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Any fix for a squeaky CX-78 joypad?


Skippy B. Coyote
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The short version of the story is that last year I picked up a CX-78 joypad from Best Electronics and it was absolutely perfect. Snappy responsive buttons, nice responsive D-pad that wasn't too tight or too loose, and it was just wonderful in every way. Unfortunately I ended up selling that joypad to a fellow AtariAge member a while back so I recently ordered another one from Best to replace it. The joypad I received in the mail worked just as well, except for the fact that the up+left directional combination didn't work at all.

 

I contacted Best, sent the joypad back for a replacement, and the one I received in the mail today functions correctly but the joypad is really stiff and squeaky sounding. Clearly Atari's quality control was up to it's usual post-2600 hit or miss standards when they were making these joypads, but I'm kinda doubting that Best would accept yet another return on the basis of the joypad being stiff and squeaky since the directional inputs do work properly.

 

So what I'm wondering is if anyone knows a good fix for stiff and squeaky CX-78 joypads? At this point I don't mind voiding the warranty sticker on the back since I doubt they'd let me return it anyway after already replacing the last one, so if anyone knows a way to make this $40 hunk of plastic tolerable to use I'd love to hear it.

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There may be a bit of a break-in period before it finally settles, but in the meantime and if it really really bugs... I'd take apart the controller, remove the d-pad and wipe its base and sides down with a Q-Tip that was lightly sprayed with WD-40. Not saying to over saturate it or anything, but a light coating is all. Bet that'll squelch the squeak and maybe help it feel a little more loose until properly broken in.

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The short version of the story is that last year I picked up a CX-78 joypad from Best Electronics and it was absolutely perfect. Snappy responsive buttons, nice responsive D-pad that wasn't too tight or too loose, and it was just wonderful in every way. Unfortunately I ended up selling that joypad to a fellow AtariAge member a while back so I recently ordered another one from Best to replace it. The joypad I received in the mail worked just as well, except for the fact that the up+left directional combination didn't work at all.

 

I contacted Best, sent the joypad back for a replacement, and the one I received in the mail today functions correctly but the joypad is really stiff and squeaky sounding. Clearly Atari's quality control was up to it's usual post-2600 hit or miss standards when they were making these joypads, but I'm kinda doubting that Best would accept yet another return on the basis of the joypad being stiff and squeaky since the directional inputs do work properly.

 

So what I'm wondering is if anyone knows a good fix for stiff and squeaky CX-78 joypads? At this point I don't mind voiding the warranty sticker on the back since I doubt they'd let me return it anyway after already replacing the last one, so if anyone knows a way to make this $40 hunk of plastic tolerable to use I'd love to hear it.

 

I'm more than sure your household has many different kinds of lubricants that would work :P

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I'm more than sure your household has many different kinds of lubricants that would work :P

 

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There may be a bit of a break-in period before it finally settles, but in the meantime and if it really really bugs... I'd take apart the controller, remove the d-pad and wipe its base and sides down with a Q-Tip that was lightly sprayed with WD-40. Not saying to over saturate it or anything, but a light coating is all. Bet that'll squelch the squeak and maybe help it feel a little more loose until properly broken in.

 

Shawn was technically correct about my abundance of lubricant, though not in quite the way he imagined. :lol: I've got WD-40, thin silicone oil, heavy silicone oil, various water based lubricants, graphite powder, Shin-Etsu grease, white lithium grease, and just about every other type of lubricant a hobby electronics enthusiast could need. The only problem is I'm not sure what type to go with for the d-pad, since the contact pad underneath is made of silicone rubber and that material can be really sensitive to oils and can melt or degrade from contact with any other products made of silicone, graphite, or petroleum. I can't really think of anything off the top of my head that would be safe for the contact pad underneath the d-pad and still last a reasonable amount of time, which makes the prospect of lubricating the controller tricky. I'll have to research it some more to see if I an come up with anything silicone safe.

 

Thanks for the link to that new controller project too! If the person making them ever comes up with away to remove the Start and Select buttons and fill in the space they used to be in to make it look like a proper 2 button 7800 controller I'd definitely pick one up.

Edited by Jin
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That's it! Could just remove the rubber buttons and use that space for the word 'Atari' and maybe the Fuji logo in the form of a sticker or aluminum adhesive backed plate. :love:

 

That sounds perfect! If he could pull that off then I'd gladly ditch my CX-78 and put down the cash for one of his controllers. As much as the Atari fan in me hates to admit it the NES controller does have a darn fine d-pad and buttons, and I'm sure my scores in just about everything would improve with a modified NES controller.

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Re: the WD-40 idea... thinking about this more, maybe instead of applying it to the underside of the d-pad itself, probably better to apply it to the underside of the top half of the plastic shell, where the d-pad resides. Just a light coating around the hole. Guessing that's where the squeakiness is coming from... and/or the sides?

 

Who knows, maybe simply loosening the screws a tiny bit might even be enough to help loosen the d-pad enough. I had to do just that on a Best Electronics light gun recently. Trigger was getting stuck at times, so backed out a few screws a bit and voila, works great now.

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Problem solved! Not wanting to deal with another return to Best Electronics I decided to void the warranty sticker on the back of the controller and open it up to see if I could figure out what was going on with it that was making the D-pad so stiff and squeaky. When I opened up the controller and checked out the D-pad the problem soon became apparent.

 

The octagonal base of the D-pad was pretty poorly casted and had little plastic burrs all around the edges. The corners of the octagonal base were also very sharp and were grinding against the D-pad's housing every time it was pressed. To solve this problem I took a small hobby file and used it to gently smooth out the edges of the D-pad's octagonal base and remove all the burrs. I also carefully filed a little bit of material off each corner of the octagon until they were just slightly rounded so that they would not scrape the D-pad's housing anymore.

 

 

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When I put the controller back together and tried it out I was thrilled with the results! The D-pad feels perfect now, not too tight nor too lose, and it feels just as snappy and responsive as any NES controller I've used. No more squeaky noises and no more having to press overly hard to activate the directional inputs. After that little bit of filing work this is definitely the nicest feeling CX-78 I've used and after trying it out with Xevious for a bit I like it even better than my Sega Genesis controller, and I feel pretty confident that I'll be using it for every round of the Atari 2600 High Score Club next season. Unless Ms. Pac-Man or some other maze game shows up that is, since you do kinda need a joystick for those. :lol:

 

In any case, I hope this helps anyone else who might be having issues with their CX-78's D-pad. :)

Edited by Jin
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Or...use Edladdin's Seagull 78 Adapter for Sega Genesis controllers.

 

That is the easy way to do it for sure, and I actually do own a Genesis to 7800 adapter. I think there's just something about using original hardware that makes the games more fun though, so when I can do some work on a system's original controllers to get the same or better performance out of them that I'd get from an aftermarket controller it's often worth the effort for me. :)

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