Atari 5200:Controller Repair
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Almost all Atari 5200 controllers seem to eventually fail whether they were heavily used or not. The most common symptom is that buttons fail to register when you press them. Before beginning, it is worth checking your controller cable for any cuts or heavy kinks to eliminate the possibility of a breakage being the cause.
- Metal contact cleaner (such as CRC QD Contact Cleaner)
- Isopropyl alcohol
- An envelope or similar thickness piece of paper or thin cardboard
- Thin spudger or pry tool
- Cotton swabs or fiberglass pen
- Use a Phillips screwdriver to remove the three screws on back.
- On the bottom side of the Start/Pause/Reset buttons, insert a small screwdriver or thin pry tool into the small notch on one side and gently rotate the tool. Without any pressure, the bezel holding the Start/Pause/Reset buttons should pop out and you can remove the button pads. It is recommended to do this first so you can avoid potentially damaging the flex circuit strip.
- Use a plastic pry tool at the south end of the controller to gently pop the top and bottom shells of the controller apart.
- Hold the top shell of the controller just above the bottom shell and gently slide it to the right. A flex circuit board will slide out of the northwest side of the top shell until the top and bottom halves are completely separated.
- Remove the keypad and fire buttons.
- Spray some metal contact cleaner into the controller ports on the console and controller plugs.
- Carefully spray the keypad flex circuit board with metal contact cleaner and moderately gently scrub each spot that the buttons make contact with while wet, using a cotton swap or (even better) a fiberglass pen. You may need to spray multiple times.
- Repeat the same process with the contacts for the fire buttons and the Start/Pause/Reset buttons.
- Lay the keypad on the envelope or similar thickness paper with the button numbers facing upwards.
- Gently press a single key and drag it across the paper about three inches. It should make a dark streak. Repeat this dragging motion in a different angle.
- Repeat this process for each key on the keypad, as well as the fire buttons and Start/Pause/Reset buttons.
- Note the tiny cup that the joystick rests in on the bottom shell of the controller. Dampen a cotton swab and swab that cup to remove any debris. Optionally, add some silicone or lithium grease into the cup to lubricate it.
- Use isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs to clean out any gunk on the normally visible parts of the keys and the holes in the keypad top shell. Avoid getting too much alcohol and scrubbing off the numbers.
- If the controller is especially dirty, you can clean the shell and all buttons with warm water and dish soap. Make sure everything is thoroughly dried before reassembling.
- Hold the top shell with the joystick facing down.
- Align the joystick to center, ensuring the white plastic parts underneath the top shell and the potentiometer arms on the bottom shell are not misaligned.
- Place the keypad in place.
- Slide the Start/Pause/Reset flex circuit board back into place.
- Slide the fire buttons back into place on the top shell.
- Connect the top and bottom shells back together, ensuring the joystick goes into the small cup of the bottom shell, the fire buttons slide into the correct place on the bottom shell, and that the keypad doesn't get knocked out of place. Squeeze to click the shells back together.
- Place the Start/Pause/Reset button pads back into place and the bezel over them.