GameCube Controller Troubleshooting Guide

A neat guide from someone who spent nearly 7 years fixing this controller for competitive Super Smash Bros. competitors. This thing can develop a great range of quirky problems, and hopefully a fix for your issue is within this guide.

If you have an issue that isn’t listed in here or need some extra support, I highly recommend the Custom GCC community. Also feel free to contact me if you think something should be added here!

For WaveBird-specific issues, see the WaveBird Internals and Troubleshooting Guide.

Table of Contents

  1. Sticks Issues
    • Loose or broken stick
    • Worn down stick rubber
    • Noisy or tactile feedback while moving the stick
    • Unintended input in the opposite direction (snapback)
    • Stick drift (inputs by itself or is slow to come back to neutral, getting the wrong input)
    • One or both axis not working
  2. Triggers Issues
    • No tactile feedback (click) when fully pressed
    • Noisy spring
    • Inconsistent or no digital input from a full press
    • Digital input activating itself randomly
    • Trigger button getting stuck on the casing when pressed at an angle
    • Button cannot be pressed all the way down
    • No analog input when pressing the button
    • Analog input getting stuck after a press or inputting by itself
  3. Face Buttons Issues
    • No tactile feedback (click) when fully pressed
    • Inconsistent or no input from a press (includes Z button)
    • Sticky press / button getting stuck
  4. Misc. Issues
    • Controller is not responsive
    • Frayed or damaged cable
    • Broken screw posts
    • The console turns off when plugging in the controller
    • The rumble motor does not work
    • I want to remove or deactivate the rumble motor
  5. Reassembly Issues
  6. Resources and Traces

1. Sticks Issues

Loose or broken stick

If the stick’s movement becomes annoying or non-functional, it’s time to replace it. The first step is to figure out what type of stickbox it has – you can find this out without opening your controller, see the Guides section.

Once you open the controller and pull off the stick cap, there are two black potentiometers surrounding the stickbox that you need to unclip. Use a shim or simply your nails. Be careful not to bend the pins too far.

Shoutouts to Fires for those two pictures!

For T1 and T2 controllers, you have to unsolder the 4 pins on the back holding the stickbox in place. For T3 controllers, you can simply remove the two screws on the back, and it’ll come right off.

T1/T2 stickboxes are held by those 4 pins on the back.
T3 stickboxes are held by two phillips screws.

You want to solely use OEM replacements, no third party parts match the quality of the originals. Also, for the soldered-on stickboxes, it’s better to go for T2 stickboxes as they are made from better materials. T2 and T3 replacements can be found on spare GameCube controllers and Wii Nunchuks, and extra T3 replacements can be found on the Wii Classic Controller and Classic Controller Pro. Unfortunately, Nintendo does not sell replacements directly. The c-stick and main stick stickboxes can be switched too, but keep in mind that the c-stick has a weaker spring.

Once you have replaced the faulty stickbox, center the potentiometer’s wheels and clip them back on. Don’t forget to put the screws back on to secure the T3 stickboxes to the board.

Worn down stick rubber

Unfortunately, Nintendo does not offer replacements for stick caps. You will need to source one from a spare GameCube controller. Wii Nunchuk, Classic Controller and Classic Controller Pro stick caps will also fit.

There are a handful of custom made stick cap and rubber replacements made by the Custom GCC community that are also a good option.

If after replacing the stick cap, the rubber rubs against the gate of the shell, you can simply place a small piece of paper or aluminum foil into the hole of the cap and it’ll prevent the rubber from making contact with the gate.

Noisy or tactile feedback while moving the stick

There are a few things that can cause this. In the case of T1 or T2 stickboxes, there’s a fragile internal part that has a tendency to snap. The spring will then push the pivoting plastic parts straight into the metal casing, causing heavy wear on the pivots. that causes the tactile feedback. If it’s problematic, the stickbox will need to be replaced.

As for T3 stickboxes, try slightly loosening the screws securing them to the board. Some manufacturing variations can cause grinding of the internal parts.

