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Has your Nintendo Switch developed a fault?

Sales of the Nintendo Switch console have surged during the coronavirus pandemic, but some owners have been experiencing a common fault. Have you had this issue?

Since its launch in 2017, some Nintendo Switch owners have encountered an issue with the console’s controllers deteriorating and breaking.

I’m currently experiencing the issue myself, so I’ve taken a look at why it’s happening, what your options are, and I’ve even embarked on a DIY fix.

It’s important to note that this only applies to the original Switch hardware – the recently launched Switch Lite has a different design and isn’t affected.

A timeline of console gaming: 1980 – 2020

What is ‘Joy-Con drift’?

The pair of two controllers that ships with the Nintendo Switch are collectively called Joy-Con. Joy-Con is characteristic of Nintendo’s tendency for reinventing hardware and creating new ways of interacting with their media. 

Both halves, Joy-Con L and Joy-Con R, can be slotted to the sides of the console or slotted into a traditional controller body. They can also be separated and turned into two individual controllers for two players when each is held horizontally.

All-in-all, they’re around £60 worth of hardware. But some are finding they develop a common fault known as ‘Joy-Con drift’.

It’s where the analogue stick of one controller registers commands the user didn’t make, causing frequent, sometimes constant unwanted inputs. Depending on the case, this can be either highly irritating, or outright experience-ruining.

It can even happen merely a few months after purchasing the hardware, and search trends do show a recent boom in concern

It’s commonly believed that it happens due to dust and debris buildup which has made it through the material covering the stick’s base components, as well as wear and tear over time.

Most users seem to find that it’s Joy-Con L that becomes faulty because it’s the analogue stick that’s used most often and most vigorously.  

Can I fix my Nintendo Switch controller?

Nintendo acknowledged the fault and issued a statement last year, but it hasn’t really explained how widespread it is. As a result, there’s some debate as to the best action to take.

It’s a problem I encountered myself recently, and I did manage to fix it, albeit temporarily, without requiring a factory-based repair.

Good news, then, as Nintendo isn’t actually open for repairs in the UK due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Read all the latest COVID-19 news and advice on our dedicated hub

The first and least intrusive step is to recalibrate the control via settings. If that doesn’t work, Nintendo recommends using a dry toothbrush around the stick and then wiping it with a soft, dry cloth. I didn’t try this method, though.

Instead, I sprayed WD-40 electronic contact cleaner under the rubber flap of the analogue stick which I’d gently lifted up with a pair of tweezers. It worked, but users often report that this fix is temporary, and problems reoccur after a period of time. 

Your final option is to contact Nintendo for a repair, which it encourages people to do so here. You’re entitled to that under warranty, and I’ve also seen reports that they’re being repaired in Europe outside of warranty, too.

Product sustainability

Reliability is very much on the agenda at Which?. While we don’t test games consoles, we do survey users to discover how long their other purchases last and what condition they eventually find themselves in.

Using that data, we give brands reliability scores. You can see how tech brands fare in areas such as laptops and mobile phones on the main Which? site.

I’m interested to know if you’ve dealt with the Nintendo Switch fault. If you have, which method did you use to attempt to fix it?

Have I missed any tricks? Let me know in the comments, as well as your thoughts more generally about the prevalence of reliability issues with consumer technology. 


We’ve had problems with our Nintendo switch controllers as well. Must wave this convo under my husband’s nose.

B Bower says:
23 May 2020

This happened to me last August. I contacted Nintendo and sent it in for a free repair, got it back towards the end of September (quite some time) and it was functional again. However the same issue has developed again, and I contacted them a couple of days ago to ask for a replacement rather than a repair. Having now read your article I see that the latter isn’t an option right now anyway, will acquire some electrical contact cleaner to see if I can get it working again in the meantime. Would be nice to have a more long-term solution though.

This happened to us too. We bought the switch when it was launched. Have a second set of controllers that also have this issue. I bought replacement sticks. It was easy to replace, but broke one while trying to fix one of the controllers. Really easy to do as some great YouTube videos out there.

mike corbridge says:
24 December 2020

I have got two controllers with drift. Also the console has developed a headphone jack fault one week after buying headphones -so not down to over use. My feelings on the console is that it is not robust and not fit for purpose and quite saddened by the whole gaming experience for my daughter. I am out of warranty and have bought multiple new controllers and lots of games. A total waste of money and a constant disappointment.

C Williams says:
6 January 2021

We have had the same issue of joy con drift, its very frustrating as it affects game play and leads to a very upset child. A further fault has developed where the switch will have the message that the game card has been removed, when it hasn’t been. This results in gameplay being lost/ deleted. Such a shame as when its working its a great console.