Repairing Joystick/Thumbpad on Gamecube Controller




Introduction: Repairing Joystick/Thumbpad on Gamecube Controller

The thumbpad on my Gamecube controller came off leaving a sharp plastic stick on which to give myself blisters. I've looked all over for replacement thumbpads, but they're no where to be found. I found a product called GelTabz at GameStop for about $5, but their pads didn't fit on my NGC controller's stub.

I decided to coat the stub in rubber myself, I Google'd for liquid rubber for a minute before remembering an Instructable called Rubber Origami by BlightDesign. That's where I got the idea to use Plasti Dip.

The 2 coats of Plasti Dip made playing with my Gamecube controller much more comfortable, but still a little irritating to my thumb after a bit too much play. I think I might try another coat or two in order to get more padding around the rim of the joystick since it's still a little sharp. I'll update this Instructable when I do, but it might be a while since I just moved and doing this on my couch and floor is a little bit of a hassle.

*Added 3 more coats, definitely a lot better. I wouldn't try doing 5 coats all at once, but maybe do 2, then do another 2 after 12 hours. 4 should be fine, I only did 3 more cause the first time was a little thin cause of the troubles I had.

CVS - or any drug store
Cotton Swabs - $3
Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol - $2
Home Depot - or most hardware stores
Wire, 18 Gauge Aluminum - $3.50 (Optional)
Plasti Dip - $7.50

Please read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for Plasti Dip. The fumes are a bit much so open a window and be careful of any sparks or open flames because it is flammable before it dries.

Step 1: Clean the Thumbpad and Everything Else

Like paints and glues, you're gonna want to clean the surface that you're gonna be coating. While you're at it you might as well clean the rest of the controller.
Use cotton swabs dipped in alcohol to scrub up any stains and the thumbpad area. You should use one hand to hold the joystick firmly all the way in one direction while you scrub away with the other. Sometimes the alcohol will break up what ever you're trying to clean, but will just push it around after, so you can use a dry cotton swab to pickup any wet debris.
Only a small amount of the alcohol is required, I usually just fill up the cap about 3/4 of the way and dip the swabs in there.

Step 2: Prepping the Drying Rack

You're gonna need to have a place where you can let the Plasti-Dip dry, if you already have a place in mind, just lay some paper towels under it and disregard this step.
I poked 4 holes into a cardboard box that my TV came in, threaded the aluminum wire through and tied it together on one side. Don't tie it too tightly or you will cut through the cardboard, just enough to make it a little tight.
Plasti-Dip is pretty thick, but there will probably be some dripping so don't let the controller dry over anything you want to keep.

Step 3: Prepping the Work Area

The joystick won't reach far enough into the Plast-Dip container to be submerged, so you're gonna need to fill up another container. Preferably something shallow since you don't need to use a lot, just maybe a quarter of an inch deep, but the important thing is to fill up your container as close to the rim as you can. Make sure to shake up the Plasti-Dip before pouring.
I cut the bottom off a Coke can for my container, since it was handy and disposable. There was some funky syrup stuff on the bottom that was a little hard to clean, but hot water + scrubbing + alcohol + more hot water = clean enough.
You're gonna want to cover the area you're working over with either paper towels or news papers. Also make sure to keep your paper towels, cotton swabs and alcohol handy.

Step 4: Dip It... CAREFULLY!

Dip the top of the joystick SLOWLY and CAREFULLY into the Plasti Dip and do not try to take a picture with one hand while you dip with the other or you will dip it in too far and cover the entire area with Plasti Dip, which will probably require that you take the controller apart to clean up.
The instructions on the Plasti Dip suggest that you dip at a rate of 1" every 5 sec. We're only dipping a fraction of an inch, so I don't think the timing is too important. Just take it slow, especially when you're pulling it out.
You only want to dip enough to cover the top of the thumbpad and right under it, try to minimize how much gets on the shaft, but a little bit is OK.

Step 5: Let It Dry

The instructions on the Plasti Dip recommend that you let it dry for at least 30 min between coats and 4 hours after the last coat before use.
The rubber should shrink as it dries, so if it looks like it has a weird bulge, just let it dry for the full 4 hours and it should go away. Once it dries it should be tight and smooth (although mine had an odd nipple in the center).

Step 6: Add More Coats

I only did 2 coats, although I'd like to add a couple more. I would recommend that you start with 2 or 3 coats and maybe let it dry fully after the 2nd coat, you don't have to, but I think it might be a good idea.
If you dip it too far, start cleaning immediately.
Between coats the top layer of the Plasti Dip in your dipping tray might solidify, you might be able to stop it if you stir every once in a while, but I just made a little hook out a bit of aluminum wire and pulled it off.
I'll grab a pic of that if I ever add another coat, but it didn't occur to me at the time to take one.

