[vcf-midatlantic] Joystick Repair Epyx 500XJ

Todd George todd.george at gmail.com
Mon Dec 28 21:49:13 EST 2015

> Date: Sun, 20 Dec 2015 23:00:34 -0500
> From: Jeffrey Brace <ark72axow at gmail.com>
> Does anyone have experience repairing joysticks? I have an Epyx 500XJ that
> doesn't respond well to the left direction. I'm just wondering if this is
> something that is repairable.

All of the Epyx 500XJ's I've had trouble with (so far) have been plastic
casing-related (cracks, stressed supports, etc.).  The internal design of
this joystick is less than robust considering the weak plastic tabs they
use to hold the switch assembly in place.  It's also inconvenient to repair
as everything is curved, etc.  Makes manually manufacturing replacement
parts (via Dremel, etc.) more of an artform than I usually prefer.

The switches are mounted on a plastic plate that is sort of suspended
inside the joystick.  That said, have you disassembled it to see if there
is something wrong with the plastic switch plate?  I'm wondering if the
switch is just physically moving out of the way or something?

> Date: Mon, 21 Dec 2015 00:35:51 -0500
From: Ian Primus <ian.primus.ccmp at gmail.com>
Yes, it is repairable, I've fixed a few - you can replace the
> individual switches, and you can also clean them. Disassembling the
> 500XJ is a bit tricky, because of that red/black sticker that holds it
> together. When I've repaired these, I just slice through the sticker
> at the seam with a knife, it's not too noticeable once reassembled.

Also, the switches that these use are a relatively "standard" size and type
of microswitch.  With a few quick measurements of the physical dimensions
of the switch, finding a suitable replacement should be pretty easy.  If
memory serves, I don't think they are quite as large as the ones used in
arcade buttons and sticks but you will find similar switches used in
pinball machines.

> Take the stick apart, and find the faulty switch. Try to get as much
> isopropyl alcohol inside the switch as possible (sometimes I even
> submerge it in a little cup), and click it repeatedly, and firmly, for
> at least a minute. Let it dry thoroughly, and check it with a
> multimeter - most of the time, this will fix it.

If this doesn't work, I've also had luck rebuilding microswitches.  Some
are easily serviced and the plastic halves of the switch casing will pull
apart held only by friction, some have little plastic tabs that a diagonal
cutter makes quick work of. Then you can use a soldering iron to "re-weld"
the plastic tabs when you've completed the rebuild.  Some are glued, and
much harder to repair.  I had a particularly stubborn microswitch on a coin
counter, it was a truly bizarre size, and it was glued shut.  I carefully
broke it open with a combination of ginger Dremel use and some elbow
grease, once I repaired the contacts, I simply used the original mounting
screws to hold it all together.  It'll be fine until someone else takes it
apart.  :)

Once you have the switch itself apart, you will see the two contacts that
make the whole thing work.  Generally, they are set up as a "self-cleaning"
style of contact where the switch action causes a wiping motion that
scrapes the contacts together generating a small amount of friction that
causes dirt and debris to be knocked away.  This works well until corrosion
sets in.  There are a variety of ways to clean the contacts, the most
success I've had has been with business cards and light pressure, pinch the
card stock between the contacts and rub.  Step up to more harsh methods
from there.  If the contacts are gold in color, stay away from abrasives.
You can also use contact cleaners and the like.  Sometimes it's just not
worth it, and the switch should be replaced.  They aren't overly expensive
generally speaking.

Good luck!

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