View Full Version : Cleaning controllers - general

AB Positive
05-23-2003, 02:20 AM
I'm pretty sure I can go ahead and do this myself but I can't find any faq or help about this subject. I want to open a controller that just seems to be having issues with sticky buttons and other general weirdness that seems easily fixed, but have no clue what not to do to make sure I don't accidentaly ruin it all.

If anyone knows where a faq is or can drop a few hints for fixing a controller, let me know and thank you in advance.


05-23-2003, 08:27 AM
In my experience, you can take apart pretty much any controller with out worry of damage. what can be tricky is putting it all back together. Analog controllers can be a pain the in the butt, especially some of the the old potentiometer based ones that don't have "centering" abilities (Some old ColourComputers (Tandy/CoCo for one).

Just follow a few safety guidlines:
Don't have it plugged in
Take your time (haste makes waste)
Don't forcibly rip the controller apart (if you need to use a crowbar to get it open, good luck getting it closed again)
Use the proper spray or liquid for the job (compressed air, tuner/lubricator, alcohol etc...)

You should be fine.

As for links, I haven't seen any. Atariage.com has a little blurb about how to "clean" the paddles in the controller description. That's the only reference I have ever seen.

Sticky buttons: on most controllers there's a little piece of rubber under the button that makes contact on the controller PCB.
Sometimes these can loose their springiness. Not much you can do about that. Some electronics stores sell "standard" rubber contacts. You might also be able to get them from a old controller that's dead. I have a box full of them from when I gutted two SNES controllers to make my arcade controller/partport hack if you ever need some.

Good luck

05-23-2003, 09:33 AM
Sticky buttons are usually caused by some sort of crap that got spilled in the controller -OR- improperly putting a controller back together (like torquing down the screws with a vengence).

I usually just pull the thing apart, and clean the casing/buttons with simple green/409/Dow bathroom cleaner & a scrub brush. The contact surfaces for the buttons I clean with rubbing alcohol/q-tips.

The vast majority of controllers come apart & go right back together easily. Just watch the routing of the wire & you should be all set. The only controllers that I don't enjoy cleaning are Vectrex / Atari 5200 / Intellivision controllers.

AB Positive
05-23-2003, 01:43 PM
thank you all, I shall let you know how it goes tonight :)


10-23-2003, 08:41 PM
Ancient topic, I know, but is isopropyl alcohol okay as a cleaning agent for the inner contacts? I've popped open one of my Genesis controllers for some D-pad troubleshooting, and it looks like the directional switches are kinda grungy.


Also, I thought I'd mention that the contacts inside my early-model Genesis controller are marked as follows (I've never seen it listed this way anywhere else):

Up = Up
Down = Down
Left = Left
Right = Right

A = S1
B = TL
C = TR

Start = S2

I'm gonna guess that this goes along with the Genesis' early dual role as a way to play Master System games -- thus, A is also Start (making the actual "Start" button Start 2). And I can only assume that TL is Trigger Left and TR is Trigger Right.

Maybe that was only fascinating to me, but anyway...

Duncan :D

10-23-2003, 11:14 PM
useful links-






10-23-2003, 11:23 PM
i would say alot of times it's just sweat and dust that causes your problems. especially if it was heavily used......as in frequent, even if treated right. just slide it apart.....and i always used a soft paper towel......even to clean the buttons.....maybe water, but it doesn't need anything more than that.....atleast NES+ systems because everything is generally closed up......i had a PS1 controller for a long time and i was the only person that used it. look along the seems where the two pieces of plastic meet sometime. it's downright nasty, just sweat and hand oils though :-P

LOL LOL good luck and good recommendations by everybody else

10-30-2003, 08:56 AM
I go insane when it comes to cleaning controllers.

Basically, I dissassemble the controller completely, and then get the front and rear sections, all buttons, and rubber contacts and soak it all in water. If necessary, clean with a scrubbing brush.

The circuit board I wipe over with a damp cloth to get any residue/crap off it.

Essentially, when I'm finished with a controller - it's come out looking like brand new.

I do the same thing consoles. Any non-electrical compnent is soaked in water, and all other stuff is cleaned thoroughly.