How to Fix Nintendo Switch Controller Drift: Different Methods

November 7, 2023 • April Miller


You’ve probably heard of the console’s controller issue if you own a Switch. You might have even looked up “how to fix Nintendo Switch controller drift” on Google and seen various guides. It might be overwhelming, but fret not. It’s a common problem for fans of the popular portable gaming console, but thankfully, there are a few ways to fix it at home.

What is Switch Joy-Con Drift?

Joy-Con drift refers to the issue of Switch controllers veering into different directions without physical input from the user. This hampers the user’s ability to use precise controls and makes gameplay much more difficult. Some users report incorrect in-game controls, like characters selecting incorrect items, wandering off or missing shots due to this controller issue.

Users notified Nintendo of the controller issue as early as the Switch was first released in 2017. This prompted Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa to apologize to users during a Q+A in 2020. Furukawa regarded the issue as an “inconvenience” to its users but could not comment further due to the ongoing class-action lawsuit concerning the drift filed against the company. Nintendo won the lawsuit in early 2023 due to a technicality regarding its End-User License Agreement.

How to Fix Nintendo Switch Controller Drift at Home

The Joy-Con drift issue is an inconvenience for gamers at best and a complete annoyance for most. Some users even dumped their Joy-Cons completely due to frustration. If you’ve experienced this issue with your Switch, you might even be tempted to buy a replacement controller to avoid the hassle of dealing with faulty equipment. Luckily, you may not need to go that far.

Update Your Joy-Cons

They may not look like it, but your Switch controllers are complex gadgets that benefit from software updates. Hardware and software companies typically release updates to keep their products in tip-top condition. If you’re experiencing the drift issue, updating your controllers might fix the problem. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Connect your Joy-Cons to your Switch.
  2. Open the System Settings menu.
  3. Select Controllers and Sensors.
  4. Select Update Controllers and wait for the process to finish.

This method is relatively simple and easy to follow. Your controller might be drifting just because it needs a quick update.

Calibrate Your Switch

As established earlier, your Switch controllers have complex parts and can encounter bugs affecting their performance. Nintendo added a calibration option to the Switch system, allowing users to return their controllers to proper working order.

  1. Access your System Settings.
  2. Select Controllers and Sensors on the menu.
  3. Select the Calibrate Control Sticks option.
  4. Rotate the thumbstick on the Joy-Con you want to calibrate.
  5. Follow the input trackers to see how your controller is moving.
  6. If you let go of the thumbstick and the tracker seems to keep moving, you need to calibrate your controller.
  7. Press X to recalibrate your Joy-Con and remove the circle icon that indicates movement in the thumbstick.
  8. Repeat the steps for each affected Joy-Con.

Portable gaming consoles like the Switch can experience issues due to constant hard use. Sometimes, all you need to do is recalibrate your controllers back to their neutral, original settings to get your gaming back on track.

Clean Your Thumbsticks

If you’re a heavy Switch user and fan of the platform’s popular titles, chances are you play for extended gaming sessions. This can lead to dirt and grime build-up, affecting your Joy-Con’s performance. Try cleaning your thumbsticks and other parts to keep your device in good shape.

  1. Power off your Switch.
  2. Spray some contact cleaner or isopropyl alcohol on your Q-tip. Make sure your Q-tip is not dripping in liquid.
  3. Lift the rubber skirt on your thumbstick with tweezers. Use the Q-tip to follow the exposed part and rub the edges beneath it.
  4. Move the Q-tip at different angles to take out any stuck dirt and dust. Repeat as necessary.
  5. Use a dry, lint-free cloth or microfiber towel to remove excess moisture from the cleaner or alcohol.
  6. Rotate the thumbstick a few times to ensure you loosen any stuck dirt between the spaces.
  7. Use compressed air on the parts you cleaned for extra measure.

Device maintenance, like cleaning your controllers is essential, especially if you’re a heavy gamer. You can also wipe down other Switch parts for a deeper clean. Following a regular maintenance schedule will help you keep your console clean and ready for future gaming sessions.

Reconnect Your Joy-Cons

Joy-Cons are designed to be removable so you can play with another player for a co-op match. They can be reattached to your Switch after you’re done, and sometimes, improper reconnection can cause input issues like drifting.

  1. Reattach your Joy-Cons to your Switch.
  2. In your Home screen, select the Controllers on the menu.
  3. Check which controllers are registering on your device.
  4. If your controllers aren’t registering correctly, select Change Grip/Order and press the minus or plus button.
  5. Follow the instructions to ensure your Joy-Cons are properly paired with your console.

Send It Back to Nintendo

Nintendo knows about the controller problem and offers free repairs for affected Joy-Cons. This method will guarantee you’ll have working Joy-Cons after waiting a few weeks.

  1. Visit the Nintendo Joy-Con repair page and read the instructions.
  2. Fill in the necessary information.
  3. You’ll receive a return shipping on your email. Print it and stick it to your return package.
  4. Place all affected Joy-Cons in your package.
  5. Include an itemized list inside the package and specify the drift issue you’ve experienced. Also include the repair number, your name and address in the list.
  6. Seal the package and send it via mail.

Keep in mind that this repair service is specifically for Joy-Cons only. Avoid placing your console inside the package, as it will be returned to you unrepaired. Some users miss this little detail, so be careful and avoid the same mistake.

Go the DIY Route

If all else fails and you want to dive deeper into fixing your Joy-Con problem, you can always go the DIY route. This requires you to open your Joy-Cons and carefully follow instructions to fix your controller’s issues. Some users opted to replace the joysticks on their Joy-Cons completely.

One of the popular aftermarket sticks for the Joy-Con is the Hall Joystick from GuliKit. User reports indicate better performance like precise control and no jittering issues. GuliKit claims their joysticks are easy to install and will fit all Switch models. Ensure you have all the right tools and skillset to DIY the repairs and installation of new parts.

Final Thoughts on the Nintendo JoyCon Drift

Because of this thumbstick issue, many Switch users have a love-hate relationship with their consoles. Fun gameplay requires proper working thumbsticks, and here’s hoping that Nintendo will handle this problem on their newer consoles and peripherals. Hopefully, this guide helped teach you how to fix Nintendo Switch controller drift issue so you can enjoy your favorite games better and longer.