Instructables

DIY Fix the d-pad on the Xbox 360 control pad (more than just sanding)

Okay, first things first: I find the d-pad on the 360 wireless controller to be a mushy mess. Not everyone does and if you don't this is not for you.

I've spent the better part of 4 hours trying to figure out how to fix this (also taking apart an xbox S-controller to look at the differences) and the fix isn't sanding alone. I'm pleased to say I've managed to make the d-pad tight as hell and it's improved my Tetris game considerably.

First things first, why it's not so hot: MS indadvertantly made two small changes from the old Xbox S-controller. 1: The distance between the button membrane (plyable plastic bit that hits the contacts on the circuit board) and the bottom of the d-pad's contact points seems to have shrunk very slightly (2mm?) so the pad can slide back and forth without pressing any buttons. Bad! 2: To fix this MS made the wall around the D-button thicker (just look at it).

These two problems come together in the following way: Sometimes, when you press a direction you can't get the membrane to connect because there isn't enough room in the well. This is where sanding comes in. You sand all the way around the outer part of the well so the d-pad can be moved enough to make contact but you're not done yet. But now the d-pad will slide around even more which is bad.

All we're going to do is add a very thin layer between the membrane and the bottom of the plastic of the d-pad to fill that space.

The end result is a directional pad that feels really snappy. I was surprised when I was finished with the first one how the controller actually clicks when you press in the direction you want. It feels completely different and 100% better.

(I originally posted this at cheapassgamer.com)
 
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Step 1: Open and dissasemble the controller (security bits not required)

Picture of Open and dissasemble the controller (security bits not required)
Open the controller (there are lots of pictures on-line) The hardest thing for me was realizing there's a screw under the sticker under the battery pack. (Opening and breaking this sticker probably voids your warranty). On the wireless controller there 7 screws in total.

You need a Torx-9, but I didn't need a security bit to open the screws. Instead I inserted a small screwdriver and twisted until the security nub broke clean off (allowing the T-9 to fit perfectly).

The back sort of pops off from the top. Pull straight out, to avoid damaging the battery contacts that hang off the main board and slide into the controller back. Also, it helps to hold down the triggers.

Try to keep the controller face down when opening. This will keep the buttons from spilling out every where until you are ready for them.

With the back off, remove the main board -- I found applying light pressure to the analog pads helped. Notice the rumble motors are just sitting in the wells and are attached to the main board by jumpers. Leave them plugged in but move the board carefully (don't let them hang and stress the connection point).

Now, flip over the top and knock out all the buttons. Don't lose them! Also, don't worry, they are keyed, so they only fit in the correct holes and only fit so they are oriented the correct way.

Lastly, you need to get the D-Pad mechanism out. Unscrew the two small screws shown and gently apply pressure to each of the clips in the D-pad mechanism.

Step 2: Sanding out the outer well

Picture of Sanding out the outer well
s1.jpg
sanding.JPG
IMG_4770.JPG
Here we're going to sand out the outer well to add more room for the d-pad to move.

The picture of two controllers shows about how much sanding you should do by showing a before and after controller (look at the wall around the D-pad -- the top has already been sanded).

Don't worry about sanding too much, but do be careful not to remove anything from the inner circle or sand down. You're just sanding out and around. There are lots of tutorials and instructables about sanding, so I won't go into it too much here. I found it easier to carve out the space with a leatherman filing attachment and then go back in and sand with about 300 grit. Took me very little time. I also found it easier to move the controller while I kept the leatherman still, but whatever. This part isn't exactly a science.

Step 3: Creating the "gap" spacer

Now that the sanding is done, the d-pad is even more likely to slide around (which is bad). What we want to do is fill up a little bit of the slack inside the pad. We'll insert a small, thin piece of plastic into the well so that when the controller is closed, the d-pad won't be able to slide around or move without pressing the membrane (the side effect of the increased pressure is that the membrane will also feel like it's kicking the controller back into neutral when you let go, making a pleasing clicking sound).

Get a pliable plastic top from a can of nuts (ideally clear) and trace the circle that's the size of the bottom of the d-pad.

