How to Fix Joystick Drift on PS5

It’s not uncommon for new consoles to have some issues, but we hope they’re minor and easily fixable. Unfortunately, Sony’s PlayStation 5 (PS5) has been receiving a lot of negative attention due to a problem with the DualSense controller’s joysticks. This issue, known as joystick drift, is similar to the one experienced with Nintendo’s Joycons but appears much earlier in the controller’s lifespan.

If you’re experiencing joystick drift with your DualSense controller, there are a few methods you can try to fix it yourself. Dealing with a drifting joystick can make your games unplayable, and waiting for repairs or buying a new controller can be costly and time-consuming. So, before going down those routes, here are some steps you can take to fix joystick drift on your PS5.

What is Joystick Drift?

A close up shot of the DualSense
(Image used with permission by copyright holder)

In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, joystick drift occurs when your controller detects movement in one or both joysticks even when you’re not touching them. This can manifest in-game as your character constantly spinning or walking in one direction, or menu options cycling without your input. DualSense controllers experience this issue when the sensors beneath the joysticks are either triggered by something or are malfunctioning on a software or mechanical level. While you may be able to address the former two causes yourself with the following tips, the latter requires professional repair.

What NOT to Do

A DualSense Edge sits on a table with its joystick module removed.

First and foremost, avoid attempting to open up your DualSense controller. Doing so will void your warranty, preventing you from returning it for a replacement if none of the other fixes work. Also, there’s no need to open it up unless the issue is mechanical, and even then, you likely won’t have the necessary parts to fix it. So, put your screwdriver away for now.

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We’ll reiterate this point later when we discuss cleaning, but it’s crucial to clean your controller properly. Avoid saturating it with water or getting it excessively wet. Remember, it’s an electronic device, and you could end up causing more damage. Instead, use rubbing alcohol in small quantities and apply it correctly.

Lastly, always handle your controller with care. We all experience moments of gaming frustration, but taking it out on your controller can lead to permanent damage to the interior or exterior. Even being too rough with the joysticks can cause problems to arise more quickly.

Reset your DualSense

Let’s start with some simple fixes to hopefully resolve the joystick drift issue quickly. Resetting your DualSense isn’t as simple as turning it off and on again. There’s actually a hidden reset button that completely refreshes your controller. Look for a small hole on the back of your DualSense where the reset button is hidden. You’ll need something like a paperclip to gently insert and hold down the button for five seconds. Once it restarts, reconnect your controller to the PS5 using a wire and check if the drift is still present.

Reset your Bluetooth

The DualSense settings menu on PS5.
(Image used with permission by copyright holder)

If resetting the controller doesn’t work, you can try turning Bluetooth on and off. Although it’s less likely to be the cause of drift, it’s still worth attempting in case there’s any interference. To turn off Bluetooth, navigate to Settings > Accessories > Controllers > Communication Method, then select Turn Off Bluetooth. After disabling the connection, wait a few moments, and then turn it back on and test it out.

Update your PS5 and controller

Consoles receive frequent updates, especially around launch, to address issues and bugs such as joystick drift. So, it’s possible that your controller or console may have missed an update that fixes the problem. Your controller should prompt you to update if you connect it to your PS5 via a wire. To ensure your PS5 is up to date, go to Settings > System > System Software Update and Settings > Update System Software. Choose Update Using Internet, and your console will check for the latest update and install it if needed. Wait for the installation to complete, reboot your console, and check if the drift issue is resolved.

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Clean your joysticks

A person plays Crash Bandicoot using a PS5 DualSense controller.

Regularly cleaning your controller should be part of your routine to keep it functioning optimally. Considering how new the PS5 is, you may not have done this yet. Dust, grime, and oils from our hands can quickly accumulate inside our controllers, causing issues in a short amount of time. If debris of the wrong size ends up in the wrong place under your thumbstick, it can easily lead to drift.

The best and safest way to clean your controller is to use a cotton swab, rubbing alcohol, and compressed air. Before cleaning, ensure your DualSense is turned off. Use short bursts of compressed air, rotating the thumbstick in a full circle as you spray. Then, take a cotton swab, apply a small amount of alcohol, and run it along the edges of the analog stick’s base. Allow it to dry for a few minutes before testing it out.

Adjust the dead zone

This fix is more of a temporary and conditional solution. Some games allow you to adjust the “dead zone” in the controller settings. The dead zone is the range of motion in which the game won’t register any movement of the joystick. If the drift isn’t severe, you might be able to fix it in certain games by adjusting the dead zone so that the controller’s natural drift isn’t detected by the game. Keep in mind that not all games offer this option, and unfortunately, you can’t adjust the dead zone on the PS5 itself to apply to all games.

Return it or send it in for repairs

A DualSense Controller laying on a wooden table.
(Image used with permission by copyright holder)

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If all else fails, your only option is to replace or repair your DualSense controller. Depending on where you bought it and whether you have a warranty, the best course of action is to try getting a replacement from the same retailer. If everything is in order, you should be able to receive a replacement on the spot.

If you can’t obtain a replacement from the retailer or if you bought the controller directly from Sony, you’ll need to visit the official PlayStation Fix and Replace site. Sony offers a one-year warranty on the DualSense, but there are a few limitations. After confirming that you’ve tried the troubleshooting steps we’ve covered in this guide, you’ll need to pay for the shipping to send your faulty controller back to Sony. Once they receive it, the repair process takes an estimated 7 to 10 business days. After repairs are completed, you’ll need to wait for the controller to be shipped back to you. This whole process may leave you without your DualSense for more than two weeks, but it’s cheaper than buying a replacement yourself.

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This article was written for OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

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