Atari 2600 Joystick Repair

Ever have one of those joysticks that don’t work in one direction? Or maybe a button that doesn’t always fire when you need it to? This guide will help you fix a number of those problems. Some of them are easily fixable, while others may require a little more work and a few new parts. Here are some problems that you might be able to fix.

The first thing to do is test it with the first and second player joystick ports. If the joystick works fine in one and not the other, than the problem is most likely the joystick port. There are a few exceptions where it could be a chip inside the Atari, but this is rare. If the joystick port is the problem it means one of the pins has broken and the port needs to be replaced. These parts are hard to come by and the only place I know that sells them is Best Electronics, their link is listed in the sidebar.

Now if the joystick has the same problem in both ports, then the good news is the joystick should be fixable. You still might need to buy some replacement parts, but there is no soldering required and the procedure is an easy one. I have seen a rare case where the plug on the end of the joystick was broken, but most likely the problem is one of the two listed below.

First turn the joystick over and remove the 4 screws. Now take all the parts out (be careful not to lose the small spring on the joystick button) like this.

The first thing to do is examine the white plastic handle. Is the ring of plastic broken in any place? You will probbaly see signs of stress in the plastic along the joints, and eventually these will break because of the design. If it is broken then your only option is to replace the plastic handle. You can purchase them online at Best Electronics. These new ones are reinforced with a better design for more stability.

If the handle is not broken like the one in the picture, than it is most likely the dome contacts on the circuit board. This is most often the problem with joysticks. The joystick is designed so that when you press the button or direction on the joystick, the dome contacts complete the circuit. Find the corresponding contact that is giving you the problem (up, down, left, right, button).

Notice how there is plastic tape over the whole board. Take a razor and cut a square around the contact/contacts that are giving you problems. Remove the square of tape and the contact.

Next try taking some rubbing alcohol and clean the entire dome contact as well as the circuit board. This often will fix the problem. However a much better long term solution is to get new redesigned dome contacts. They can also be purchased at Best’s. Notice how the redesigned ones on the left are 4 pronged instead of 3. This makes a big difference in the stability of the connection. But it is worth it to try cleaning the old ones first if you don’t have the new ones available.

Now place the new or cleaned contact back on the circuit board and be sure to line it up correctly as in the pictures to ensure the best possible connection. Now put a new piece of clear tape over it. You can use packing tape or scotch, either one will work just fine.

Now you need to put everything back together. The button and spring, the joystick handle, circuit board, and the cases. It is much easier if you assemble everything back together while holding the joystick upside down, and then put the bottom cover on last. Put the screws back in and you should have a joystick that works like new!

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