In video games, there are few things more frightening than when your character suddenly starts running in circles, possessed by some unknowable force and impulse to move without your input. Maybe every time you line up a perfect headshot the reticle just so slightly slides down and to the left. Perhaps your Need for Speed is being interrupted by some phantom pull towards the nearest curb. Or are you playing Dragon Quest XI and finding all the text boxes are speeding away because Square Enix thought dialogue should be skippable with the slightest touch of the stick?
If anything like that is happening to you, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing “controller drift,” a problem for many a console controller. Unlike the Nintendo Switch’s infamously faulty Joy-Cons, issues with the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 are less common, but it can still happen. Thankfully the most likely reason tends to be grime accumulated over time, which can be fixed without too much hassle.
Before you open up your PS4 controller
If you’re going to DIY fix your PS4 controller, there are some things you want to make sure you’ve taken care of first. Resetting your controller can fix some of the issues you might be having, so go ahead and give that a try before doing anything else. In order to reset your PS4 controller, you will first have to go into the settings menu on your PlayStation 4. In the settings menu, click on devices, then Blutooth devices, and then find the controller you are currently using. Hit the option button on your controller and then select “Forget Device.” Once the controller is disconnected from your PS4, turn your PS4 off. On the controller, insert a pin into the small hole located by the left shoulder button. Press the pin in for 10 seconds. Next, attach your controller with your USB charging cord to the PS4 and boot the console up.
If you are still experiencing problems, it’s time to open up the controller and do some manual labor. First, clear a well-lit workspace. There are many little parts inside the controller you will not want to lose. Also, it goes without saying, but do this at your own risk.
How to open up your PS4 controller
- Lay your controller down on your workspace and with a Phillips-head screwdriver remove the four screws on the back of the controller.
- Gently pull the back off your controller. Depending on your model, there might be some plastic between the shoulder buttons. If this is the case, slip the plastic over the buttons carefully. If any of the buttons are popped off, they can be popped back in later. Do not be rough when pulling the back from the front of the controller—there is a ribbon connecting the two halves that should not be broken.
- Once the back is off, carefully unattach the ribbon that is connecting the two halves. You will be able to simply pop this out of its socket.
- Next, remove the battery cable connector. This connects a pair of red and black wires from the centrally located battery to the controller’s motherboard. By squeezing the connector and pulling it out, you should be able to easily pop this connector out of its socket.
- Remove the battery and then the battery plate that is underneath. Be careful with the plastic pegs that keep the battery plate in place. You do not want to snap these.
- Unscrew the screw in the middle of the motherboard.
- Gently remove the ribbon cable that is in the upper right-hand corner of the motherboard. Depending on your version of the DualShock 4, your controller might have a small clamp over the ribbon cable that you will first have to lift. This cable is very delicate, so be very careful.
- You should now be able to remove the plastic front shell of the controller and fully examine the panel holding all the buttons and analog sticks.
From here you can see what needs cleaning and if anything has been obstructing your analog sticks (dirt, dust, cat hairs, etc.). This will sometimes solve the drifting problem. If there does not appear to be dirt, grime, or anything else that is evidently obstructing the performance of your analog sticks, follow these steps:
- Pull off the analog sticks. Blow off or dust the underside of the sticks.
- Where the analog sticks were will be two cube-shaped structures with green coverings. Use your screwdriver to carefully pry the green walls back.
- There will be a small white disc hanging on a nub in between the green wall and the cube-proper. Remove the disc and clean the area against the cube with a cotton swab. Do this with all sides of the cube.
- Once done, replace the white disc on its nub and press the green wall back into place This will take some force. Do this with every area you disassembled.
- Reinsert your analog sticks and reassemble the button plate and motherboard inside the shell of the controller.
- Make sure you carefully reconnect the ribbon cable from step seven.
- Reattach the battery.
- Reattach the ribbon connecting the two halves.
- Screw in the back shell of the controller once again.
This should solve many issues with the DualShock 4’s analog stick drift, as the problem does not appear to usually be hardware related, but is instead due to grime and dirt accruing over time. We hope this helps and that you can get back to gaming ASAP!