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How To Fix PS4 Controller Drift

Controller drift is a common occurrence usually discovered by steady movement happening when the controller is at rest. If you notice your screen circling when you step away from a game, then you are dealing with controller drift. Fortunately, there are ways to fix it. 

Here’s how to fix PS4 controller drift:

  1. Clean your analog stick.
  2. Reset the controller.
  3. Disassemble the controller and clean it thoroughly.
  4. Replace the analog stick.
  5. Have Sony repair your controller.
  6. As a last resort, replace your controller.

Let’s take a closer look at these methods and explain them in more detail. 

1. Clean Your Analog Stick

Controller drift can happen for many different reasons, but one of the most common reasons is that dirt and dust can get into the analog stick. This can cause it to get stuck and not be aligned correctly, which gives your controller drift. One of the first things you should try for a drifting controller is cleaning it. 

Cleaning your analog stick can be scary if you don’t know what is and isn’t okay to use during the process. Thankfully, I’ve got you covered. The perfect solution for cleaning your PS4 controller is one part water and one part rubbing alcohol. This is the right combination for cleaning the controller because it isn’t sticky and won’t leave a residue. 

You can use this to clean your entire controller, but let’s focus on the analog stick, which is most likely the cause of the drifting. Dip a cotton swab into the solution, and use it to clean all those cracks and crevices in your controller. Clean your analog stick thoroughly by moving it around to reach spots that would otherwise be difficult. 

The best part about this solution is that it will dissolve. You don’t have to worry about drying off your controller after you clean it. 

After you finish cleaning the analog stick, you may still see some dirt and debris further down where the cotton swab can’t reach. If so, you can clean this area with a toothpick as long as you are careful. Don’t shove the cotton swab down into the controller too far. Just use it to pry any extra dirt that you can see out of the controller. 

2. Reset the Controller

If controller drift is not caused by a dirty or sticky analog stick, then you may just need to reset the controller. Similar to other electronics, bugs, and minor technical issues can happen with a PS4 controller. Sometimes, the fix is as easy as resetting your controller and allowing it to reconnect to your PS4. 

To reset your PS4 controller, follow these steps:

  1. Start by ensuring that your PS4 is turned completely off. Save any game progress you may have active before this step. 
  2. Unplug your PS4. Once this is done, locate the small reset button on your PS4 controller. It is located on the back of your controller near the L2 button. 
  3. You will need something small to push this button. Find a small tool or object to use and hold down the button for about five seconds. 
  4. After counting to five, release the button, and plug your PS4 back in. Then, connect the controller to your PS4 via USB cable. 
  5. From here, turn on the PS4 via the PS button on your controller. If the controller connects and turns blue, then it has been reset successfully. 

If the controller doesn’t respond, repeat the process again. Once your controller is reconnected, try playing a game again to figure out if the reset fixed your controller drift issue. If not, don’t worry. There are more options for you to try. 

Sometimes resetting is all you need to do to fix drifting, but it is more commonly an issue with the analog stick itself. If this doesn’t work, then try some of our other options, but remember how to do this. This can come in handy with many issues you can face with controllers in the future. 

3. Disassemble the Controller and Clean It Thoroughly

Sometimes it takes a little more than an exterior cleaning to get the job done, which is common for drifting issues. If surface cleaning doesn’t work, then it may be time to consider a more detailed approach. This is a much more intricate cleaning than ordinary cleaning, so make sure you are careful. 

Follow these steps to disassemble and clean the controller:

  1. Start by removing the four screws from the back of the controller. These screws mustn’t be damaged as they hold the controller together. Ensure that you do this carefully without damaging them by using the correct size screwdriver. 
  2. After the screws are removed, pry apart your controller by removing the back piece. You may have to pry the back off with a flat tool as it can be difficult to separate. 
  3. Pull out the ribbon cable allowing the back piece to fully detach. Carefully remove the battery and detach the battery connector. This may be difficult to do, so take your time here. 
  4. Once these have been removed, unscrew the battery holder and remove it. With that gone, you are free to pry apart the front of the controller. 
  5. Grip the controller firmly and gently pull apart the remaining sections of the controller. This will allow you full access to the inside of the controller for cleaning. 

You can remove each button and analog stick for a full thorough cleaning. Clean each part carefully with the same solution I discussed above (one part water and one part rubbing alcohol). When finished, carefully put the controller back together. Before reassembling, ensure that you dry each piece before putting the controller back together. 

If you want some help putting the controller back together, check out the bottom of this article. It has step-by-step instructions on putting your controller back together in case you get stuck, and it has helpful pictures if you get confused about the terminology. 

