Games 12

Cleaning an Xbox 360 Wireless Controller


A little while back I accidentally spilled a glass of soda on a brand new wireless Xbox 360 controller. I did my best to wipe it off but the damage was already done. It got in between the buttons and dried up, making them all sticky. Some of the buttons moved slowly, others got stuck inside the controller. Instead of taking the hit and buying another wireless controller, I decided to try to take it apart and clean it off. It worked pretty well, so I decided I might as well make a quick post in case anyone out there is in a similar situation (or simply wants to clean a dirty controller).

All you really need to open an Xbox 360 Wireless Controller is a Torx 8 Security Screwdriver and a small razor (or X-acto Knife). The Torx 8 Security Screwdriver is required because Microsoft used Security Screws to prevent a normal Torx 8 screwdriver from fitting in. These can be somewhat hard to find, so ordering one online might be your best bet.

Before you start opening the controller, its worth mentioning that doing so will void the warranty. Cleaning the controller will be entirely at your own risk. If you somehow manage to break it, Microsoft is not going to be sending you a new one, and neither am I. However, if you can follow basic instructions, have some common sense, and are willing to take the risks, it will probably work out perfectly fine.

Start by removing the 7 screws on the back of the controller. Then use a razor or X-acto Knife to peel back the barcode label located in the middle. You will find the 8th screw behind it. If you are having trouble peeling the label up, you can simply cut a hole in the label around the screw. Once you have all of those screws off, you should be able to lift the back of the controller off pretty easily. Be a bit careful while doing this, as the rumble motors might be loosely stuck to the back of the controller, and you don’t want to drop them. It’s not necessary, but it is pretty easy to disconnect the two motors from the PCB (printed circuit board). If you wish to do this, simply pull the connectors straight up out of the slots by gripping the top sides with Needle-nose pliers.

Next you will want to remove the bottom grey plastic piece of the controller that is located between the front and back of the controller where you would plug in a headset. It’s pretty obvious how this comes out. Simply pull it up a bit and then pull it out.

All that is really left is to pull out the green PCB. There is nothing holding it down, so just push in both of the triggers and it will come right off. Again, be a bit careful as the buttons underneath it are not held in and might come flying out if you shake the controller around.

At this point you have now separated the electronics from the plastic controller case and buttons. You can clean the controller case and buttons with soap and water. Give it at least a couple of hours to dry, and then just put everything back together. All of the buttons with the exception of the start button and back button will only fit in one slot. This makes it nearly impossible to put those back on incorrectly. Once you are done, you will hopefully have a clean, working, Xbox 360 Wireless Controller.

case_and_buttons.jpg rest_of_controller.jpg

  • rav

    HA! so im not the only one!

    hmm only problem is getting that screwdriver in mexico
    nice tutorial though

  • Ryan

    Hey man what size security screwdriver do you need?

  • You need a Torx 8 (T8) for wireless controllers. Wired controllers will require a Philips 0.

  • Outofit

    So I can’t find a site that sells that screwdriver, that will accept paypal. I just want to clean my controller instead of buyin a new one. It is really pissing me off.

  • Did you check ebay?

  • Matt

    you can use a reg. size 8 torx (only worked on some for me)or use a 2.0 mm flat head and it fits in there just right to get it loose as well. (used that as well). Hope this helped

  • Josh

    I couldn’t find a Torx 8 Security Screwdriver in my dad’s tools, so I used something a little more common: A simple glasses repair kit screwdriver. It works perfectly.
    (The red screwdriver)

  • Mac

    A guy at Home Depot told me they sell the torx security screwdrivers at any auto parts store, such as Auto Zone.

  • akajaw

    Auto Zone does not sell them, nor do Home Depot, Lowes or any other mega tool store I could find in Dallas. I went to the locally owned “Game Chop” store that has all gaming supplies and offers repairs and re-furbished boxes. I know the guy and he sold me the T-8 for $10, on the web it’s $7 or $8 + shippping so I did good… Yeah Me! Now I can spill all the coffee I want !

  • chr0nik

    Thanks for this info; it works splendidly.

  • PhyrexianreclaimatioN

    how do you clean the circut board???

    • You shouldn’t need to do anything to the circuit board. If your controller is messed up to the point that you do, you are probably better off replacing it.