Cut it out and punch a hole in the center that the pivot point on the bottom of the d-pad assembly can fit through.

Put the d-pad assembly back into the controller housing and then put our spacer on top of the assembly.

Put the d-pad membrane on top of the spacer (it'll be snug now).

Put the rest of the buttons and membranes back in and close up shop.

BE CAREFUL when tightening the screws. They strip *very* easily. A good trick for fixing a stripped screw is to put some of your larger sanding shavings into the hole with tweezers and then insert the screw.
c0d3h4x0r2 years ago
Anyone who's curious about why the Sega Saturn and/or 6-button Genesis D-pad was the best one ever made might find my blog post here interesting: http://c0d3h4x0r.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/65/
bkidwell2 years ago
U KNOW WHATS AWESOME, WE BOTH USE LEATHERMAN WAVES THERE AMAZING
DJ Radio3 years ago
Would you need to do this on a new black 360 controller?
zedzdead3 years ago
for someone who plays fighting games on the 360, this is a great mod. all i did was open it up and put 1 layer of 1mm thick flexible plastic (like from a container), dremel out the middle and it was good to go. and it clicks! also i threw away those damn 360 screws and replaced them w/ standard philips head. thanks for the idea.
Yeah, I agree with your first paragraph. I have no idea what this instructable claims to fix since I see nothing wrong with it. Also, I haven't played any games which require usage of the D-Pad for motion. Are you talking about XBox Arcade games?
Correct. Most retail games don't use the D-pad, but rather the analog pad. Nearly all xbox live arcade games do use it, however. Hop on to xbox live and snag the trials of tetris splash and/or pacman. I'd be shocked if you didn't see what I mean right away or at least within the first 5 minutes.
Gears of War 2 uses the D-pad to change weapons and i had problems with it switching to the wrong weapon when i hit it so this instructable fixed that problem.
 i had the same problem but with like night vision and special weapons ion cod4 thnx for the diy....

Hi everyone, I'd like to know how big should be the hole in the center of the plastic spacer? I know the pivot center from the d-pad mechanism must fit throu it, but how loose / tight must be the pivot in relation to the hole in the plastic spacer? I really can't see that clearly enough just by looking at the pictures (great guide by the way, no ofense!)
giroro4 years ago
This step is definitely the most important part. And it needs to be repeated: The D-pad audibly clicks. It is NOISY, so beware if you think that will drive you insane.
Through luck, ingenuity, and a sudden stroke of genius, I discovered a much simpler fix:

http://www.chinagreenelvis.com/brainsharts/death-to-the-d-pad.html

Hope this works for others, but not all 360 controllers are created equal.
tk2165 years ago
Great guide. I used a dremel tool and now my controller looks a bit crappy around the d-pad ( thats my fault), but it works and feels so much better!
Shadowfury5 years ago
Hmm... Seems a bit sketchy to me. I think the D-Pad is okay, I will agree that the feeling of using it is just awful. But, I can deal with it. Besides, I rarely ever use the D-Pad anyway. Though I might consider doing this just to see how well it works. Also, I was wondering, is that a faux balisong or a multi-tool?
That would be the Leatherman Wave mutli tool. All of the blades/tools are on the outside, so that when it's open as a pliers, the grips are round and smooth. Much nicer then the earlier Leatherman Mutli tools. Also, the tools lock into place, so no more having the blade close on your fingers and practically chopping them off...
Oh,okay then. I really need one of those...
c0d3h4x0r5 years ago
If this fix doesn't work as well as you'd like, see my fix guide at http://c0d3h4x0r.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!C301D7BA98804F38!372.entry
I just finished this fix on three controllers and I have some things to note (with quick summaries in bold):

It works great -- While the last thing the Internet needs is more anonymous anecdotal evidence, I have to say that this mod is FANTASTIC. It is so good, in fact, that the 360 controller will likely be replacing my sixaxis as my PC emulator pad.

Don't bother sanding -- I can confirm that the sanding part of the mod is wholly unnecessary. I sanded my first one, but neither the second nor third, and there is no functional distinction I could detect (and I am very particular about d-pads.) Nixing the sanding will cut your mod time by about 4/5.

