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How to fix Joy-Con drift on the Nintendo Switch

joy con drift fix
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Nintendo Switch Joy-Con drift is a constant issue that'll frustrate anybody with a Switch, as this is a very common problem - your thumb sticks responding to nothing and pushing in one direction. Fixes to that problem will always be important, but the actual cause can change depending on what the issue is, so not all fixes will always work. Still, it's worth giving them all a go before having to buy another new Joy-Con altogether, just in case you find a cheap, easy solution.

The key distinction is whether or not your own Joy-Con drift is caused by a physical issue or something else, as this'll change what fixes you need to use. Whichever the case, we've amassed all the best-known and most successful Joy-Con drift fixes just below, so you can definitely exhaust your options before having to splash out on replacement controllers.

1. Update and recalibrate your Joy-Con in System Settings 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Heading into the settings to update and recalibrate your Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons should be your first port of call if you're experiencing Joy-Con drift. It's the simplest, least invasive option so it's always best to start here before you consider anything else. 

Here's how to do it: 

  1. Head into Systems Settings and click on Controllers and Sensors.
  2. Chose Update Controllers and hit A to start. 
  3. Once that's done, head down the menu for the Calibrate Control Sticks option.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

With the controllers up to date you're ready to start calibrating, which is the option underneath Updating. It'll let you click to choose a stick, and then see the input the Switch is receiving from it. 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

If something does look off, then you can pick the calibrate option. This will ask you to move the stick in certain directions on cue and rotate it, to try and re-centre it. Hopefully ironing out any kinks it might have developed. 

(Image credit: Nintendo)

If this recalibration routine doesn't fix things then there are other things you can do, but they enter into warranty invalidating territory, and can cost some money. So anything other than this is at your own risk. 

Use switch and contact cleaner to clean out your Joy-Cons

Joy-Cons switch and contact cleaner

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Just to reiterate - once you start pulling apart bits of your Switch there's a chance you could cause damage or make things worse, so you're doing this at your own risk if you proceed.

If calibrating your Switch doesn't fix your Joy-Con drift issue, then the next option is to try and clean the contacts without opening anything up. To do this you'll need professional switch and contact cleaner specifically designed for cleaning electronic components. Don't be tempted to try any old spray you have around the house - look specifically for the stuff made to clean electrical contacts.   

As well as the proper switch and contact cleaner you'll need a small tool, like a tiny screwdriver or tweezers. Push the affected Joy-Con stick back gently and, using the tool, lift up the tiny rubber skirt around the base so you can see under it. Squirt the tiniest amount of cleaner into the gap you've made, release the rubber skirt and gently massage the stick in all the directions it can go in. Always use the least amount of cleaner possible, as you'll need to leave the Joy-Con to dry afterwards so you don't want it swimming in the stuff. 

If you're lucky the cleaner will clear out any gunk and fluff from the contacts, and restore the Joy-Con to it's former, centred glory.  

Try the paper method

Recently made famous by Youtuber VK's Channel (opens in new tab), this method involves putting a small piece of paper or cardboard behind the Joy-Con Stick to stop it from being physically loose (often a cause of drift). Again, it requires pulling apart the controller -  done at your own risk - but if you want to know more, check out the full story on how Nintendo’s Joy-Con drift can seemingly be fixed with just a piece of paper (opens in new tab) to find out what you need.

Replace or repair the Joy-Con stick

This isn't an option we're really going to go into, because unless you have skill with electronics it's not an easy task. It is possible to crack open the Joy-Con and physically replace the affected stick, or even dismantle it and clean it directly, but as we said, it's definitely a pro move that we're just mentioning for information. If you're going to go down this route, make sure you do the proper research beforehand.

Want more Switch Joy-Con help? Check out how to charge Joy-Cons for Nintendo Switch here.

Leon Hurley
Senior Guides Co-ordinator

I'm currently GamesRadar's Senior Guides Co-ordinator, which means I've had a hand in producing or writing all of the guide and tips content on the site. I also write reviews, previews and features, and do video. Previously I worked for Kotaku, and the Official PlayStation Magazine and website. I'm a big fan of open world games, horror, and narrative adventures.