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?)

  • 1
    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? – Arin Zandbergen Jan 14 at 22:54

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.

  • If it uses the same screws as the Gamecube and Wii controllers, you will need a special tri-wing screwdriver. – Nathan Feb 12 at 13:48
  • 1
    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 at 20:03

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