It’s always good to lubricate the stickboxes with high quality grease to extend its life and improve its performance. See this resource from Fires for more info: https://firescc.com/mod-guides#/stickbox-lubrication-guide

Unintended input in the opposite direction (snapback)

This is an inherent mechanical issue with the potentiometers stickbox mechanism, this means that it is normal behavior for this to happen. Fortunately, there is a way to fix this problem by tweaking the electronic circuit, by soldering a capacitor to the potentiometers’ pins.

You can solder a ceramic capacitor between those pins to fix horizontal and vertical snapback, directly onto those pins (SMD ceramic capacitor recommended) or with the use of jumper cables if you’re using a larger capacitor. 0.22uF capacitors work great, but some controllers require 0.47uF. You may also have to snip off some of the rumble bracket to allow enough space for the capacitors/ jumper cables to fit in. Also note that you have to reset your controller by holding X + Y + Start every time you plug your controller into the console.

Exemple of a SMD ceramic capacitor soldered onto the horizontal axis potentiometer.

However, the Custom GCC community has members that sells no-reset snapback modules that are more efficient, and I highly recommend them over soldering on a single capacitor. For a fantastic in-depth resource on snapback, check this resource written by Kadano: https://sites.google.com/view/kadanosnapback/home

Stick drift (inputs by itself or is slow to come back to neutral, getting the wrong input)

After a while, the controller can start having issues registering stick inputs properly. This is caused by potentiometer degradation, or “PODE” for short. This is mostly caused by dust or carbon buildup on the wipers or the potentiometer itself being too worn out to function properly. Holding X + Y + Start on console will allow the deadzone to reset, but often that’s not enough.

The potentiometers can be disassembled but it’s not recommended as the wipers are fragile.

There are two steps to fixing this issue. First is to simply unclip the potentiometers from the stickbox to “reset” them, then clipping them back on. Usually this is enough to dislodge the detritus buildup from the wipers and will allow the stickbox to register inputs properly. It’s good to also clean and lubricate the stickbox to prevent this issue from reappearing again.

If that does not fix it, the faulty potentiometers will need to be replaced, in which case you will need to source replacement potentiometers. All GCC variants’ potentiometers are cross-compatible, and you can also find them on Wii Nunchuks and Classic Controllers and Classic Controllers Pro. Brand new OEM potentiometers (both Noble and Matsushita) can also still be purchased, visit the Custom GCC community for more information.

The T3 variants have some small metal bars on the C-stick board under and to the right of the stickbox. Sometimes, one of the bars can bend and short the pins on the potentiometers. A very weird issue, which I guess can happen during reassembly.

One or both axis not working

If it is only one axis not working, you might want to check if one of the potentiometers have not unclipped from the stickbox. (See first set of pictures in this section) The potentiometer might be defective, in which case it may need to be replaced. The most common potentiometer defect is rust on the pins, which usually happens from a spill on the controller. All GCC variants’ potentiometers are cross-compatible, and you can also find them on Wii Nunchuks and Classic Controllers and Classic Controllers Pro. Brand new OEM potentiometers (both Noble and Matsushita) can also still be purchased, visit the Custom GCC community for more information.

In the case of both axis not working, it’s either a defective cable or a cracked motherboard. (See Misc. Issues) Check if any other button doesn’t work, and if the problem is located on the left side of the controller, see if there’s a crack on the board by slightly bending it in your hands. If that’s the case, it’s advised to replace the motherboard or purchase a new controller. The traces can be reconnected by sanding the solder mask off and bridging over the crack with solder, but it’s a difficult fix for beginners.

Can you see the hairline crack? This can sever the copper traces underneath the solder mask.

If the gate of the stick is too worn down, the stick cap can lay on the main board directly. Over time, it can wear down the solder mask and severe the copper traces. This can affect both the X and Y axis of the main stick. If that’s the case, you can simply bridge the traces back together with solder, and you will need to replace the front shell to prevent this issue from worsening. Alternatively, you can also shave the bottom of the stick cap, but that might put some extra stress on the stickbox.

