How to restore PlayStation 2 Controllers

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I have watched a lot of YouTube videos recently of people taking apart PlayStation 2 controllers to clean them and give them a new lease of life. I really don’t know what keeps me so interested.

It could be the amount of gunk and crap that comes out of things once they are opened up. It could also be the before and after images of old junk and new restored items. Or it could just be that I am waiting for the person to absolutely fail at the console cleanup and forget how to but the thing back together.. but that’s cruel.

Anyway, I have decided to put together my version of a simple tutorial on how to take apart and clean up some old PlayStation 2 controllers.

I have tried to include detailed images of everything as I go so that you can follow along at home.

What I am cleaning – Before

Brace yourselves. I will be cleaning up 2 PlayStation 2 controllers. The black controller has been my controller since as long as I can remember, which explains why there is a large crack on the left side of it.. The white / yellow controller is one that I got more recently from Ebay. I decided to clean up the 2 at the same time to see the before and afters of each and to see which one turns out better!

What You Will Need

I am hopefully going to write a post in the near future about a tech repair/cleaning kit. This will provide more detail on each item that is used for cleaning and repairing consoles. For now though, here is what I used for this task more or less (from left to right):

  • Toothbrush – for scrubbing the gunk out of hard to reach cracks and crevices. Do remember which toothbrush is for cleaning your teeth and which is for cleaning the gunk!
  • A Facecloth or Towel – I have a bunch of these lying around as they are useful for laying the controller on top of to make sure loose screws don’t bounce around the desk and drop onto the floor.
  • Compressed air – I didn’t actually use this for this project but it could prove useful for you. I picked this up in Dealz which is a local pound shop / dollar store.
  • Glasses wipes – I didn’t use this for this project but I usually use these to give the plastic parts an initial wipe down after I buy them. Bought in Aldi.
  • Micro Fiber Cloth – I initially bought these for cleaning out the inside of my car but these can also be used for wiping down controller parts! I bought a set of about 5 in Dealz I believe.
  • Plastic lunch boxes – I knew I was right to collect these and I have finally found a use for the millions that I have collected from take aways and the like!!! I use these containers to store the tiny screws and bits and bobs as I disassemble the controllers.
  • A Screwdriver set – I picked this up in Dealz for less than 2. PlayStation 2 controllers use normal Philips head screws so if you just have a Philips head screw driver lying around then this will do the trick.
  • Cotton buds – I found out pretty quickly that you’ll always need these lying around for cleaning controller gunk so I bought a box in Aldi for a couple of Euro.
  • Windowlene – This is an interesting thing I have just recently seen on some YouTube videos but it seems the idea is to spray this onto the top of a cotton bud to spot clean dust from the controller. (Again, I didn’t use this for this project but may be useful to have.)
  • Warm water and hand soap – (Not pictured) Warm water with a few squirts of ordinary hand soap is excellent for cleaning the plastic controller parts.

Side note here, if you are regularly taking apart and cleaning your consoles and peripherals, it’s a great idea to build a gaming toolkit. If you are interested in learning how to do this step by step, take a look at my post best tips for building a gaming toolkit.

What to do – the method

Careful Disassembly

Obviously enough I started by assembling everything I would need on my desk in a somewhat organised fashion.

Side note here: it can be pretty useful to take regular photos or even to video yourself as you take apart something. This provides to be a super useful frame of reference when you come to re-assemble things, especially if its a day or more later. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

Then I took a quick look at each controller to examine them and decided to start off with the black controller. Here are some lovely before shots:


Flipping the controller over with the buttons face down, I unscrewed the 6 Philips head screws, placing each one carefully into a plastic box.

Once the screws are taken out and placed into a plastic lunch box, I separated the two plastic pieces of controller and MAN was it gross. After I had gotten over the overall shock at the amount of gunk inside, I continued to take the controller apart. I removed the board from the front plastic piece. I then placed the board and its items into one box and placed the plastic components to be washed into another box.

At this point I then started to dismantle the white / yellow controller. For the purposes of avoiding too much jibber jabber lets just call it the white controller. Anyway, I followed the same process of laying the controller face-down and removing the 7 screws to take of the back piece of plastic.

Next, I removed the additional 2 screws attaching the board to the front piece of plastic. I was then able to remove the plastic pieces from the board.

As I started to separate the plastic pieces into a separate lunch box I grimaced at the disgustingness of the gunk contained on everything!! NASTY.

Washing Time

So with my plastic component boxes to be washed, I filled up a sink with warm water and added a few squirts of hand soap to create some bubbles. I then dunked in the black controller pieces first so as to keep them separate. This was then left to sit for about 5 minutes. Next, with a toothbrush I started scrubbing each piece until I was happy it was clean. I then placed the cleaned pieces back into the plastic box.

Next, I was able to repeat this process for each piece. After that, I followed this process for the white controller pieces. I left everything to dry overnight. The next day I was left with nice clean and shiny controller parts. (for the most part – the black controller was still a little bit gunky in the button holes – more cleaning).

Careful Reassembly

When I was very sure all the pieces were dry I began to assemble them again. This was a fairly simple process as there are not too many components to re-assemble. For the most part they only fit in one way. I started by slotting in the various buttons (seen in the screenshot below). Next, I re-attached the thumb sticks onto the board before re-attaching the board to the front plastic casing. I re-attached the l1 and r1 buttons at this point. Next I re-attached the back plastic part but left the l2 and r2 buttons for now.

Once everything was snug into place, I re-attached the back plastic part. I then slotted in the l2 and r2 buttons so they would stick in place better. This was a tip I got from watching a video on the YouTube channel “This Does Not Compute” where the YouTuber Colin repairs an old PS2 controller. Here is the link to that video if you want to check it out.

The most difficult part in re-assembling the black controller was the motors. They were difficult to re-fit to allow the controller to close. After a number of attempts the controller was able to close fully. PHEW! I then screwed back in the screws and then re-assembled the white controller with a little more ease.

And with that, I had some like new controllers to play with! I tested them out with some recent charity shop purchases and they worked great.

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for – PlayStation 2 controllers before and after pictures

PS. Gunk is my new favorite word..

So let me know what you thought of this tutorial. Did you find it helpful? Do you have any tips that you would like to share? Just leave me a comment below and I would love to hear from you!

Also, just one final note to fill out the poll below if you want! It will help me to determine if people like this type of content. Thanks in advance!

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