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Is Repairing a Joy-Con Free?

The Nintendo Switch‘s Joy-Con controllers are innovative but suffer from a major flaw – joystick drift issues that cause characters or menus to move without input from the user. This "Joy-Con drift" has impacted a large number of Switch owners, but luckily Nintendo now offers free repairs even for out of warranty controllers. Here‘s a detailed guide on how to take advantage of Joy-Con repairs at no cost.

What Is Joy-Con Drift?

Joy-Con drift refers to joysticks on the Switch controllers registering movement even when not being physically moved by the player. This leads to problems in games like characters moving on their own. Drift issues often start subtly but can worsen over time.

Drift stems from wear and tear on the joystick mechanism inside the Joy-Cons. Dust, debris, and other particles can get into the joystick and affect the sensors. Over time, the contacts inside the mechanism can also deteriorate.

Surveys suggest the problem impacts a large share of Switch owners. A poll by consumer group Which? in 2020 found that nearly 40% of respondents had experienced drift issues with their Joy-Cons.

Nintendo‘s Initial Repair Policy

When the Switch launched in 2017, Nintendo only provided a standard 12-month warranty on the console and controllers.

Out of warranty Joy-Con repairs cost $40 per controller, a significant expense considering a new pair costs $80.

This repair pricing and short warranty frustrated customers as Joy-Con drift issues emerged. Even normal use over time would degrade the joysticks and triggers expensive fixes.

Lawsuits Over Joy-Con Drift

In 2019, law firms began filing class action lawsuits against Nintendo related to the Joy-Con defect.

The lawsuits alleged Nintendo was aware of the hardware issues but did not address them or extend controller warranties. plaintiffs sought free repairs, reimbursement for previous paid repairs, and compensation for defective Joy-Cons.

Nintendo Begins Offering Free Repairs

In response to criticism and lawsuits, Nintendo changed its repair policy in 2019 to offer free fixes for all Joy-Con drift issues, regardless of warranty status.

The free repair program continues today. Nintendo will fix any Joy-Con with drift at no charge to the customer, including covering shipping costs.

This change only applies to repairs directly from Nintendo. The free fix may not be available from third-party repair shops.

How to Get a Free Joy-Con Repair

Getting a free repair for a drifting Joy-Con through Nintendo is a straightforward process:

  1. Request a repair ticket – Visit Nintendo‘s Joy-Con repair page and fill out the form with your contact info and details on which Joy-Con needs repair. Or call Nintendo support.

  2. Receive prepaid shipping label – Nintendo will email a UPS label to print and use for shipping.

  3. Mail Joy-Con – Pack the affected controller and attach the shipping label. Drop off at a UPS location or schedule a pickup.

  4. Await repair – Nintendo‘s service center will fix the Joy-Con and return it, typically within 1-2 weeks.

  5. Get working controller back – Once shipped back, you‘ll regain use of your fully functional Joy-Con, free of drift!

The process is simple enough for even those not tech savvy to have drifting Joy-Cons repaired at no cost.

Joy-Con Repair Timelines

How long does the Joy-Con repair process take? Here are some common timeframes:

  • 3-7 days – Average shipping time each way
  • 1-4 days – Time at repair facility before return shipping
  • 2-3 weeks – Typical total turnaround time

Of course, times can vary based on repair backlogs and location. Patience is required but worth not paying for the fix.

Alternatives to Nintendo‘s Free Repairs

For those unable or unwilling to wait 2-3 weeks without their Joy-Cons, alternatives exist:

  • DIY repairs – If you‘re technically skilled, replace the joystick yourself using replacement parts ordered online. This voids the warranty.

  • Local repair shops – Stores like uBreakiFix offer same day Joy-Con repairs for under $50.

  • Buy new controllers – Simply purchase another set of Joy-Cons or a Pro Controller alternative.

But for most, mailing the original drifting Joy-Cons to Nintendo for a free fix is the best option.

Do Repairs Resolve Joy-Con Drift for Good?

While free repairs resolve drift issues initially, the fundamental design flaw remains in Joy-Cons. Stick drift caused by debris or deterioration of parts may occur again over time.

There are mixed reports on whether new batches of Joy-Cons have improved durability. Some still experience issues after a year or two.

Luckily, Nintendo will repair drifting Joy-Cons indefinitely. But the need for frequent repairs is frustrating.

Preventing Joy-Con Drift

To maximize a Joy-Con‘s lifespan, here are some tips to help avoid drift:

  • Avoid exposing Joy-Cons to dust, sand or lint that could get in the joystick.
  • Be gentle using the joysticks to reduce wear.
  • Use a soft toothbrush to gently clean around joysticks.
  • Don‘t eat or drink while using the Switch to prevent food debris.
  • Let a nearly dead battery fully drain monthly to maintain battery health.
  • Consider a grip case that reduces joystick use.

While you can‘t prevent drift forever, these steps can prolong the onset.

Improving Your Switch Experience

If your Joy-Cons are drifting, you have options to restore or enhance your gameplay:

  • Request Nintendo‘s free repair for the quickest fix.
  • Buy a new set of Joy-Cons to alternate while others are being repaired.
  • Consider buying a Pro Controller for a more ergonomic traditional option.
  • Try a grip case that surrounds the Switch to make it more comfortable.
  • For multiplayer gaming, get a Joy-Con charging dock to easily hot swap.

Between repairs and accessories, you can deal with Joy-Con issues while loving your Switch.

The Joy-Con Resale Market Stays Strong

Given the common drift problems, you might expect used Joy-Cons to have little resale value. But demand remains high for Controllers in good condition.

On sites like eBay, working Joy-Cons can sell for $40-$50 per controller. Of course, disclose any drift issues.

Even "for parts" broken Joy-Cons go for $20+ because the other components like batteries retain value.

The continued demand despite drift issues demonstrates the appeal of the innovative Joy-Con design. Consumers are willing to take the risk, deal with repairs, and repurchase thanks to Nintendo‘s free fix program.

Joy-Con Drift Remains an Ongoing Problem

In summary, the Nintendo Switch‘s Joy-Con controllers continue to be plagued by joystick drift problems leading to unusable controllers.

Thankfully Nintendo now offers free repairs indefinitely, even for out of warranty Joy-Cons. The repair process is straightforward – simply fill out a form, ship your controller, and Nintendo will fix it free and return it in 1-3 weeks.

While drift issues may reoccur, the free repair program makes the situation much more tolerable for Switch owners. Knowing Nintendo will fix your Joy-Cons for life makes the innovative but imperfect controller design more bearable.

So if you notice Joy-Con drift don‘t hesitate to request a repair. With proper maintenance and care, you can continue enjoying Nintendo‘s groundbreaking console and controllers.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.