PC Accessories

How To Stop Controller Drift

Controller Drift

Do you love playing video games but hate it when your controller starts to drift in the middle of the game? If so, you’re not alone. Many gamers struggle with this issue.

Quick Answer

A controller starts to drift when it becomes old or when dirt and grime get inside. If your controller starts to drift, you can try calibrating it, cleaning it with compressed air, or resetting it. However, if that doesn’t work, the last option is to disintegrate it and perform a tech surgery.

Further, this article will discuss what causes controllers to drift and how to stop it from happening. We will also provide some tips which will aid you in avoiding drifting in the first place. Let’s get started!

What Is Controller Drift or Stick Drift?

Controller drift is a common issue that affects many gamers. It occurs when the analog sticks on a controller begin to move independently, without input from the player. This can be highly frustrating, making it difficult to properly aim or control your character.

What Causes the Controller To Drift?

As you know, nothing happens without a cause. Likewise, there are reasons for the controller to drift. Here are the most common reasons.

Dirt and Grime Gets Inside

One of the most common causes of controller drift is dirt and grime inside the analog sticks. Over time, this can cause the sticks to become less responsive.

For instance, if you have Nintendo Joy-Con, it has a thin layer of plastic to protect the inner components from dirt. If that flap tears during your aggressive gameplay, all the grime can enter the system.

Potentiometer Fails

The joystick or analog stick rests on a base upon which it rotates. You can consider this base a potentiometer, an electrical device that tracks the movement of the joystick and sends information to the controller’s brain in the form of electric signals. However, if this potentiometer fails, the joystick movement is not registered. Therefore, you will start to notice the controller drift.  

Controller Decays Over Time

It is a fact that the controllers do decay over time. The plastic and rubber materials they are made of break down and become less effective, which causes joysticks to move on their own.

Damage Due To a Fall or Impact

If you drop your controller or it sustains any other type of impact, this can also cause the analog sticks to drift. The impact can damage the controller’s internal components, leading to a drift.

Low Battery Levels/Bad Battery

If your controller is running low on battery, this can also cause the analog sticks to drift. When the battery power is low, the controller doesn’t have enough power to keep the analog sticks in place. This can lead to them moving on their own.

How To Get Rid of Controller Drift: 5 Effective Methods

Now that you have known the causes of drift, you will be more interested in knowing the methods that can help you stop the controller drift.

Method #1: Use the Calibration Function

One of the easiest ways to fix controller drift is to calibrate your controller. Most gaming consoles have a built-in calibration tool that you can use. This will help your console recognize your controller’s input and adjust accordingly.

For example, the notable gaming console Nintendo Switch has a built-in calibration option to figure out the neutral point (the resting position of the analog stick), which is floating around during a drift. A few gaming consoles also have a dead zone calibration setting, in which the inputs during the drifts are not recorded.

Method #2: Clean the Controller

Another way to fix controller drift is to clean your controller with compressed air. This will help to remove any dirt and grime that may be causing the issue. You can purchase compressed air cans at most electronics stores.

Another cleaning option is rubbing the analog stick with a cotton swab wet in alcohol. You can often expect good results by gently rubbing the swab around the joysticks’ base controller.

Method #3: Reset Your Controller

Resetting your controller is another option to consider for getting rid of drift. Resetting is quite similar in most consoles. For instance, to reset an Xbox One Controller, you must press the “Xbox” button for 5 to 10 seconds until the console powers off. Then, press the same button again to power it on.

Method #4: Replace the Batteries

Since you have done many things, now there should be no harm in replacing the batteries. Slide its back cover and replace the power packs. If it comes with rechargeable batteries, recharge them to their full capacity.

Method #5: Perform a Tech Surgery

If neither of the previous methods worked, you might need to perform a tech surgery. You will need to open up your controller, clean the analog sticks with rubbing alcohol, and then replace the joystick or potentiometer, whichever is at fault.

Fortunately, YouTube has many simple and informative step-by-step tutorials for every potential controller type.


Disassembling the controller can be complex and should only be attempted if you are comfortable with taking apart your controller. You can ruin your controller if you do this tech surgery without proper tools and knowledge.

How To Avoid Controller Drift

Prevention is said to be the best cure. So, here are some tips that will help you avoid controller drift.

Clean Your Controller Regularly

One of the best ways to avoid controller drift is to keep your controller clean. Dust and dirt can get into the analog sticks and cause them to become less responsive over time. Be sure to clean your controllers regularly with compressed air or rubbing alcohol.

Play Softly

Intent on extending your game time? Play softly. Playing too hard can damage your controller and cause the analog sticks to drift. Be sure to take it easy on your controllers to avoid this issue. Also, avoid tossing it in the air or throwing it casually.

Store Properly

When you’re not using your controller, store it in a safe place—like a drawer or a closed cupboard. This will help to protect it from dust, dirt, and impact damage.

Avoid Playing Certain Games

This may be a lot to ask, but that’s better for your controller. You know that some RPG games are just hard on controllers.

So, if you notice that your controller is drifting more when playing a particular game, it may be time to take a break from that game.

Final Words

Drifting controllers can be highly frustrating, but there are ways to fix the problem. Calibrating your controller, cleaning it with compressed air, or performing a tech surgery can help eliminate controller drift. Be sure to take care of your controllers and avoid playing particular games to prevent the issue from occurring.

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