How to Fix Xbox One Controller Drift

Don’t throw your controller away, it may be salvageable

When an Xbox One controller starts suffering from drift, you’ll typically notice unwanted movement while playing games. It’s called controller drift, or analog stick drift, because one or both thumbsticks will drift, or move, in an undesired direction even when you aren’t touching them.

To fix Xbox One controller drift, you need to take the controller apart and repair or replace one or more components related to the analog sticks.

What Is Xbox One Controller Drift?

The most common situation involves drift in the left analog stick, which usually manifests in your character constantly looking up in first-person games. However, the right stick can also suffer from drift issues. You may also notice that when you move one of the analog sticks in any direction, it will continue registering that movement even after taking your thumb off the stick.

When Xbox One controller drift occurs, there are three main causes:

  • Worn out thumbstick pad: Each thumbstick consists of a boxy sensor component with a moveable shaft on top and a rubber or plastic component that snaps onto the shaft. If the rubber or plastic piece becomes worn, replacing or repairing it will fix your drift issue. In some cases, a similar issue can be caused by dirty thumbstick pads.
  • Worn out springs: Each thumbstick sensor component has two springs that help snap it back to the center whenever you remove your thumb. When one or both springs wear out, you’ll notice drift. Replacing the springs fixes that problem.
  • Bad thumbstick unit: Each thumbstick consists of a boxy sensor component that’s soldered to the controller circuit board. This component can fail internally, in which case the only possible fix is to replace it with a new part.

How to Fix Worn Out Thumbstick Pads

If you notice that your Xbox One controller is suffering from thumbstick drift, you’ll want to start with the easiest fixes and continue from there. While dirty or worn out thumbstick pads don’t represent the most common source of this problem, this is the best place to start since it’s the easiest and fastest thing to try out.

To perform this fix, you’ll need:

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Cotton swabs
  • Prying tool
  • T-8 or T-9 safety Torx
  • Shim of your choosing or replacement thumbstick pads

Once you’ve gathered those items, here’s how to perform the fix:

  1. Apply isopropyl alcohol to a cotton swab.

    Isopropyl alcohol, a cotton swab, and an Xbox One controller.
     Jeremy Laukkonen
  2. Pry back the thumbstick, and carefully wipe the rounded surface with alcohol.

    Cleaning an Xbox one controller analog stick.
    Jeremy Laukkonen 
  3. Rotate the thumbstick incrementally, carefully cleaning the entire thing.

    Cleaning an Xbox one controller
     Jeremy Laukkonen
  4. Check to make sure that you’ve fully cleaned the thumbstick, and test operation.

    A cleaned Xbox One controller thumbstick.
    Jeremy Laukkonen
  5. If the thumbstick still sticks or drifts, disassemble your Xbox One controller using a pry tool and T-8 or T-9 safety Torx.

    Prying open an Xbox One controller
    Jeremy Laukkonen
  6. Check the thumbsticks to see if they're positioned correctly, and try wiggling them to see if they're loose.

    A bad thumbstick in an Xbox One controller.
    Jeremy Laukkonen
  7. If the thumbstick pads feel loose, remove them.

    An Xbox One controller analog stick with the thumbstick removed.
     Jeremy Laukkonen
  8. Replace the thumbstick pads with new ones, or reinstall with a shim like a sliver of paper or plastic, and check to see if they feel loose.

    Replacing an Xbox One controller thumbstick.
     Jeremy Laukkonen
  9. Reassemble the controller and test operation.

How to Fix Worn Out Xbox One Controller Thumbstick Springs

If you still experience drift after attempting to fix your thumbstick pads or determine that they were neither dirty nor loose, then the next easiest fix is to replace your thumbstick springs. If only one thumbstick is giving you trouble, only replace the springs on that thumbstick.

To perform this fix, you’ll need:

  • Prying tool
  • T-8 safety Torx
  • Analog stick springs
  • Tweezers

A lot of controllers, including Xbox 360 controllers, use the same analog stick component as the Xbox One controllers, so you can take springs from an old controller. You can also buy a replacement analog stick and take the springs from that.

Here’s how to replace the springs in an Xbox One controller analog stick:

  1. Disassemble your controller using a pry tool and T-8 or T-9 safety Torx.

    Disassembling an Xbox One controller.
    Jeremy Laukkonen
  2. Carefully pry off the green plastic covers on the bottom and right side of the thumbstick assembly.

    Repairing an Xbox One analog stick module.
     Jeremy Laukkonen

    If you break either plastic cap, you will have to replace the entire analog stick module, which requires soldering.

  3. Remove the springs.

    Removing an analog stick spring from an Xbox One controller.
     Jeremy Laukkonen

    Use tweezers if you're having trouble removing the spring.

  4. Replace with new springs, or springs taken from another controller.

    An analog stick module spring.
    Jeremy Laukkonen
  5. Snap the green plastic covers back into place.

    Repairing an Xbox One analog stick assembly.
    Jeremy Laukkonen
  6. Reassemble your controller and test operation. 

How to Replace an Xbox One Controller Analog Stick

In some cases, you’ll find that one or both of your analog sticks are just worn out and need to be replaced. This is an even more complicated repair, and you shouldn’t attempt it if you aren’t comfortable with desoldering and soldering.

Don't attempt this fix if you don't have experience desoldering components from a circuit board. Any mistakes with the desoldering tool or soldering iron could easily ruin your controller.

If you want to attempt this fix, you’ll need:

  • Prying tool
  • T-8 or T-9 safety Torx
  • T-7 Torx
  • Desoldering tool
  • Soldering tool
  • Solder
  • Replacement analog stick assembly

Here’s how to replace an Xbox One controller analog stick:

  1. Disassemble your controller using a pry tool and T-8 or T-9 safety Torx to take apart the case and a T-7 Torx to remove the circuit board.

    Disassembling an Xbox One controller
    Jeremy Laukkonen
  2. Use a desoldering tool to remove the old analog stick assembly from the circuit board.

    Desoldering an Xbox One analog stick assembly.
    Jeremy Laukkonen
  3. Insert the new analog stick assembly, and solder it in place.

    Soldering an Xbox One controller analog thumbstick assembly.
    Jeremy Laukkonen
  4. Reassemble the controller and test operation.

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