If the C-stick is not working properly, sometimes the small board needs to be replaced. Not sure why, but in some cases it stops functioning properly. It could also be the cables that connects the C-stick to the main board, in which case they also need to be replaced.


2. Triggers Issues

No tactile feedback (click) when fully pressed

The input will still work as intended, but you might not feel the “click”. The rubber pad is most likely broken and needs to be replaced. Replacement pads can only be found on spare GCC controllers, but there are some viable third party replacement pads that do the work if the controller is used for casual play.

Replacing it is easy, as you don’t even need to open the triggers compartment. Pull the faulty pad off with the tip of your screwdriver and pop in the new one.

The rubber pad is easily accessible.

Noisy spring

This happens when the spring bends sideways and gets stuck on the edge of the tube. Really annoying issue. The quickest fix is to play with the spring, turn it around until it does not catch on the edge anymore. This issue usually occurs on reassembly.

The spring can catch on the edge like shown here.

Inconsistent or no digital input from a full press

If you get no input from a full press (click), it is most likely an issue with the rubber pad. See if the carbon pad is not shiny or dirty, it should be smooth and matte. Simply scratching the surface with you nail and cleaning with isopropyl alcohol should bring it back to a good shape.

A worn down, shiny carbon pad.

If you get no input whatsoever, the first thing to check is if the wires for the trigger board are not damaged. If that’s the case, you will want to repair or replace them. If the wires look fine, see if there’s a crack on the board by slightly bending it in your hands. If that’s the case, it’s advised to replace the motherboard or purchase a new controller. The traces can be reconnected by sanding the solder mask off and bridging over the crack with solder, but it’s a difficult fix for beginners.

If the gate of the stick is too worn down, the stick cap can lay on the main board directly. Over time, it can wear down the solder mask and severe the copper traces. This can affect the digital input of the left trigger. If that’s the case, you can simply bridge the traces back together with solder, and you will need to replace the front shell to prevent this issue from worsening. Alternatively, you can also shave the bottom of the stick cap, but that might put some extra stress on the stickbox.

Digital input activating itself randomly

Here it is most definitely an issue with the wires for the small trigger board. See if the wires haven’t been crushed by the rumble bracket – the rubber coating on the wires can wear out and using the controller can cause the exposed wires to touch each other and short, inputting a digital press. You can separate the cables or wrap the exposed parts with electric tape to prevent this issue from occurring again. Make sure to place the rumble bracket back on correctly to prevent wire damage (see the reassembly section).

The wires can get wedged under the rumble bracket like this and the controller will still be able to be closed. Make sure that the wires go through the notch and are not crushed by the bracket.

Trigger button getting stuck on the casing when pressed at an angle

This is an inherent issues with the shells from the Smash 4 and Smash Ultimate GameCube controller variants, where the trigger buttons can tilt out of their axis just enough to get wedged sideways in the trigger tube. I recommend switching the internals into a set of shells from the original controllers. And contrary to popular belief, the trigger braces you can find in older variants does not fix this issue as it does not stabilize the button.

If you don’t have a spare back shell on hand, you could also try lubricating the trigger mechanism with silicon lubricant. I recommend using ispropyl alcohol to clean the buttons, trigger wells (shell), the guide tubes and the trigger shields, then applying some silicon lubricant everywhere there is friction between parts. This should at least help it not get stuck.

There is also the option to mod the trigger wells with silicon bearing tape to allow a tighter tolerance for the trigger buttons. See this guide for more information: https://firescc.com/mod-guides#/fires-triggers-stage-1

Button cannot be pressed all the way down

The most common reason for this to happen is a small mistake during reassembly. Simply pull the analog sliders all the way up before putting the back shell on (see the reassembly section)

However, small bits of plastic can break over time and get lodged inside the analog slider mechanism. See if there’s anything stuck in there, and use small tweezers to remove the piece.

A piece of toilet paper is used as dramatization.