4. Replace the Analog Stick

If cleaning and resetting your controller doesn’t fix the drifting issue, there is still hope. Sometimes parts of controllers can age faster than the rest. This includes buttons, like the analog sticks. The next best option is to try to replace the analog stick that is causing issues. 

The best part about this method is that analog stick replacements are easy to find and cheap. If a new controller isn’t a part of your current budget, try this instead. First, you want to find analog sticks. The XINKEEN Analog Thumb Sticks on Amazon.com has a pack of four at an affordable price. They are made by Sony, so they are guaranteed to work with your controller, and you can choose from seven different colors. 

When you get your new analog sticks, replacing them is a little tedious but not overly complicated. Start by following the instructions above for taking your controller apart. Make sure you are careful during this process, as the controller must be put back together in the same way. 

When you have the controller taken apart, some connections will need to be desoldered. Once desoldered, the analog stick can be removed. Replace the old stick with a new one, and make sure that everything lines up properly before putting it back together. 

Next, solder all the contacts to the board. Again, this may be tedious, but it must be done carefully and correctly. Clean off any leftover residue before putting the controller back together. 

If performed correctly, your new analog stick should work seamlessly with your controller, and you shouldn’t notice any drifting. If you do, you may have installed it incorrectly, or there could be another problem with the controller. 

5. Have Sony Repair Your Controller

Sony DUALSHOCK controllers for PS4 are covered by a warranty after you purchase them. Usually, this warranty is for one year. If you are noticing controller drift with a controller-less than a year old, then you can send it to Sony and have them repair it for you. 

It is important to know that Sony’s warranty doesn’t cover everything that could go wrong with your controller in that year. After reviewing the controller, Sony may find that you are not eligible for free repair if the issue is outside of the warranty. It is best to send the controller in as soon as possible and not mess with it before sending it. 

Sony’s warranty covers issues with material or workmanship, but it does not cover issues that arise from general use. For example, if Sony determines that the issue was caused by negligence or misuse of their product, they will refuse to cover it under warranty. This may also happen if they can determine that the issue was caused by an accident of yours. 

Sony will also refuse to repair the controller if they can determine that it has been used with other unauthorized systems. It is also worth noting that the controller can’t be modified in any way. Make sure you aren’t trying to fix it yourself first if it is under warranty because it may nullify your protection. 

If your controller qualifies, then it will be repaired and returned to you. You can normally expect to have it back within ten business days, but it may take longer if more care or investigation is required. 

If your controller does not qualify, you will need to pay for repairs yourself. This can get costly depending on the parts that need to be replaced and the difficulty of the repair. It is best to always get an estimate before any repairs are done outside of a warranty. It may be cheaper to buy a new controller rather than worry about a costly repair. 

6. As a Last Resort, Replace Your Controller

If all else fails, it may be time to invest in a new PS4 controller to replace your drifting controller. This may not be doable for those on budget, but it is certainly worth it when it comes to drifting because it can keep getting worse as your controller ages. Let’s talk about the process of buying a new one. 

First, you want to ensure that your controller is covered under warranty. Sony controllers come with a one year guarantee, as discussed above. So, make sure you are purchasing approved controllers only. That way, you are protected by warranty if anything goes wrong. 

When buying a new controller, you can expect to pay around $50 for a new one. Some are available for more or less depending on what you are looking for, but this is the average price you will pay. 

If you plan on investing in an expensive controller, make sure it comes with a warranty. Also, keep in mind how long your previous controller lasted. There is no set expectancy for the life of a controller, but overpaying can leave you in a difficult position if the controller breaks or stops working. Pay a price you’d be willing to pay again after some time. 

Sometimes the price is a direct reflection of the quality, but that is not always the case. You may get excited seeing limited edition controllers available that look awesome, but they could be overpriced for the amount of time you can use them. Be cautious, and purchase an expensive controller at your own risk. 

The best way to ensure you get a controller that will work and is made to last is to buy directly from Sony. If you do this, prices will be more predictable, warranty coverage is clear, and you can ensure it will connect properly to your PS4. Don’t be fooled by other cheaper controller brands. Stick with Sony for the most protection from future issues. 

Final Thoughts

Controller drift is a gamer’s nightmare. It can make it difficult to beat games and completely obnoxious when trying to read in-game materials. Try out these fixes to get your controller working again in no time. And remember, controllers aren’t meant to last forever, and if nothing else works, don’t be afraid to invest in a new one. 

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