Patience Beats Rage-Quit In Shattered Xbox Controller Repair

There are negative-one hacks to this project. Someone lost at their game, lost their temper, then raged at their Xbox controller with some horsepower. The result is that [Taylor Burley] gets a free controller with a non-responsive joystick out of the deal, and since he had nothing to lose, he decided to heat up the iron and bring the controller back to life.

The majority of the project is told in pictures and through the narration in the video below. In removing the joystick, [Taylor] opts for the technique of doping the connections with fresh solder (we assume containing lead for easier melting) before reaching for the desoldering wick. The diagnosis stage is brief because when the joystick lifts away, the PCB falls apart into two separate pieces! The next step was to glue the two halves together with cyanoacrylate to get into the nooks and crannies, then epoxy to provide structure. Solder bridges were not going to jump that gap, so he used 30ga wire and attached it wherever he could scrape away some solder mask. Best of all, it worked when he reattached the joystick. Job well done.

Xbox controllers are not a scarce commodity, so people do not spend their idle hours fixing them, but not many people can claim experience. Maybe someday the stakes will be higher and he will have the courage to repair vintage electronics. We won’t rant on how things aren’t built to last, and how we don’t train people to fix things. Today, we want to focus on someone who used their time to repair and learn.

The next time you have some “junked” hardware, ask yourself, do I want the XP?

18 thoughts on “Patience Beats Rage-Quit In Shattered Xbox Controller Repair

  1. The corded ones are pretty scarce, and they are better for a plethora of reasons in certain situations, like reduced lag, not needing a receiver dongle for your desktop/laptop, or needing batteries.

    Repairing them is an especially great idea.

    Good job, Repair is Noble

    1. Oh, Xbox One, not sure that those came in first party corded models, but the Xbox One later model direct Bluetooth to my laptop, its awesome! And they ain’t cheap, figure $20-40 used even.

    2. i never understood the lag argument when comparing wireless devices with wired ones. speed of light is actually faster through atmosphere than through a wire (both slower than c). the lag comes from the software stack, usually. the transmission medium is usually irrelevant.

      1. Good point, its possibly interference caused lagging that is most noticeable. If your software runs through the standard bluetooth built in the device, you don’t have too much control over it. Obviously if its the dedicated hardware/software in a dongle or game system less of an issue.

      2. The lag isn’t from the medium used. The lag comes from having to package up the data at the controller and unpackaging it at the console. Packaging might help with such things as error correction, guaranteed delivery and multiple protocol support. It is possible to abandon all that and fall back to a very limited, noisy but fast connection. However most designers stick with established protocols because they can be fast and sport a rich selection of benefits and features.

  2. This is one of those rare hacks where even though you’re putting a lot of work into something of maybe not much monetary value, you are nonetheless getting valuable repair practice, and still end up with something usable as a result. I love these kind of projects for exactly that reason.

  3. Brings back memories. Had to do this once a few decades ago on a VCR. Was a success, free VCR.
    Don’t ask me how it happened, there was no visible damage on the cabinet. And why would you rage on a VCR, anyway? Couldn’t set the clock?

  4. I did this with a pair of Atari 5200 joysticks in the early 90’s. The flex circuits had lots of cracks so I carefully scraped away solder mask and *very carefully* soldered tiny wires on. All the button contacts were badly worn so a light brush of solder on them got them back to working. Not having any conductive paint or being able to find that or any other possibly known method at the time (before 1996, no Internet here before then) I just tried a lot of different glues until I found one that would hold small pieces of aluminum foil to the nubs on the fire buttons. All the rest were still good.

    I wish I still had that old 4 port 5200. I’d spring for the new gold dot buttons and keypad and the new gold plated flex circuits.

  5. Using wire is one way to bridge broken boards, but I prefer CAIG CircuitWriter Conductive Pen or Chemtronics CW2000 (you’ll still have to physically mend the board). Costs around $20.

    It’s conductive (nickel or silver, take your pick) glue. To make really thin traces, lay down two strips of Scotch tape with an (oversize) trace in between, let it dry, then tear off the tape.

    Once, just for giggles, I placed a 556 dual timer IC with surface-mount caps and resistors and 2 pairs of LED’s all “glued” on, with all components hung on the 16-pin mini-DIP, sitting squarely across the top of the battery. Yes, working with surface mount components is easy with this stuff. Positive and negative bus bars were thin traces on the top and bottom of the IC. About 75 connections in all.

    Works great when users snap off the PC board when they bang the coaxial AC adapter plug on their expensive hardware. For really fine repairs, I dab a bit on a piece of paper then use a toothpick or straight pin to pick up a tiny blob.

    IF the price scares you, there are cheaper versions made by other vendors (conductive glue). Either way, once opened, they usually dry out in less than 1 year.

    You can also place a piece of fine wire and glue it in place with these products. Not as strong as solder, but very easy to place. Sometimes found over the counter at Micro Center if you need it right away, otherwise search online.

    Also used by ham radio operators to seal any metal box 100% to prevent RF leaks.

  6. In 1997 my father dropped a CRT TV on the floor, main board broke in half. He found a repair guy who glued the board together and bridged over fifty traces with wire. The TV worked until 2003, when we gave it away, I’m sure it worked much longer…

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