Saving an Xbox controller from certain death

Posted on 2021-10-10

In my opinion the Xbox 360 controller is the best controller. It just fits in my hands better than any of the PlayStation controllers, or any other Xbox pad that has come since. I’m sure this opinion is not biased by it being by far the controller I’ve used the most over the years. Anyway, I’ve had this particular controller for probably near a decade, but a year-plus of work from home game development was the final straw, and its thumbsticks started disintegrating in my hands. Rather than contribute to e-waste - and also because, let’s face it, I didn’t have much else on - I decided to repair it instead.

An old Xbox 360 controller. Most of the rubber coating has fallen off the left analog stick.

Fortunately, an evil online retailer has replacements for these exact thumbsticks for just a few pounds. With the parts acquired, the next step is to get the controller disassembled. This was actually easier than I expected; this particular model uses normal Phillips screws, and the only slightly sneaky part is that one screw is hidden under the barcode sticker.

Peeling back a sticker reveals the last screw needed to open the controller.

Then the two halves of the case easily pop apart.

Inside the controller, the main circuit board is visible.

Carefully flipping over the main board, you can see that the thumbsticks simply rest on top of the mechanisms themselves, and you can just pull them off and replace them.

Flipping the circuit board reveals the thumbsticks, and contacts for all the buttons.

While the casing was apart, I took the opportunity to clean a few of the plastic parts. Everything was really easy to access, and the only surprise to me was how much deeper the buttons are than I thought. They look really strange when you see how much is below the surface!

The Xbox A button. Outside of the casing, it looks really long.

Anyway, with the parts cleaned, new sticks inserted, and everything reassembled, it’s good as new. It’s definitely worth giving a go if you have a controller that’s getting a bit worn out.

The restored controller.

Posted on 2021-10-10