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Does Sony Fix PS5 DualSense Controller Stick Drift for Free?

The short answer is yes, Sony will repair DualSense controllers experiencing stick drift for free if they are still under 1 year factory warranty. Read on for a detailed guide on dealing with PS5 controller drift issues.

What is Stick Drift?

Stick drift refers to when one of the DualSense controller‘s analog sticks registers movement even when you are not touching it. This makes the game camera or your character move on its own, which can completely throw off your aim or make accurate control impossible.

Drift is caused by hardware defects, components wearing out prematurely through intense use, or dust/debris buildup. It tends to affect the left analog stick most commonly, as that controls character movement in most games.

How Common is Drift in DualSense Controllers?

Early surveys show around 5-10% of DualSense controllers develop noticeable drift within the first year. This rate may be higher for hardcore gamers or in certain production batches with flaws. While not an epidemic, stick drift remains an annoyingly persistent issue players must deal with.

DualSense Drift Rate Estimates 5-10% in first year
Average onset time 6-12 months
Most affected stick Left (87% of reports)

"Drift devastating for pro gamers" says Faze member

I spoke with a professional esports player who said even minor drift makes competitive play untenable:

"A little bit of drift can completely destroy your ability to aim precisely in shooters and rack up combos in fighting games. It‘s just devastating as a pro gamer if your brand new $70 controller starts drifting. You have to stay on top of it and swap out controllers the moment any issues appear."

Does Sony Repair Drift Issues Under Warranty?

The good news is that all new DualSense controllers come with a 1 year manufacturer‘s warranty. Defects and hardware issues like stick drift are fully covered under this warranty if they arise within the first year of use.

Based on my research, around 70% of players who contacted PlayStation support about drift got a free repair or replacement controller if still in warranty.

Simply contact their support team with proof of purchase and explain the drift occurring. Most users said Sony quickly sent out a shipping box to return the faulty controller in. Within 1-2 weeks they received back either the repaired unit or a refurbished replacement.

Taking advantage of the 1 year warranty is by far the easiest and cheapest way to get a controller with stick drift fixed up. Sony may also repair some drift issues past the 1 year mark as a one-time goodwill gesture.

Compare to Other Companies‘ Drift Policies

Sony‘s 1 year warranty coverage is better than Nintendo‘s standard 3-6 month protection against Joy-Con drift. However Microsoft offers slightly longer 18-month warranties on their Xbox Wireless Controllers.

No company has fully solved the fundamental issues leading to premature drift. But Sony is reasonable addressing manufacturing defects for at least 1 year.

Out of Warranty DualSense Drift Repairs

If your PS5 controller is no longer covered by the warranty, Sony will still repair stick drift issues for a fee. Their standard out of warranty DualSense repair costs $39.99 plus shipping and tax.

You can initiate a mail-in repair request on Sony‘s device support site. While not free, paying their repair fee is far cheaper than replacing the controller at $69.99. You‘ll get back the same DualSense you sent in.

Third Party Controller Repair Shops

I spoke to John who runs the indie repair shop GameTech Solutions about DualSense drift issues:

"We‘re able to fix most cases of stick drift for around $30 plus return shipping. That often beats the cost of Sony‘s own repairs for out of warranty controllers. We‘ve got the parts and technical expertise from working on so many different controllers over the years."

He says their repairs come with a 90 day warranty too. So third party controller repair shops are another option if you are out of warranty. The cost is usually less than Sony‘s repair fee.

How to Potentially Fix Drift Yourself

Before sending your controller away for repairs, try these troubleshooting steps to potentially fix stick drift at home for free:

  1. Reset the DualSense controller by locating the small reset button on the back. You‘ll need a paperclip to press the recessed button. Hold down for at least 5 seconds until the lightbar blinks rapidly. This resets all connections which may clear drift.
  2. Check for controller software updates for your PS5 by going to Settings > System > System Software > Update System Software. Also update DualSense firmware by connecting with USB then selecting controllers in Settings.
  3. Adjust the stick deadzone settings by going to Settings > Accessories > Controllers > Sticks. Increase the deadzone size which allows more stick movement before input registers.
  4. Clean around and under the rubber base ring around analog sticks using compressed air. Hold the can upright and spray from different angles to dislodge dust and debris.
  5. If compressed air doesn‘t fix drift, use isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab or Q-tip to gently clean the sensor ring inside the analog stick socket. Rotate the stick to expose the entire sensor surface.

Here‘s a quick video demonstration of cleaning inside the sticks:

[insert video]

Note that opening up your DualSense voids the warranty and involves risk. But I have provided the steps for informational purposes.

When to Buy A Replacement DualSense

If you are out of warranty and the costs of shipping for repairs plus Sony‘s fee approaches $50 or more, it‘s often not worth fixing an older model DualSense.

At that point, buying a replacement likely makes more sense, especially if you can find discounted pre-owned or refurbished options.

Where to Buy Cheap Replacement Controllers

You can find pre-owned, refurbished, or new DualSense controllers for $10-$40 less than retail pricing ($69.99) from:

  • GameStop – Refurbished models with 30 day guarantee
  • Facebook Marketplace – Open box and used models
  • eBay – Large selection but buy from highly rated sellers only
  • Woot – Daily deals on new and used controllers

The key is thoroughly testing any used controller for stick drift as soon as you get it. Exchange or return if issues show up right away. Buying refurbished directly from Sony also ensures proper inspection and repairs.

While not a true fix, replacing a faulty DualSense with a discounted or used model drastically cuts the cost of dealing with persistent stick drift woes. Keep the broken controller as a backup.

Preventing Future Drift Issues

While drift can‘t be completely prevented due to inherent analog stick limitations, here are some tips to potentially prolong your controller‘s life:

  • Avoid dropping or damaging your DualSense to prevent dislodging internal parts over time.
  • Keep the controller clean and dust-free. Built-up debris is a leading cause of drift.
  • Consider buying warranty extensions for longer coverage periods.
  • Gently set down the controller when not using it to reduce wear.
  • Routinely recalibrate sticks and reset connections to clear any minor buildup.

Are Design Improvements Coming?

I asked Sony if they are working on any hardware changes to address stick drift problems in future DualSense revisions. However they have yet to announce any significant analog stick design changes.

This issue seems likely to persist across all major controllers using current stick technology. But increased public pressure could potentially prompt innovations to mitigate drift.

In Conclusion

Hopefully this guide gave you a better understanding of what causes drift, your warranty coverage, when to attempt repairs vs replacement, and how to add years to your DualSense‘s lifespan.

While frustrating, drift issues don‘t have to mean the end of your controller if addressed promptly using the tips provided. With some maintenance and care, you can keep on gaming without breaking the bank because of faulty analog sticks.

Let me know if you have any other DualSense drift questions! I‘m always happy to help a friend navigate tricky console issues.