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About 2 weeks ago I noticed that the left analog stick on my Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons started "drifting", that is, without touching the stick (when it was centered) it would register as off-center causing characters in games to start randomly walking in various directions, frequently downward. This obviously makes playing games rather difficult, especially when precision is required.

I confirmed the problem in System Settings under "Calibration" where I would see the stick drifting off center (And the blue + would change) when I wasn't touching the stick. Recalibration did not help (almost made the problem worse)

The controller software / firmware was up to date and after researching and finding this is a common issue, and my console and joy cons are 13 months old (1 month past warranty) I bit the bullet and bought new controllers.

Yesterday the Pro Controller which I bought separately from the console started exhibiting the same behavior. It seems like too much of a coincidence to me that two separate controllers purchased at two separate times would start having the same problem at the same time. This makes me feel like it's a software problem, not a hardware one.

Here's what the calibration tool shows when not touching the sticks:

Calibration Tool Screenshot

Why are the analog sticks on my Nintendo Switch controllers all starting to drift? Is this a known issue and is there any fix? Why would it happen to two separate controllers at the same time (and always to the left stick?)

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    I remember this used to be a problem for me back in the day with older consoles but what I saw was that if the joystick is slightly pressed in one direction when it is turned on then it registers that as "zeroed" and that causes the drift. Have you tried re-starting the controllers making sure not to touch them at all? Jan 14 '19 at 22:54
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    FYI this question is referenced in the class action lawsuit against Nintendo about the joy-con drift issue. Amended Complaint, page 38 of PDF (marked 33 at the bottom). Here's the general page about the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Drift Litigation.
    – briantist
    May 31 '20 at 16:31
  • That is very good to know, thanks @briantist
    – Josh
    May 31 '20 at 16:44
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This issue is now known as "Joy-Con drift." Nintendo eventually addressed this in July 2019 by allowing for free repairs without regard to warranty status* in North America.

Always start with the recalibration and firmware update since that's the fastest option. They also suggest updating the system software and removing any skins on the controller. If it still doesn't work and you don't want to try repairing it yourself, head over to the Nintendo Joy-Con repair page to file a request.

*: The page currently states "Each Joy-Con will be evaluated by our technicians for final warranty coverage." so you may want to give them a call to confirm free repairs are still available outside of warranty if your controllers are over 12 months old.

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  • Thanks! I actually did send the joy-cons back to Nintendo and they replaced/repaired them free of charge.
    – Josh
    Feb 9 '20 at 16:54
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    It would probably help future readers if you actually address WHY they drift in your answer, be it explaining directly, or just linking to the official Nintendo article about it. Feb 11 '20 at 0:57
  • @Zach Official would be best because I haven't heard anything but speculation about dust and excessive wear. I can add it if you know the link to the article. I wasn't able to find one on their site.
    – Booga Roo
    Feb 11 '20 at 1:13
  • They released an official report in late October or early November explaining it, but I cant seem to find it now. They had explained that the left controller piece was basically just the same thing as the right one, just flipped upside down, and something in the software was coded incorrectly so it causes drifting issues, or sometimes has a control mirroring issue. I have seen several other articles mentioning the wear and dust theories, but there was no mention of those in the Nintendo report. Feb 11 '20 at 2:51
  • @Zach Interesting. I will see what I can come up with, but other priorities right now mean I have to put it off until at least tomorrow. Thanks for the clues, that's already more info than I'd found.
    – Booga Roo
    Feb 11 '20 at 3:06
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It sounds like the thumbsticks are wearing out, which is a problem common to all thumbsticks and not limited to Switch controllers. It's probably just a coincidence that you have two affected controllers.

I would try recalibrating again. If calibration made it worse that makes me think something went wrong in the calibration process. The stick is so off-center it seems like it must be a bad calibration rather than just a loose stick.

Storing the controller properly will help avoid damage to the thumbsticks. I throw my Switch Pro controllers in a backpack every day and have never seen any issues like you describe, but it can't be good for them either. Make sure the stick isn't pressing up against anything when it's in a bag or case.

Replacing the thumbsticks isn't TOO difficult but does take some time and a good screwdriver. The joy-con thumbstick modules are less than $10 on Amazon.

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  • If it uses the same screws as the Gamecube and Wii controllers, you will need a special tri-wing screwdriver.
    – Nathan
    Feb 12 '19 at 13:48
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    I just checked and indeed the Joy-Cons use tri-wing screws. Switch Pro Controller uses some sort of cross-slot screw.
    – nondebug
    Feb 13 '19 at 20:03
  • "not limited to Switch controllers". Well, I've probably used more than 100 controllers in my life, and I've never had any drift problem before. I have 4 Switch joycons, and they all drift. I've replaced the thumbsticks with repair kits from amazon, but they started to drift again after 6 months. Sigh.... Mar 27 at 22:26

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