Step 7: Emergency Cleanup!

You'll want to clean up the bulk of the Plasti Dip first with some paper towels. Try to not touch the thumbpad, but if you have to that's OK, cause having to scrape it off and start over is better than having Plasti Dip drip into the controller and gum up the joystick.
Then use the old trusty cotton swab dipped in alcohol to get up the remains on the bottom of the joystick near the gaps. Make sure to clean up what you can, then move the joystick in every direction so you can to clean up anything that started dripping. You can clean off the rim of the controller around the joystick next since you're probably gonna want to save the shaft for last.
Get a little bit of the shaft clean, but don't worry about it too much. What ever you can't get, just let dry and pick it off later.

Step 8: You're Done!

I skimmed any solid bits or layers of the Plasti Dip out of the dipping tray and poured the rest back into the original container.
Congratulations! You just fixed your controller for about $16, which is a good deal if you have a couple controllers that need fix'n or if you have a Wavebird since they don't make them anymore and go for about $30 used on eBay.
You should also have plenty of supplies left over to repair any other controllers, which for me is probably 2 or 3 with the same affliction.

Step 9: Update!

I put on a couple more coats. Just the 2 coats wasn't much and it started wearing away after a while, although it's not too bad. I did 3 more coats and it's plenty thick and comfy.
I took the controller apart this time, as suggested by ZombyDude, because I had a better area to work in and I found my tri-wing screwdriver.
Here are a couple pics from the process. Definitely recommend this method if you have the right tools.



    • Metalworking Contest

      Metalworking Contest
    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest
    • Fix It! Contest

      Fix It! Contest

    23 Discussions

    Thanks for the guide, you helped save the dog-chewed joysticks on my large original xbox controller and a torn pad on my controller s.

    use sugru! and enter it in the sugru contest!

    lol I thought that's what it was when I first saw it. Plasti-dip is some fun stuff, tho.

     i know why your controller has a "nipple" in the center of the joystick, it has to do with how it dried. since the center of the joystick is the lowest point on it it would naturally drip from there right? while it was drying there was an unfinished drip that dried with the rest of the rubber thus there is that nipple of yours

    WOW, saves me $60 for a new ps3 controller! Thanks!

    Thanks for the guide, I have like two controllers that have messed up joystick and this saves me like $30!

    I took a much simpler approach. Rubber pad from controller + Shoe Goo (strong yet flexible adhesive) Latex caulk works as well.

    Very nice, I wish I had seen this back when my little sister chewed the caps off my controller. >_<

    I like your repair. I would like to invite you to join my new group 'Remarkable Repairs'
    And was wondering if you would like to join the Most Remarkable Repair Contest we are organising at Platform21 in Amsterdam. Platform21 is a design platform and our current project is called Platform21 = Repairing with which we hope to spurr a reappraisal of repair, which is a kind of forgotten activity in our throwaway society. Please check for more. I hope to welcome you as a contestant!

    1 reply

    Yah, I'd love to. I applied for your group and I'll take a look at Platform21 and submit this. Thanks for the invitation.

    Excellent! Just what I needed. Although I'm going to do it a bit differently by taking the controller apart so as to not have the getting it everywhere problem. Tri-wing screw drivers are pretty cheap.

    2 replies

    I did it your way for some extra coats. Definitely a lot better, both the method and the extra coats _

    Yah, that would be ideal. I didn't have the time, or proper workspace to do something like that. Also I had read something saying that the joystick was soldered into the board, but after a bit of Google'ing it looks like the actually joystick part just pops off when taken apart. If you have the means to do that, I HIGHLY recommend it as you have much more control and less chance to ruin your controller. Just wrap the wire around the base of the joystick and make a hook on the other end so you can hang it off the drying rack. Also you can dip it directly into the can of Plasti Dip saving yourself some time.

    Ah, the Nintendo Wavebird. Most likely the best wireless controller. (Except perhaps the Xbox 360 controller.) Does anyone know if anyone sells these anymore?

    2 replies

    They're not made anymore, you can get lucky and find a used one at GameStop. A used one goes for about $30 on eBay and a new one $55+.

    Excellent idea! I have stopped using controllers when the rubber traction thing came off the sticks because it was so hard on my thumbs :). This would be a good way to resurrect them! Thank you.

    I have this problem all of the time with my game controllers. Pieces break off when I slam it too hard, or step on it, or just after wear and tear. Good job! (5'd and fav'd)