Repairing Joystick Switch Issues

Repairing Joystick Switch Issues

Nothing can be more frustrating to someone trying to play an arcade game than the joystick not working properly. Whether it’s a classic arcade game like Pac Man or a fighting game like Soul Calibur, broken joysticks can disappoint even the most dedicated players. In this post, we will discuss how to repair switch issues with joysticks that use leaf and Cherry switches so that your arcade games can be played in the proper manner.

Repairing Joystick Switch Issues

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In order to begin our joystick repair, we must first gain access to the control panel. We talk a bit about this topic in our post on Opening An Arcade Cabinet. We highly recommend reviewing this post before continuing so you have a good idea about what it takes to remove or open the control panel and gain access to the joysticks. Keep in mind that we also have a video on Opening A Cocktail Cabinet for those of you who might have a cocktail cabinet instead of a stand up or upright cabinet.

Once you have gained access to the control panel, we can begin the joystick repair process. We recommend starting off by doing a visual inspection of the joystick. Most joysticks use a 4 switch layout to detect movement. Even the 8-way joysticks that are installed in most fighting game cabinets typically use only 4 switches. Before we suspect a problem with one of our joystick switches, it’s a good idea to double check the wiring. Make sure that all of the wires are attached to the correct prongs on each switch and that none of the wires or prongs have been disconnected. You might also want to check to make sure that the daisy chain for your ground wires is in tact. Please see our post on Connecting Ground Wires On A Control Panel for more information about that topic. If you are uncertain about whether or not a wire is making a good connection, use the continuity check function of your multimeter to double check the connection.

If you continue to have problems with your joystick after checking all the wiring then there’s a good possibility you are having problems with a joystick switch. Cherry switches typically make an audible clicking sound when they are activated that might help you determine if it’s working properly. You can also check to see if a switch is good or bad by using the same continuity check that we talked about with the joystick wiring. Instead of placing the multimeter probes on either end of the wire, simply place one probe on the ground prong and the other probe on the NO or Normally Open prong. Just a note, leaf switches typically only have 2 prongs while Cherry switches have 3 prongs. Make sure you are using the Normally Open prong when checking switch continuity. With your multimeter probes in the correct position, press the button on the switch to see if it is completing the connection. If the connection is not being made then it’s probably time to replace the switch.

Replacing a joystick switch is a relatively simple process. Start off by disconnecting or desoldering the wires that are connected to the switch. With the wires removed from the switch, remove the bad switch from the joystick housing. These switches are usually held in place by small Phillips head screws. Remove these screws and take the switch out of the joystick housing. Locate a new switch that’s similar to the switch that you just removed and place it in the exact same position as the original switch. Screw the new switch into the joystick housing and connect or solder the original wires to this new switch. If you have any trouble working with the joystick while it’s still attached to the control panel, feel free to remove it and install it back after you have finished your repair.

Let’s discuss a couple of quick tips before we wrap up. Leaf switches can be adjusted by taking a pair of needle nose pliers and bending the prongs either closer together or further apart depending on if you want it to be more sensitive or less sensitive respectively. The button part of a Cherry switch has a tendency to wear down over time. Even if the switch itself is working properly, a worn down button can cause issues with joystick movements. Please take this into account when trying to determine if a switch is working properly or not.

Repairing broken joysticks can greatly increase a player’s enjoyment of your arcade machine. Whether your game is on route or home use only, making sure your joysticks are working properly will earn you more customers or players to that particular game respectively. Please leave any questions or suggestions you have in the comments section below.

  1. Avatar
    Steve Bedell

    Love your videos! Do you have or do you know where I can buy an original OEM Ms Pac man joystick. I hate the HAPP replacement ones with the micro switches. The one I want is exactly like the one in your video with the leaf switches. I’ll even take a used one and refurbish it if I have too! Thanks for the help!

  2. Jonathan Leung
    Jonathan Leung


    First off, thank you for your kind words about our videos. Glad that you find the information useful. As for your question, has reproduction leaf switch joysticks that should work in your cabinet. They also sell a Midway Joystick Adapter that should make it easy to install this joystick in your Ms. Pac Man cabinet.

    Hope that helps. Thank you for your question and good luck with your future repairs.

  3. Avatar
    Shaun B!

    Purchased a old Coors Light Bowling arcade machine and made it into a multicade machine. Prior, I had no mechanical or programming knowledge whatsoever (artist by trade). Your posts and videos are incredibly helpful. Between you and the raspberry pi forums, Ive learned an absolutely incredible amount of helpful information! Ive begun to understand and use linux, and have repaired my cabinet multiple times myself now! Soon will be swapping out the sanwa sticks and buttons for those cool LED ones and a new IPAC. Thanks for the wisdom good sir!

    Side note: The arcade cabinet I purchased is one of those KOAM/z-back types with the control panel “drawer” that conveniently pulls out. I HIGHLY recommend these for accessibility and customization! Theyre fantastic!

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