How to Clean a Nintendo 64 Controller




Introduction: How to Clean a Nintendo 64 Controller

These instructions focus on the cleaning of a Nintendo 64 controller, but will also show how to open and remove the vital components. 

A controller that has sticky buttons or/and a sticky control stick can be very frustrating to use (or attempt to use).  By keeping the controller clean and in working order, the user will add years to the enjoyment of this classic system.  Since this is a simple guide, no major technical abilities will be required to complete this task.  All that is required is the ability to use a screw driver.  This procedure will roughly take about 30 minutes to 1 hour (depending on how thoroughly it is cleaned) and should get the controller in tip top shape for any gaming session. 

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Step 1: Gather the Materials

The materials that will be needed for this escapade are the following:
  - Nintendo 64 controller
  - a Phillips head screwdriver
  - Rubbing Alcohol
  - Cotton swabs (or cotton balls will work too)
  - Ziploc bag (seal-able)
  - A small dish for containing rubbing alcohol

Step 2: Open the Controller, and Remove the Vitals

The first step is to open the controller, and remove the components within:

WARNING: Make sure device is not plugged in, as there is a chance of injury due to electric shock.

1.)  Unscrew the nine screws that hold the Back Shell in place.
Seven of these nine screws are located on the back shell in plain sight, while two are next to the accessory input.  Make sure that all nine screws have been removed to safely remove the back shell.  (Pictures 1 and 2)

2.)  Remove the Back Shelland the Z button
Lift the shell carefully to avoid breaking any of the plastic screw holders. The Z button is clipped into the back shell.  To remove, push the Z button in, and slide up.  Set the shell aside for cleaning (if needed, usually only the outside will need the cleaning.)

3.)  Unscrew the three silver screws that hold the Control Stick Housing in place
Make sure to only unscrew the three silver screws.  The black screw holds the housing together, and will be dealt with in a later step.  (Picture 3)

4.)  Remove the wire from the holders, and lift the Board carefully out
The control stick housing will be attached to the board at this point, so carefully set both the chip and the attached housing to the side. (Picture 4)

5.)  Remove the Contact Sheets and the Buttons from the Front Shell
Set aside buttons and contact sheets into two different piles for cleaning. The Z button's contact sheet is attached with clips, but shouldn't be too hard to remove.  (Picture 4)

CAUTION: Failure to take care of the board can cause the device to cease functioning.  The utmost care most be taken when taking the device apart.

After the vitals have been removed, it is time to move on to cleaning.

Step 3: Clean the Contact Sheets

From the last step, we should have the six contact sheets shown below.

Using the following materials:
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Cotton swabs

1.) Dip the cotton swab into the alcohol

2.) Gently and Carefully clean the top of each contact sheet
Make sure to clean the contact sheets thoroughly.

3.) Flip over the contact sheet and clean the bottom
The most important thing to be clean on the contact sheet is the contact itself.  Normally the way the sheets are placed on the chip will stop substances from hindering the contacts, but it is essential that the contact remains clean.

Next the buttons will be cleaned.

Step 4: Clean the Buttons

Here there are two different methods for cleaning the buttons, one thorough, and one not so thorough but still effective.

1st Method -
1.) Fill a Ziploc bag with rubbing alcohol
2.) Place Buttons within the bag
3.) lightly shake bag
4.) Let bag sit for a couple minutes
5.) Dry off buttons
6.) Clean any major spots with cotton swab.

Allow the buttons to sit within the bag to ensure proper cleaning. 

2nd Method - (Preferred)
1.) Clean buttons thoroughly with a cotton swab and alcohol
Wipe down the tops, sides, and bottoms with the swab dipped in alcohol.  This will thoroughly clean the buttons.
2.) Allow the buttons to dry

The next step is to open the control stick, and clean the innards thoroughly.

Step 5: Open and Clean the Control Stick Housing

The control stick is probably the most important piece to clean in the whole controller.  There are more problems that can be fixed just by giving it a good clean.  First, the housing needs to be opened and removed from the board.

1.) Remove the black screw
2.) Holding the top and bottom of the housing, lift the two tabs
In doing so, the innards of the control stick will be revealed.  The attachment to the board should be removed after opening.
3.) Remove the Axis control base from the Control Stick Housing (bottom)
4.) Remove y-axis
5.) Rotate and remove x-axis
6.) Remove spring cover and spring

This would also be a good time to replace the spring if need be, as a new spring can "spring" new life into a dull control stick.
7.) Rotate and Remove Control Stickfrom the Control Stick housing (top)

After cleaning, reassemble the housing in the reverse order that it was taken apart.

Step 6: Clean the Board and Shell

To clean the board, the utmost care must be taken:

1.) Clean the board with a cotton swab
Lightly clean the board with a cotton swab dipped in the alcohol, making sure to not damage any of the wiring. 

Cleaning the shell is rather simple and easy.

1.) Clean the shell with a cotton swab
Just like everything else, the shell can be easily cleaned with just the use of alcohol and the swab.

The last step is to reassemble the controller.

Step 7: Reassemble the Controller

In order to reassemble the controller:

1.)  Repeat Step 5 backwards - eliminating "Remove"  and inserting "Replace"

2.)  Repeat Step 2 backwards
- eliminating "Remove" and inserting "Replace" and "Unscrew" with "Screw in"

The hardest parts will be to reassemble the control stick housing, and also to attach the small screws on the back shell.  Place all of the screws within their proper holes before placing the back shell into place, or use a magnetic screwdriver.  Hopefully the controller is looking and feeling better than ever, and will allow for unobstructed gaming for years to come.

Happy Gaming.

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    2 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    This is very useful for us retro gamers! As for the risk of an electric shock, these thing run on 3.3 volts.

    i snapped one of the two tabs (left side) on the joy stick housing. do you have any insight on what i should do, or should i just glue it?