Trace quarters for the spacer pads -- For creating correctly-sized spacer circles, if you have access to US currency, I highly suggest tracing around the outside edge of a quarter with an indelible marker, then cutting around the outside edge of the trace.

Try 1 or 2 sheets of plastic -- I have used two sources of plastic for the spacer: a pringles lid, and a plastic clamshell blister pack (you know, the kind that you need scissors to open, but you get halfway through and you try to rip it the rest of the way, and then it splinters and cuts your hand, and you start swearing.) The first controller worked fine with one layer of plastic, but the next two needed two layers for optimum springiness. Depending on your preferences, the plastic thickness, and your pads, either one or two layers might be right for you. Three layers was too many; the pad was so stiff there was basically no travel. You'd press it down and it would go almost nowhere, so it couldn't spring back up properly to give you that nice tactile response.

Re-tighten the controller carefully -- Make sure that when you put the controller back together, you screw it together tightly. If the backing of the d-pad isn't held snugly against the body of the case, you won't get appropriate tactile response. Be sure you aren't overzealous in your tightening; it can make the controller hard to disassemble, which presents a problem if you want to add or remove a plastic spacer.

The d-pad gets clicky -- Though the author noted this already, I feel that it bears repeating. After this mod, the d-pad will go from virtually silent to highly audible. Sliding your finger off the pad and letting it snap back up is about as loud as pulling one of the triggers down all the way and letting it snap back. Simply pressing one of the directions is roughly as loud as "clicking" down on one of the analog thumbsticks. I personally consider the auditory feedback a feature and not a bug, but for those of you who prefer silent d-padding, be warned.
gunhaver5 years ago
I came up with my own method of fixing the xbox 360 d pad problem that doesn't involve taking the controller apart!



See my istructables page here: Fix 360 d pad
you mention Tetris woes with the D-Pad. here I thought I was the only one who was having issues with the D-Pad!! can you get by just adding the additional plastic spacer without sanding? I just don't want to inadvertently mess up a $50 controller.
Just try it without the sanding! if you are not comfortable yet, believe it or not u can disarm the controller again and sand!
I've already done so. no real sanding seems to be required.
walletandgromice (author)  fillerbunny96 years ago
You could, but probably without much success. I'm staring at my controller now and even with the spacer, the d-pad moves farther than where the original outer wall was. While I recognize the fear of "messing up" a $50 controller, having done it twice (sanding included) you are probably much more likely to lose a piece or strip a screw than to actually break something.
Actually, a user over at CAG (cheapassgamer) has reported doing the mod with just the space (no sanding) with great success. I'd like to hear if anyone else has this experience as without the sanding this mod becomes much quicker and easier.
DARKFiB3R5 years ago
I have done this mod using the lid from a pringles can. I used 2 layeres of the plastic to make even more of a difference. And what a great difference it is :) There is 100% no reason to sand down the controller. Once the plastic is in place, the D-pad has less travel and never touches this part, so it's a complete waist of time.
ahamilton95 years ago
I was originally looking for just a simple "dismantle for repair" manual and thought this would be sufficient. But after reading what it was intended for, and the fact that I specifically bought the controller for my PC for emulators and such, (I own the games, don't sue me) this sounded really good. I did exactly as told WITHOUT the sanding, and it works magnificently. You get that "click" feel that was missing and I don't get any more miss reads by my games. Thank you so much for this instructable!
wingman3586 years ago
Interesting. I thought I was the only one who thought the directional-pad felt sloppy and imprecise. I'll have to try this when I open my controllers up to clean the buttons from a soda accident.
nerf freak6 years ago
I love your things I have done one of your projects
I think I'll show this to my friend, he is a pro at all games and he beat Halo 3 (on legendary) in 3 days or 4, I forgot. But wow, I think he'll want to try this.
no offense but Halo 3 isnt that long of a game, and yes i have played it myself and beaten t myself on legendary, but who want to rush through a good game, true gamers take a long time and find every possible secret. But anyway walletandgromice i agree with the fact that the D-pad on the controller is a little mushy, but i dont find it to be that bad...
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