PC Accessories

Why Does Your Controller Drift?

Black Game Controller

There’s nothing worse than having your greatest gaming moments ruined by your controller not behaving as you want it to. One minute you’re winning, and the next, BAM! Controller drift! This can cause your character or camera to move even when you’re not touching the controller.

Quick Answer

Controller drift is a very common issue that can occur with almost any controller, and it can be caused by wearing down of the analog sticks, dirty sensors, or just old age. This causes the actions onscreen to be erratic and unpredictable.

This is one of the most frustrating of all the things that can go wrong with your controller. It’s like your controller is losing its center, and it can make gaming that much harder and more confusing.

Controller drift can wreak havoc on any gamer’s session, but we’re here to help you figure out what’s causing it and mitigate its effects.

Reason #1: Dirty Analog Sticks

One of the most common causes for the PS4 controller to “drift” or behave erratically is the controller’s analog sticks being dirty. This can be particularly frustrating when playing an action game where you need precise movements and fast reactions.

The problem is usually caused by dirt, hair, dust, and grime accumulating over time within the thumbstick mechanism. This gradually causes the controller to become stiffer and leads to the stick becoming slower to respond.

While there’s not a lot that these analog sticks need in the way of cleaning, you can do the following few things to ensure they stay in good working order:

  1. Disconnect and turn off your controller before you begin cleaning. 
  2. Dip a cotton swab or microfiber cloth into rubbing alcohol.
  3. Move the stick in all directions while cleaning its inner workings.

Wet wipes can be handy if you have problems cleaning them with a cotton swab. Compressed air can also be useful in removing dust.

Reason #2: Loose or Worn-Out Thumb Pads

Thumbpads are essential to providing a smooth analog thumbstick performance in your gaming controller. Even after cleaning, if you’re still experiencing controller drift, chances are it’s your thumbpads that need replacing.

When the thumbpads get torn, loose, or worn out, there’s a likely chance they don’t sit snugly on the analog sticks. This causes controller drift resulting in an unpleasant, unplayable gaming experience.

If you’re looking for a quick way to replace our thumbpads, then you’ll want to follow these steps:

  1. Disassemble the controller with the help of a screwdriver and a prying tool.
  2. Unscrew and remove the back casing, then remove or disconnect the battery.
  3. Replace the old thumb pads with the new replacement ones.
  4. Reassemble the controller by reconnecting the battery and putting the cover back on.
  5. Reinstall the screws back into their positions and check if the problem is resolved.

And if you’re a little scared of disassembling your controller and messing with its internals, you can bring it to a store and have it done by a trained professional.

Reason #3: Faulty Analog Stick Module

If you have tried cleaning and replacing the thumb pads and the condition remains the same, there might be a faulty thumbstick module here. This part has begun to fail internally if you’re experiencing drift or general sloppiness in the thumbsticks.

If you have the necessary tools, can perform a bit of soldering, and are willing to put in the hard work, then yes, you can replace the analog thumbstick module. There is also a risk involved with replacing the thumbstick unit since something could go wrong and damage the controller.

So, if you are up for the challenge, you can repair your controller by replacing these worn-out and defective components by following the steps below:

  1. Disassemble the controller with the required tools, including a screwdriver and pry tool.
  2. After unscrewing the back case, take the main circuit board out of the assembly.
  3. Remove the old analog stick assembly from the circuit board by desoldering the connections.
  4. Connect the new analog stick assembly and solder it in place.
  5. Reassemble the controller by screwing the back on the case and checking if it works.

The process for replacing the thumbstick unit varies from controller to controller. If unsure of the process, you can also have a professional do it.

Reason #4: Internal Hardware Failure

If you have tried everything to revive the controller that is drifting and it doesn’t seem to be improving, then it might be time to give up. The controller that you’re using might just be starting to show its age and wear.

They contain many parts, including springs, sensors, circuit boards, etc, that can wear out over time. A failure of internal hardware, or faulty mechanical or electrical components, can cause them to drift. 

While it is true that you’ll need a new controller in such cases, there are some things you can try before making your final decision:

  1. Reset your controller. If you are experiencing issues with your PS5 controller, you can also try a “hard reset”.
  2. In the case of a Nintendo Switch, recalibrate the “Joy-Con” controller.
  3. Ensure your console is up-to-date, as this can also lead to glitches.

If nothing else works, it’s time to shell out some cash. Controllers can die an early death sometimes, and there isn’t much you can do other than buy a new one.

Conclusion

Controller drift is a common issue that can occur with almost any controller. We’ve covered everything from dirty analog sticks to worn-out thumbpads, including hardware problems and their possible solutions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my PS4 controller moving by itself?

Your controller could be drifting if it moves by itself. It’s the phenomenon where, after a period of use, your analog sticks slowly shift in one direction.

How much would it cost to fix stick drift?

It’s easy and cheap to fix stick drift if you’re doing it yourself. But, if you decide to take it to a professional, you’ll have to spend some money.

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