No analog input when pressing the button

Is the trigger button sitting lower than usual? During reassembly, makes sure to not press the triggers down when putting the back shell on. (see the reassembly section)

Other causes might be defective or broken analog slider, see if the plastic pin in the slider is not broken or missing. Brand new OEM slider potentiometers can also still be purchased, visit the Custom GCC community for more information.

Check if there’s a crack on the board by slightly bending it in your hands. If that’s the case, it’s advised to replace the motherboard or purchase a new controller. The traces can be reconnected by sanding the solder mask off and bridging over the crack with solder, but it’s a difficult fix for beginners.

Can you see the hairline crack? This can sever the copper traces underneath the solder mask.

If the gate of the stick is too worn down, the stick cap can lay on the main board directly. Over time, it can wear down the solder mask and severe the copper traces. This can affect the analog input of the L button. If that’s the case, you can simply bridge the traces back together with solder, and you will need to replace the front shell to prevent this issue from worsening. Alternatively, you can also shave the bottom of the stick cap, but that might put some extra stress on the stickbox.

Analog input getting stuck after a press or inputting by itself

Try cleaning and lubricating the triggers mechanism. Usually, removing the grime stuck in the mechanism is enough to fix this issue. I recommend using ispropyl alcohol to clean the buttons, trigger wells (shell), the guide tubes and the trigger shields, then applying some silicon lubricant everywhere there is friction between parts. I don’t recommend lubricating the slider potentiometers, as they use a specialized lubricant – simply clean with a dry cotton swab.

If that still does not fix it, that means the slider potentiometer needs to be replaced. Those can be sourced from spare GameCube controllers. Brand new OEM slider potentiometers can also still be purchased, visit the Custom GCC community for more information.

The analog input can also be disabled or reduced by holding down the trigger button as you plug the controller in the console (or boot up a game on the Dolphin emulator), that’s called trigger tricking.


3. Face Buttons Issues

No tactile feedback (click) when fully pressed

The input will still work as intended, but you might not feel the “click”. The rubber pad is most likely broken and needs to be replaced. Replacement pads can only be found on spare GCC controllers, but there are some viable third party replacement pads that do the work if the controller is used for casual play.

Inconsistent or no input from a press (includes Z button)

If you get no input from a button press, it is most likely an issue with the rubber pad. See if the carbon pad is not shiny or dirty, it should be smooth and matte. Simply scratching the surface with you nail and cleaning with isopropyl alcohol should bring it back to a good shape.

If it affects most or all the face buttons or if some or all of the face buttons does not input at all, it might be caused by damage to the motherboard. See if there’s a crack on the board by slightly bending it in your hands. If that’s the case, it’s advised to replace the motherboard or purchase a new controller. The traces can be reconnected by sanding the solder mask off and bridging over the crack with solder, but it’s a difficult fix for beginners.

Can you see the hairline crack? This can sever the copper traces underneath the solder mask.

Over time, the switch for the Z button can wear down and stop inputting consistently. When this happens, the switch needs to be changed. Original switches can be sourced from spare GC controllers and Classic Controller and Classic Controller Pro. Third party switches with a more noticeable “click” are also a viable option, visit the Custom GCC community for more information.

Sticky press / button getting stuck

In the case of a spill, the face buttons can become sticky and unusable. Simply disassembling the controller and cleaning the front shell, the buttons and the rubber pads with either water and soap or isopropyl alcohol should make them function normally again. Be sure to clean any spill that might’ve gone beyond the face buttons mechanism, especially the printed circuit board.


4. Misc. Issues

Controller is not responsive

Sometimes it’s an issue with the cable. In this case, changing the cable with one from another GameCube controller can fix the issue.

If the controller stops working after it took a hit, the motherboard is broken. It’s advised to replace the motherboard or purchase a new controller. The traces can be reconnected by sanding the solder mask off and bridging over the crack with solder, but it’s a difficult fix for beginners.

Can you see the hairline crack? This can sever the copper traces underneath the solder mask.

