After 1000 hours of intense Splatoon play, my left analog stick was getting old and losing its freshness. It would start to do its own thing in the middle of games, randomly not responding, going down, right, wherever it wanted. This is not a common console problem related to calibration, but a problem with the actual piece of tech inside. Wii U’s analog stick is a bit different to what you’d expect, with a circuit board “sensor” reading inputs instead of the joystick itself.
I read a LOT about this before doing anything and found many people with the issue, with some who had fixed it by replacing the part. I could temporarily fix it by blowing deeply into the stick, but that started to fail me more as the months went on.
It became impossible to play Mario 64, Star Fox Zero or Splatoon without getting annoyed. Even while playing Castlevania on the Virtual Console, my character would sometimes duck randomly and freak me out, with the analog stick kicking in out of nowhere. I finally decided it had to be fixed. After ordering a $7 replacement analog stick from eBay, and a $3 Triwing screwdriver, I managed to fix the issue TODAY and I thought it was worth doing a little post about it while it’s on my mind.
These were the two guides I referred to, they are very good step by step explanations with pictures, but I’ll just add my own experience.
My tools were
- Triwing Screwdriver, tons of places sell them on eBay for a few bucks. Worth having since a lot of Nintendo hardware uses this very specific triangle shape for screws, and Switch probably will too.
- Phillips #0 Screwdriver, randomly found in my toolkit among different sizes. It’s the smallest one I have. You could get this at any hardware store without worrying about ordering online.
- Analog stick PCB board from eBay. Mine came in the mail today and I was so excited. I got left and right in a set, but you can buy them separately. It’s very important you get the correct side, because left and right are shaped differently. Here’s a link to the same thing on Amazon. You do NOT need to change the rubbery thing on top, it just slides off and back onto the new one.
I tried to take photos but my phone camera is just too crap to see small parts, so it’s not worth posting the blurry mess. It’s all in those links anyway. A few notes from my procedure.
- The GamePad is held together stupidly well. After removing the battery plate an insane TEN screws have to be taken out with the Triwing screwdriver. Very small and easy to lose if you don’t organise them in a safe, easy spot. There’s nothing too hard about it, just make sure the Y shape is slotted in properly. Two of my screws were in extra hard and I had to use a little bit of force, not too bad.
- Taking off the entire GamePad plastic back is optional, I just left it there leaning against something (with no stress on the wire).
- The L and R buttons will almost certainly fall out, but they are very easy to put back in. Literally just slide them on the top and hold them there as you put everything back on. It freaked me out, but quickly made sense.
- This is a great opportunity to clean out dust from the buttons themselves and the sides. Chances are your GamePad will not look like the perfect white brand new one in the ifixit guide. A bit of dirt had accumulated in the slot of my ZR and ZL buttons. It was very easy to clean out and they feel fresh now. It’s really cool to see how the ZL and ZR buttons slide in too, they can flap up and down like a garbage bin on a hinge.
- Everything is freakin tiny. The final two screws holding the analog stick PCB board together are easy to lose and come out very quickly after loosening. The wire dangling from the board was also difficult to take out without breaking. I used my finger to edge out one side, then on the other side, and wiggled it out as slow as possible.
- Make note of everything you are doing, so you can put everything back together exactly the same way. There’s no extra step when putting it back together as long as you don’t forget to clip everything back on, and tighten every screw.
- I used this experience as an excuse to order a High Capacity battery. There are some third party ones looming around, but I got the official Nintendo one by calling Nintendo Australia and ordering over the phone. It costs $35 AU and came within a week with free postage. I feel stupid for not having this sooner. The battery is SIGNIFICANTLY easier to change than the analog stick too, with just two simple (but small) Phillips screws.
Woohoo! After nervously putting the GamePad back together, I switched it on successfully. I used the stick to successfully move the cursor over to select Mario 64, but that was very basic movement, and playing this would be the true test. It worked flawlessly and I felt so freeeeeee! I had been playing this game without even being able to tip toe, and this new stick made me realise how much I’d “gotten used” to my analog stick being shit. Never again.
The next test now is Splatoon which I will play all night. I’ve done a few games today already and it’s feels amazing to climb walls and use fast combat weapons again. I’m super relieved a cheap replacement part worked, and also happy to have gotten to know my GamePad more intimately. Hope this can help somebody else with the issue. If your stick ain’t fresh, change it RIGHT AWAY. If anyone has any questions or experiences I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Stay fresh and look after your gear.