaller size.

The controller should be squeaky-clean now. So boot up a game you wish to use as a testing ground or revisit the Stick Calibration screen to test your clean controller. If it’s still acting strange, you could try recalibrating it to see if it makes any difference.

More Troubleshooting

While recalibration and a good cleanup are the go-to solutions for controller drift, other approaches may work better if the former two have failed you.

Reset Any Button Mapping

In some cases, there could be a button mapping issue rather than one with the controller itself. Check your mapping to make sure.

  1. Go to “Controllers and Sensors” in the “System Settings.”
  2. Find the “Change Button Mapping” option.
  3. Select “Reset” for every Joy-Con or Pro Controller to restore them to their default settings.

Check if Controllers Are Connected Correctly

A simple check to ensure all controllers are paired correctly can sometimes solve the problem immediately. Since modern controllers, especially on the Switch, are primarily wireless, connection problems can cause them to misbehave even when there’s nothing physically wrong with them.

  1. On the Home screen, select “Controllers.”
  2. If a controller is not showing up or seems glitched, pick “Change Grip/Order.”
  3. Hold down “Sync” on the gamepad until you see “Paired.”

Update Your Switch and Joy-Con Firmware

Software bugs might cause the controller to drift. A firmware update could help and certainly won’t hurt (unless you’ve modified your Switch).

  1. Connect the Switch to Wi-Fi and go to “System Settings.”
  2. Scroll down to “System.”
  3. Select “System Update.”
  4. After updating the system, return to “Home” and “System Settings.”
  5. Find “Controllers and Sensors,” then select “Update Controllers.”

Check for Game Updates

It isn’t likely that an outdated game would cause controller drift, but it isn’t impossible. Updating your game could be worth a shot to stay on the safe side.

  1. Highlight the game on the Switch’s Home screen.
  2. Press “+.”
  3. Select “Software Update” and choose to do it “Via the Internet.”

Remove Skins or Covers

Skins, stickers, or covers may interfere with the Joy-Con’s core functionality if worn out or improperly fit. Try removing these accessories to see if they are behind the problem.

Contact Nintendo (As a Last Resort)

If, despite your efforts, the drift is still there, and you would prefer not to buy a whole new controller, you might consider contacting Nintendo themselves. It’s technically possible to replace the analog sticks in a Pro Controller. It requires soldering, which isn’t something everyone can do unless you’ve got skills with a soldering iron and working on small electronics.

If you aren’t much of a DIY type, reach out to Nintendo’s customer service instead. Prepare for possible repair costs depending on your warranty and how deeply the problem runs.

Why Does Controller Drift Happen?

Controller drift is often the result of physical wear of the controller components, specifically the joystick’s potentiometers. These components interpret its position and translate it into movement. Over time, they can wear down or become misaligned. When this happens, the controller registers movement when the joystick is still. Dust and dirt can also mess up these components and cause drift.

Preventing Future Drifting

So far, you’ve read about possible solutions for controller drift, but there’s just one more (crucial) step left to take – prevention. Let’s look at ways to prevent drift from ruining your future gaming.

  • Look for a high-quality controller case to keep it clean, and get into the habit of cleaning it with compressed air.
  • Go easy on your controller. Sure, intense gaming can call for some heavy-handed action, but too much vigorous usage can wear it down fast.
  • Regularly updating firmware can keep the device in peak condition and could even prevent drift. Get those updates whenever you see them, and you might avoid some pretty annoying moments.

Don’t Drift Away

For many gamers, precision and responsiveness are the bread and butter of their play style. When timing is everything, an uncooperative joystick can be the difference between victory and defeat. But even dealing with the dreaded drift, a solution is out there.

Has controller drift hijacked your gaming fun before? Have you found another fix that worked for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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