Introduction: Loose Nintendo 64 Thumbstick Repair

Well, if your reading this, then your about to learn how to fix that old Nintendo 64 controller with the analog stick that flops around. All Nintendo 64 controllers eventually get their loose analog sticks after a while. How do you tell if this epidemic has hit your poor controller? The thumbstick will not return to center position, it'll flop from side-to-side when you move the controller. It'll feel loose, without much resistance when you play. Look at the picture for more info.

Step 1: Understanding Why Your Analog Stick Is Loose

I'm taking this from my site, http://gamesnjunk.weebly.com, because that's where I originally posted it and now I figured it was time to share it with the world on Instructables. So, here we go:
Open up any official Nintendo brand controller and you will be confronted with this site: There will be a big brown-ish tan circuit board in the top part of the controller. You will see that the left and right handles on the controllers are actually hollow. The middle handle has a white or gray box in it (Depending on your controller). This gray or white box is your analog box. Ontop of this box is your "Z" button. If you were to open the analog box, you will see a white bowl, with a gear on the right and a gear on top. Sitting on the top gear is a circuit board.
This circuit board is an important part of this controller. The circuti board is actually optical, meaning it has little lenses in the board that read the gears. The gears have a series of lines and holes on them. The lenses read these holes, and translates this into actions on your game. Now, the main reason that these analog sticks fail after a while, is that the holes get dirty from the dust that is caused by the insides of the controller grinding (More on that later). This causes the controller to act all screwy, coming out of calibration, not working, or not working in certain directions.
Okay, this is how the analog stick gets loose. Inside the afore mentioned white bowl with the gears attached, there will be a black bow shaped plastic piece with a gear bit on the end. This moves one of the gears attached to the white bowl. There is also a black bow shaped piece on the other half of your analog box, this one is a little smaller then the one in the bowl, but just as important. Now, if you were to put this half back ontop of the other half (Partially), you would see that these bow shaped pieces rest ontop of eachother, and when you move the analog stick with the halves of the analog box still partially together, you would see that these pieces grind against each other. This is what causes your controller to get a loose analog stick.
When you opened your analog box you would have been confronted with some gray powder. This is the worn away powder from the black bow shaped pieces. This is very messy, and may hurt you if you breath it in, so don't. This dust gets into the black gears attatched to the white bowl. The controller "Sees" the dust in the lines and holes, and translates this into your game incorrectly.
Okay, boring part over. Now we get to the fun part: Fixing this thing!
Open up any official Nintendo brand controller and you will be confronted with this site: There will be a big brown-ish tan circuit board in the top part of the controller. You will see that the left and right handles on the controllers are actually hollow. The middle handle has a white or gray box in it (Depending on your controller). This gray or white box is your analog box. Ontop of this box is your "Z" button. If you were to open the analog box, you will see a white bowl, with a gear on the right and a gear on top. Sitting on the top gear is a circuit board.
This circuit board is an important part of this controller. The circuti board is actually optical, meaning it has little lenses in the board that read the gears. The gears have a series of lines and holes on them. The lenses read these holes, and translates this into actions on your game. Now, the main reason that these analog sticks fail after a while, is that the holes get dirty from the dust that is caused by the insides of the controller grinding (More on that later). This causes the controller to act all screwy, coming out of calibration, not working, or not working in certain directions.
Okay, this is how the analog stick gets loose. Inside the afore mentioned white bowl with the gears attached, there will be a black bow shaped plastic piece with a gear bit on the end. This moves one of the gears attached to the white bowl. There is also a black bow shaped piece on the other half of your analog box, this one is a little smaller then the one in the bowl, but just as important. Now, if you were to put this half back ontop of the other half (Partially), you would see that these bow shaped pieces rest ontop of eachother, and when you move the analog stick with the halves of the analog box still partially together, you would see that these pieces grind against each other. This is what causes your controller to get a loose analog stick.
When you opened your analog box you would have been confronted with some gray powder. This is the worn away powder from the black bow shaped pieces. This is very messy, and may hurt you if you breath it in, so don't. This dust gets into the black gears attatched to the white bowl. The controller "Sees" the dust in the lines and holes, and translates this into your game incorrectly.
Okay, boring part over. Now we get to the fun part: Fixing this thing!
 

