N64 Thumbstick repair or replacement - what's best?

Discussion in 'Retro & Arcade' started by the3coopers, Jul 11, 2015.

  1. the3coopers

    the3coopers Member

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    I've got a box full of N64 controllers that I would like to recondition.

    Been searching for years, and a massive Googling session tonight didn't really give me the definitive answer for a good, low cost solution to the inevitable thumbstick wear problem.

    Seems the best is the Gamecube style replacement units, then rip them apart and fit new PCB and control IC. Seems like a major pain in the arse, and to be frank I am probably only looking for a low cost and easy solution if possible.

    So, what's your suggestion?

    Oh, and I also found these replacement gears, and that solves some of my issues.

    http://store.kitsch-bent.com/product/n64-joystick-gears
     
  2. DEATHGUYJ

    DEATHGUYJ New Member

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  3. partybear

    partybear Member

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    The best option with the least effort is just use the gamecube style replacement without fixing the pcb. The ones I got work fine in most games the only one I can't play is golden eye so far, they are to sensitive for that. The n64 style replacement ones are complete crap worse then a old floppy stock one, gamecube style is the only ones worth buying.
     
  4. )(arg0n

    )(arg0n Member

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    I have tried everything in the list and there is only one option worth considering and your not going to like it. Sell what you have and buy controllers off ebay with mint genuine sticks. When you receive them lubricate the sticks with a lithium based grease to prevent future wear. The lithium grease is supposed to be kinder on the plastics than say a petroleum based grease like vaseline which apparenlty softens/degrades plastic over time. This is just a game of patience, I picked up 10-15 controllers off ebay over a few months some of which had brand new genuine sticks, trust me, nothing compares, I dislike using them even with slight wear now. I was only paying $20-$25 for them on average too.

    I started out same as you, bunch of controllers with dud sticks. I ended up programming my own micro controllers and recycled some joysticks from a original xbox controller and made my own sticks using the same code as gamecube style sticks to run everything. This was fine for a bit but as others say there too sensitive in some games and overall they just dont feel right but I would say are your second best option. This option cost me about $10 each but I think more like $20 if your not recycling parts.

    I also brought some of the direct replacement sticks off ebay, the cheapest ones and also one that was supposed to be the creme of the crop. Don't waste your time, they feel nothing like the genuine sticks and were very dissapointing. The cheap ones had different levels of resistance across different axis. i.e: the up/down axis was really stiff compared the the left/right axis, was really strange and poor overall. This option was about $11 each but rubbish, don't bother.

    With regards to your replacement gears I also would not bother with them. The problem is more complicated than just the gearing. By design the base of the joystick is in constant contact with the spherical bowl it sits in. Unsurprisingly over time plastic joystick rubbing on a plastic bowl eventually creates wear on both the bottom of the joystick and the bowl. I have seem ppl use a hard curing putty to repair the surface of the bowl by shaping it with a ball bearing and letting it cure but there is little you can do with the bottom of the joystick. This means even with new gearing the stick will still be sloppy (you will be able to grab it and pull it up/down), although it should perform much better than it did. Cheapest option, will work but with mixed results, depends how badly the bowl/joysticks are already worn?


    tldr: nothing compares to the genuine sticks. Worn originals are not easily repairable. Buy controllers with new sticks and lubricate them before use, its really not that more expensive an option than any of the others if you are patient :). Is this low cost? Compared to other options yeah I'd say not bad. Easy? Hell yeah cash in on what you have selling them as spare parts and then sit back and wait for the postman to deliver your superior replacements :D
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2015
  5. OP
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    the3coopers

    the3coopers Member

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    Thanks for the reples, guys. Much appreciated.

    Definitely a bad idea to use petroleum based products. Rather than risking Lithium grease (which may or may not be suitable, depending on whether it is oil-based) it would be far wiser to use proper grease for plastics, which is usually Silicone based with PTFE (teflon). GM (general motors) Super Lube is the cheapest and a repackaged version of the name brand

    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/GM-SUPER-LUBE-/180765215676.

    I have also done the "keep buying new ones" trick, hence a 50 litre tub full of spare controllers. Some are not too bad, some are mint, some are fuxxored, and some are fakes!

    Did you look at the link? It's not the gears that wear. The most common wear on mine is those slots in the black plastic things - that is where almost all of the slop is. Wear on the bucket is not a concern for mine where those black things are worn. In fact, wear in the bucket doesn't directly cause slop anyway. All that bottom pin on the joystick does is stop you mashing the stick down too far.

    The stick/bowl wear issue only affects "stick mashers" who are continually grinding the stick with downwards pressure. I don't play like that, I move the stick rather than leaning on it!

    So almost all of my controllers have no problem at all in the stem and bowl. And even if they did it doesn't really concern me because the sticks that are worn that way also are worn out in other areas too.

