© iStock.com / Trygve Finkelsen

Key Points

  • Joy-con drift describes the phantom tugging on the joystick when not in use.
  • It is a fairly common issue.
  • Methods for resolving it include cleaning, recalibration, and installing updates.

Joy-Con drift is a fairly common problem for Nintendo Switch users. If you have never experienced drift before now, consider yourself lucky. Joy-Con drift is best described as a phantom tugging on the joystick when you aren’t touching it. Luckily, we have some free troubleshooting tips that might save your controller and allow you to get back to your favorite game on Switch quickly. Here is how to fix Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons Drift for free.

1. Clean the Joy-Con Drift

A good starting place is to clean up your joystick. Dust or grime build up might cause your controllers to act up. We recommend this fix, as opening the controller can void your warranty. Regular cleaning of Joy-Con controllers can prevent further problems down the line.

Have the following supplies handy:

  • Fine Tipped Tweezers
  • Compressed Air
  • Contact Cleaner/Isopropyl Alcohol

Using the tweezers, hold the joystick to one side and lift the cover on top of the base of the stick. Be careful not to rip or pry too hard on this cover. While the cover is lifted, blast some air into the opening to eliminate dust or grit. Repeat these steps at various angles.

Next, test the joystick to see if that has solved the problem. If not, take a little bit of isopropyl alcohol or contact cleaner, put it on the bottom of the joystick, and work it around by moving it. This is a case where a little goes a long way, so do not overdo it with the cleaner.

2. Recalibrate Joysticks

A man playing a game on Nintendo Switch console
Joy-Con Controller can be detached from the rails on either side of the Nintendo Switch console.

©Wachiwit /Shutterstock.com

Sometimes drift happens to the controller even when there’s no physical problem. Recalibrating the joysticks can get rid of joy-con drift. If your calibration is off, that means the sensors in the joystick have lost their center. As a result, drifting will occur.

To recalibrate your controller, go to the Home Page, then select System Settings>Controllers and Sensors>Calibrate Control Sticks. Follow the on-screen instructions to get your joysticks recalibrated. You will want to ensure the green cross appears in the circle’s center at the calibration’s end.

If you believe nothing is physically wrong with your controller, hit the “Y” button to reset to default settings.

3. Update The Switch

If none of the above methods works, we recommend updating the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo is consistently working on updates, so keeping your system up to date is a good way of preventing bugs or problems like this.

To update your Switch, ensure you are connected to WiFi. Go to the home page and select System Settings>System>System Update. Switch will look for new updates and install them if any.

After the updates are installed, test the Joy-Cons to see if that solves the drift problem.

4. Update Joy-Con Firmware

Keeping your Switch system up to date is very important, but updating the firmware for Joy-Cons is also vital. So make sure you go through the last step before trying this fix. If the system is not up to date, there is a chance the Joy-Con Firmware won’t update either.

Go to the home menu to start the firmware update, then System Settings>Controllers and Sensors>Update Controllers. If there is new firmware, your Switch will update one controller at a time. So be sure to let both finish updating before testing out the controller.

5. Check If Your Controllers Are Connected Correctly

Nintendo suggests you check this step before attempting further fixes. Make sure your Joy-Cons are speaking to your Switch correctly. To make sure they are, go to the home menu and then select the Controllers button.

You have probably seen this screen before, but ensure that the images depict how the controllers are used. For example, the Joy-Cons images should be highlighted on either side of the screen if they are both on the console. If they are detached, make sure they are facing the right direction. Do forget to change orientation.

6. Send Your Joy-Con to Nintendo For Free

Hands holding Nintendo Switch controllers
Available in different colors, Nintendo Switch controllers include HD rumble and motion controls.

©Wachiwit /Shutterstock.com

None of the above ways to fix Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons Drift for free works? There is one last step to try: mail your Joy-Cons to Nintendo for a professional repair. You will have to do without your Joy-Cons for a couple of weeks, but it is well worth the wait.

The good news is that even if your Switch is not under warranty, because of the widespread nature of the Joy-Con drift problem, Nintendo provides free repairs. Unfortunately, this doesn’t extend to Switch Lite.

To set up a Joy-Con repair, fill out the form on Nintendo’s website then send the affected controllers. You can send up to 4 Joy-Cons in one package. The form we linked to is U.S. and Canadian residents. Try to find a repair center in your area if you live elsewhere.

Up Next…

Interested in more gaming articles? Click on the links below:

6 Ways To Fix Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Drift For Free FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Can you fix Joy-Con drift with hand sanitizer?

We do not reccomend trying to clean your Joy-Con with hand sanitizer. Use something like isopropyl alcohol instead, and use very little of it.

Is Nintendo still repairing Joy-Con drift for free?

Depending on your region Nintendo is still offering free Joy-Con repairs as long as you fill out the form. In addition, they will give you a shipping label, and you can send up to 4 Joy-Cons in one box.

How much does it cost to fix Joy-Con drift?

You can often try these free fixes at home that we listed above or send them away to Nintendo for a free repair, depending on your region.

Is rubbing alcohol okay for controllers?

Rubbing alcohol is okay for controllers. Just make sure to use a sparing amount. If you overuse it, it can lead to problems.

Do New Joy-Cons drift?

Drift has been a problem for Switch players since the first version of the console launched in 2017 and is still there across newer models. Hopefully, Nintendo finds a permanent fix for this soon.

About the Author

More from History-Computer

  • Make Use Of Available here: https://www.makeuseof.com/ways-to-fix-joy-con-drift-nintendo-switch/
  • Nintendo Available here: https://joyconrepair.nintendo.com/
  • Nintendo Available here: https://en-americas-support.nintendo.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/48260
  • Business Insider Available here: https://www.businessinsider.com/guides/tech/how-to-fix-joy-con-drift
  • CNet Available here: https://www.cnet.com/tech/gaming/nintendo-switch-5-ways-to-fix-joy-con-drift-with-or-without-tools/