Step 2: Supplies

You will need:
-Lubricant. WD-40 or a patroleum jelly
-Tiny screwdrivers
-Tape (Duct, invisible, or plastic electrical)
-Cotton swabs
-An old toothbrush with NO toothpaste
-Rubbing alcohol or water
-A dish for the screws

Step 3: How to Fix It

Okay, first I want you to open up the back of your controller with a phillips head screwdriver. A small/medium one will do. You'll be able to see the ones on the back of the controller in plain view, but there is actually two more screws hidden inside the accessory slot. These ones are tiny, and strip easily. Use caution when unscrewing them. I suggest having a small bowl beside you to hold these easily lost screws. Gently lift the back of your controller. If it comes apart easily, then keep going and take it off. Leave the backside facing up to be sure you don't loose your screws. If it doesn't come apart easily, turn all the screws another time to loosen them up.
Now we come to the inside of your controller and removing the big gray or white box in the middle. This is your analog box. There are three screws holding it in place; one on bottom, and one on either side. These guys are tiny, so be careful. It's HORRIBLE (Yup, Caps Lock) trying to remove them if you strip them. Set these screws aside in the bowl to not loose them. Now, don't lift the analog box yet. First I want you to remove your "Z" button. This is the little blue rubber thingy ontop of the analog box. There's a circuit board (Real tiny one, too) that needs to come off, too. The "Z" button is held in place by two gray/white plastic clips. These clips are directely apart of the analog box's plastic, so be careful when you push them aside. You don't want to break them. Now gently lift on the "Z" button.
The analog box is held in by a little cord now. Well, more like several little cords. These lead to a clip. Take either a tiny flat head screwdriver or your fingernail. Push up on the little lip of the cords connector. It may put up a fight, but just keep pushing. Eventually it'll come out.
Now we actually have to open the analog box itself. There is a tiny (TINY) black screw holding the whole analog box together. To remove this, you'll need to take a tiny screw driver and use caution. Go slow and easy. After it's come undone, you will be able to open the analog box. Well, maybe not yet. Directly across from the black screw is two plastic clips. These are just like the clips holding the "Z" button on, and break easily. Gently seperate these clips from the top black part of the analog box. Now remove the top half of the analog box. You will now see the insides of your analog box.
Okay, first I want you to remove the circuit board that you see. If you look, you'll see that this is what has all the cords that connects it to the controller's circuit board. Don't rough up this piece too much. Set it aside. Now take out the black bow shaped piece from the white bowl. Set the black piece aside. The white bowl is free, so remove the bowl. There will be a gray powder in it, so knock it out over a trash can. Now take a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol (Or water if alcohol isn't available) and wash out the insides of the bowl. Now I want you to take a DRY, TOOTHPASTE FREE toothbrush and get in between the lines on the plastic gears attached to the white bowl. There should be nothing left behind, otherwise you controller could mess up still. This is a long, time consuming project that will require patience. Now when it's clean, replace it into the analog box. Put the black bow shaped piece back in. And put the circuit board back in, too. Now we focus the attention on the top half of the box. Take the black bow shaped piece on the white disc (It'll be easy to see), and give it a gentle twist. It should pop right off. Now the spring will be loose. Take the white ring off the top of the spring, and remove the spring itself. You should see a white-ish gray rod sticking out of the lid now. This is the actual analog stick. Take a piece of tape and wrap it around the analog stick. What type of tape? Well....
Normal, everyday invisible tape has little stick, and it wears out easily. I'd say it would last a week or less if your heavy handed (Like me). If your light handed, you could probably get away with two weeks, give or take a few days
Duct tape has a stonger glue, and will last longer when the analog stick grinds. It'll last about two weeks for heavy handed people, maybe a month for light handed people.
Plastic electrical tape is the best choice, by far. It has less stick then the duct tape, but it takes the grinding better (Being plastic). This could last you years. Then again, it could last you only a few months. It alll depends on how much you play your system, for how long, and how heavy handed you are.
Now, wrap your piece of tape in between the ball on the analog stick (It should be right in the middle) and the little square bit on the end. Don't worry if the tape actually wraps over the ball and square piece. Layer the tape evenly, or you may regret it. I like to leave at least a little space left, just about as wide as a piece of hair. Now, reassemble this half of your controller. Put the analog stick back in (If you took it out). Put the spring in, then put the white ring ontop of the spring. Put the black bow shaped piece on, and twist it. It should not bounce off. The spring should stay held down without you pushing on it.
Now, we can't quite put the analog box into the controller just yet. I want you to grab a lubricant. Some people use WD-40, but I prefer petroleum jelly. Take your lubricant on a cotton swab, and put on the middle of the black bow shaped piece in the white bowl; the little notches on the white bowl (There should be one on top, bottom, left, and right); the white ring on the spring; and finally,a little bit on the square piece at the and of the analog stick (Even if theres tape on it). Now, put the top half of your analog box back ontop of the bottom half, secure plastic clips, tighten the screw again, and clip the corded part back into the circuit board on the controller. Put your controller back together (Remember the "Z" button!)
Test it out. It should work.

