How to fix Xbox controller drift for Xbox One & Series X/S
Is your character or crosshair veering off to the side? We might be able to help
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The Xbox controller drift issue is one that has been around for about as long as analog sticks themselves. As we play our console to death, it isn’t just the material on the thumbsticks that starts to wear, the internals can sometimes get a little bit clogged up too, causing your character in-game to slam into a tree or continuously walk off in a single direction.
You may not need to buy a new pad either, there are several fixes for this Xbox controller problem, some of which won’t even require the controller to be opened.
What is Xbox controller drift?
Have you noticed your in-game cursor or character veering off to the side when your release the thumbstick/ control stick? That is likely to be controller analog stick drift, an issue that also occurs on Nintendo Switch, PS5, and PS4 controllers too. The two joysticks can become faulty after extensive use but it is usually down to dirt, grime, or plastic dust from the grinding sticks that cause controller drift.
Common causes of Xbox controller drift
As mentioned, the most common cause of Xbox Series X, Series S, and Xbox One controller drift is dirty analog sticks. You will have seen this yourself, where white dust builds up on the smooth ball of the stick. The accumulation of grime and debris can result in the stick stiffening up and sometimes malfunctioning entirely.
After prolonged use, the internal workings of the analog sticks could fail. Whether the controller was always faulty or the circuits inside have since been damaged, you could end up with controller drift. If it is an internal failure, there is a strong chance you may need to replace the controller.
The analog sticks springs underneath, which are responsible for resetting the position of the analog stick could be the cause. Over time the integrity of the spring can become compromised, giving you some unwanted drift.
How to fix Xbox controller drift
To fix controller drift when the issue is dirt build-up, you are going to need two items: Isopropyl alcohol and a couple of cotton swabs.
Using the cotton swab
Lightly wet the cotton swab with your Isopropyl rubbing alcohol and then rub the rounded, smooth surface at the base of each thumbstick.
Rotate the thumbstick, leaning it in each direction so you can clean as much of the base as possible.
To prevent Xbox controller drift, you can repeat this process every 3-4 months.
If the above fails, you may need to open up the controller to double-check the analog sticks are in the correct position or assess if they or the springs need replacing. Always take extra care when disassembling a controller’s plastic cover or when removing internal components to prevent permanent damage to the circuit board.
If the damage is internal and you are out of warranty, there are no downsides to taking the pad apart, removing an entire analog stick, or taking out the soldering iron, a can of compressed air, and fixing the problem yourself. If, however, it is new, take it back to the store and get yourself a working replacement.