If the gate of the stick is too worn down, the stick cap can lay on the main board directly. Over time, it can wear down the solder mask and severe the copper traces. If that’s the case, you can simply bridge the traces back together with solder, and you will need to replace the front shell to prevent this issue from worsening. Alternatively, you can also shave the bottom of the stick cap, but that might put some extra stress on the stickbox.

Frayed or damaged cable

If the damage to the cable does not affect how the controller works, the cable can be salvaged by replacing the polyurethane sleeve with a paracord. There are plenty of tutorials on where to buy / how to install, visit the Custom GCC community for more information.

The cable can also be replaced in its entirety with the cable from another GameCube controller. Be careful however, the cable’s pins are notoriously hard to remove from the board, and without proper experience and equipment, you can damage the traces around the pins.

Broken screw posts

You may want to replace the shells. However, in the case of a custom painted controller where you would want to save the shells, there are some longer screws that are compatible with the GCC that might be able to reach the stubs and secure the shells closed. Visit the Custom GCC community for more information.

The console turns off when plugging in the controller

There is (most likely) a short in the cable. The cable is defective and will need to be replaced.

The rumble motor does not work

First, check if the two wires connecting the motor to the board are not severed. This can be easily fixed by soldering the cables back into their respective slot. The white (or red) cable is the positive, the black cable is the negative. If that’s not the case, it might be an issue with the cable itself. See if the pins are soldered on correctly. If not, changing the cable should fix the rumble.

If the gate of the stick is too worn down, the stick cap can lay on the main board directly. Over time, it can wear down the solder mask and severe the copper traces. This can affect the rumble motor. If that’s the case, you can simply bridge the traces back together with solder, and you will need to replace the front shell to prevent this issue from worsening. Alternatively, you can also shave the bottom of the stick cap, but that might put some extra stress on the stickbox.

I want to remove or deactivate the rumble motor

All you have to do is cut the wires. This 5 volts circuit is separate from the rest of the controller’s circuit and it won’t affect its functioning.


5. Reassembly Issues

First of all, the screws that hold the trigger mechanism in place are fragile and will easily strip. Be very cautious when screwing them. In the case that the screws strip and get stuck, you will have to drill off the head of the screw in order to remove the trigger shield. Replacements that also act as upgrades can be bought from some vendors in the Custom GCC community, visit them for more information.

If you happened to switch controller parts, make sure that the left trigger shield is compatible with the stickbox type of your motherboard – the later variants have a indent bored around the hole to allow space for the extra screws from the T3 stickbox. This is the only part that is not cross-compatible between controller variants. If you have the screw-less trigger mechanism (see the GCC Internals Guide), those will not be compatible with the T3 boards at all.

The bottom one is T3-exclusive, it has an indent to allow the screws securing the stickbox to fit.

When preparing the front shell, make sure to align all the button pads correctly. They should lay flat and should not bulge. This is one of the main reasons the controller won’t close properly.

Most of the issues will be on the back of the board itself. You want to place the analog sliders all the way up, and when closing up the back shell, make sure not to press down on the trigger buttons. If the pins and the trigger buttons are not aligned, the buttons won’t function properly. When placing the rumble bracket into its spot, make sure to pass the trigger wires into the notch, so to notch crush them under the bracket when closing the controller. Also, the rumble has a pin protruding on one side – this pin should go upward. Then make sure that the rumble’s wires don’t get crushed by the shell and it should be good!


6. Resources and Traces

Resources

  • Parts list from the FCC for the WaveBird: Website
  • Noble potentiometers catalogue: PDF Document
  • Full documentation of my collection: Document
  • Nintendo Gamecube Controller Protocol: Website
  • Smash Input Maps and Profiles: Document

Traces

  • ★ Fires’ Complete Circuit Board Guide: Website
  • Fires’ T3 PCB Traces: Album
  • Kadano’s T3 PCB Traces: Picture
  • RDC’s T3 Raw PCB Traces: Forums
  • Doge’s T1 – T2 Raw PCB Traces: Album