Step 4: Troubleshooting

Analog stick, well, sticks : Add more lubricant to the inside of your controller, on the spots mentioned before
Character moves on it's own : Try recalibrating the controller (Hold the analog stick dead center and then push L+R+START at any time during a game). If it still doesn't work, re-open it and clean the holes again.
Grinding noise comes from controller : Usually it isn't anything to worry about.
Using palms to move the analog stick, and the analog stick messes up : Don't use your palms! Analog sticks are meant for your thumbs!

Comments

author
Cato AlexerratusT made it! (author)2014-11-18

Once everything is unscrewed, you can lift the analog box to free the circuit board. It gets tricky when you go to open the analog box. (Front has hooks, back does not). I held the back in my left hand while using the fingernails of my right hand to pry the two hooks on the front, which need to be pulled back simultaneously. Then I used one of my left hand fingers to push the top of the case up at the back. This is when it sprang apart and I got hit in the face with a black piece. If you can get someone to hold the box with you, that may be preferable. In any case, reassembly was tricky since the spring, white ring, and two black pieces need to be held down all at once while aligning them. Once they're all lined up, putting the top of the case back on is fairly simple.

There was plastic powder everywhere, and it took a while to brush all the powder out of the grooves, but an episode of Gotham helped pass the time. :D

I found this DIY simple because it only fits back together one way so there's nothing to mess up, and the biggest challenge was holding many small parts at once, but it wasn't too complicated.

Be sure to have your silicone gel at hand (you can get it in the plumbing section for $3) so you can clean and reassemble at the same time, and as always, mind your circuitry and don't fry it while you're in there with since it probably isn't grounded when you're working on it.

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author
Citizeno (author)2014-07-28

Don't put WD-40 OR petroleum jelly on your plastic parts!!!

These lubricants are good for a bit then they deteriorate the plastic. Use a silicone or lithium lubricant if you want long term usage and want to avoid literally melting your plastic parts over time. Actually I think the petroleum jelly isn't that bad except that most have added moisturizers and other such things.

Otherwise, thanks for the post, lots of good information. :o)

author
dairyfarmer777 (author)2011-12-04

Try splitting up your steps into smaller segments so that you don't end up having too many words for the fix step. "less is more" pictures would be more specific and helpful for each "smaller step" that way.

author
dairyfarmer777 (author)2011-12-04

to take pictures off a dsi you need an sd card and much copy the pictures to it

author
dairyfarmer777 (author)2011-12-04

I believe your post has been copy and pasted once too much... you repeat in the beginning in the middle:
1st

"I'm taking this from my site, http://gamesnjunk.weebly.com, because that's where I originally posted it and now I figured it was time to share it with the world on Instructables. So, here we go:

Open up any official Nintendo brand controller and you will be confronted with this site: There will be a big brown-ish tan circuit board in the top part of the controller".

2nd

"This dust gets into the black gears attatched to the white bowl. The controller "Sees" the dust in the lines and holes, and translates this into your game incorrectly.
Okay, boring part over. Now we get to the fun part: Fixing this thing!

Open up any official Nintendo brand controller and you will be confronted with this site: There will be a big brown-ish tan circuit board in the top part of the controller. "

author
mwwdesign (author)2011-01-17

You need to put more pictures on here - no one wants to read blocks of text like that for an Instructible!

Also, I think a better solution would maybe be to put use some epoxy resin to give the part thickness (and sand down to shape if needed), instead of tape, which I see being very prone to wearing/slipping and making a mess quite quickly.

Good concept for an 'ible tho - I need to fix some of my controllers for this very same problem!

author

Okay. Yes, I apologize for the lack of pitures- I haven't taken any yet of the actual inside of the analog boxes. I will be adding more, though, of the actual internal analog box.


Epoxy resin? Well, it would have to have some good stick, and not be very pourus when it dries. Why? Because I've tried everything besides tape thats sticky around the analog stick (Including Silly Putty!) and the lubricant will get into it.

And thank you. Best of luck with your controllers, and again, more pics coming.

author

Hey it's me from the knex toilet just want to know were u serious about the knex house if you were message me. Everyone feel free to check out my knex toilet

author

PM me if you want to do a collaboration of some sort.

author

Hey, Music Man. You would need an a lotta K'nex. Unlesss....... We make it piece by piece. (Please ignore the other reply where I said there was a lot of mis-spellings. I had it underneath my first comment above, but somehow it did a switch)

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Bio: Well, I'm really big on at-home video game repairs that are cheap and actually work. I also like video game cheat codes, which you ... More »
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