    The 2-level design of those U shaped things means that wear on the upper one causes twice as much slop as wear in the slot of the lower one. And since the distance from fulcrun (ball with slot at mid point of the stick) to the point of contact with the black U-shape is so short, if there is 1mm of wear then it tends to create 3-4m of play at the thumbstick itself.

    Since the Nintendo encoder mechanism is really good in the geniune ones, it amazes me that nobody has just made a replacement bucket and stick kit. Only 2 parts! But no - instead they design a completely new one that is inferior to the original. Doh.

    I wonder what the market would be worldwide for a replacement? Imagine a thin stainless steel "bucket shim", a turned stainless or titanium joysick, and a puck made of teflon that popped onto the bottom of the joystickk liek a shoe.... that would be awesome, and pretty much frictionless!

    If the contact points (where the wear occurs) were increased in size, and more durable materials used, then the retrofit kit could also be made to last much better.
     
  6. Euphoreia

    Euphoreia Member

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    We used to chop up lids from milk bottles and superglue the plastic in place of the worn part, worked awesome.
     
  7. )(arg0n

    )(arg0n Member

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    I was aware the gears were not the part that wore however they are attached to the part that does wear and were being refered to as gears in the thread so I just went with common convention. Some of the slots on mine were so badly worn there was probably only half a millimeter of plastic left before it broke through! If your bowls are good the gears will be fine, I assumed since you had surplus controllers they may have come from other sources other than your self so judging past wear is impossible.

    Exactly what I originally thought too. I just assumed copy write as I did come across someone at some point who had linked the original nintendo copy write documentation on the controller, specifically the joystick.

    I'm keen to hear how you go with the new gearing if you grab some, I have a couple here still that are usable but I would like to improve them if the price is right. I was at a stage where I had so many decent condition ones I decided not to bother any further with fixing any more, good luck :).
     
  8. [LoL]

    [LoL] Member

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  9. OP
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    the3coopers

    the3coopers Member

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    For the assistance of future readers (and just so I can find them again), here's a few links on the 3rd party controllers...

    Excellent Thread on comparison between aftermarket thumbsticks. Very good, but read whole thing (5 pages)
    http://s9.zetaboards.com/Nintendo_64_Forever/topic/7360571/1/

    Complicated repair using 2-pack epoxy


    Info on new (2012-0nwards) vs older GC style thumbstick PCBs
    http://s9.zetaboards.com/Nintendo_64_Forever/single/?p=8115035&t=7360571
    Micro creates a replacement PCB for the Gamecube style chinese thumbstick replacements - first thread, 7 pages (covers the original and v2 designs):
    http://nfggames.com/forum2/index.php?topic=5023.0

    Micro PCB v3 Jan 2015
    http://nfggames.com/forum2/index.php?topic=5803.0

    Mod that uses the original GC style PCB and adds a new Processor, so only a couple of dollars for the fix...
    http://freneticrapport.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/n64-gc-replacement-stick-ic-swap.html

    Replacement gears and U-shape thingie by Shapeways
    http://www.shapeways.com/product/3VBPPB9LQ/n64-joystick-links

    Replacement gears and U-shape thingie by kitch-bent
    http://store.kitsch-bent.com/product/n64-joystick-gears

    Person who is trying to work out how to mould replacement parts but simply has NFI about injection moulding, etc (open the Spoilers in the posts to see the diagrams):
    http://s9.zetaboards.com/Nintendo_64_Forever/topic/7434211/1/

    AND... The Silicone Grease / Lubricant - search Ebay for "Super Lube" (get the GM branded one)
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2015
  10. )(arg0n

    )(arg0n Member

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    so which option are you going to go with?

    Do you think there would be any legal issues if anyone was going to make there own using injection molding? I have been playing with casting/molding lately and made my own spur gears which came out really well, the N64 joystick would be really simple, not too sure about the bowl without having another look at it. I'm hoping to move onto injection molding at some point and reproduce some of the parts I have made by casting. Casting is good for small runs but seems hard to reproduce consistent results (air bubbles etc).
     
  11. kronikabis

    kronikabis Member

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    I'm curious too,
    I never looked up if the PCB's were available, but the replacement circuit board with the GC stick looks the good to me. In my mind anyway. Is there anything apart from authenticity that is a negative? standard stick might be better. i dunno.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2015
  12. partybear

    partybear Member

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    The gc style stick is better then a new stock one if its been modded with the new program in my opinion. The stock gc ones skip some steps and it makes them uncontrollable in some games, but not many. Once you mod it they feel like using a modern system and are comfortable in all games.

    I was never a fan of the stock n64 sticks they are uncomfortable even when new.
     
  13. kronikabis

    kronikabis Member

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    You are reminding me of those hand cramps of a solid n64 session. Anyone have a recommended source for gc thumb sticks? I'm going to mod a couple of mine
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2015

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