I successfully took apart an Atari 2600 paddle controller, then cleaned and appropriately lubricated the contacts. However, the volume knob does not have the same smoothness as it does on the other paddle controller that I have.

I read online that using a damping grease inside the base of the potentiometer gives it glide and smooth action during rotation of the knob, and I believe that was what was in there when it was new.

A lot of people online recommend Nye damping lubricants but they are in excess of $40 for a 50g tube.

Has anyone found a cheaper alternative? I can't really justify paying forty dollars on damping grease to use on a three dollar controller. Every paddle controller I've used has this issue so it's not like I can go out and replace my set with a guaranteed good pair.

  • 2
    Amateur radio is more about transceivers than stereos. 'Hams' do repair old gear, but there's not all that much activity on this site on the topic at the moment. I think you might do better asking your question on Retrocomputing as you considered — or possibly Electrical Engineering. But I would also caution you that this could be frowned upon as a product recommendation question, particularly on larger sites. All that considered, would you like me to move your question to Retrocomputing for you?
    – Kevin Reid AG6YO
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 2:10
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    From what I've seen this fits more on electronics.stackexchange.com than here on Retrocomputing. It does fit Retrocomputing based on the Atari 2600, but this kinds of hands-on component issue (when it doesn't involved CPU chips, and sometimes even when it does) seems to fit better on Electronics. Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 3:40
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    You might want to have a look at Electrolube EML. It's a spray product intended to lubricate contact surfaces, ~$10 per spray can. No own experience with joysticks, though. "proper" damping grease is expensive like gold, apparently.
    – tofro
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 7:09
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    @paxdiablo - I wouldn't use WD40 on this for the same reason that it's not recommended for lubricating bicycles: it's a very lightweight oil and is therefore easily displaced by a buildup of dirt, and will take any remainder of the existing lubricant along with it. It'll work temporarily, but after a bit of use the result will be worse than it was to start with. A heavier oil or grease would definitely be more appropriate, I think. Possibly sewing machine oil or air line oil would be more appropriate.
    – Jules
    Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 8:29
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    I just don't understand why this doesn't belong in the Electronics SE, as this is, simply, a electronic component question that is marginally related to RC. If the potentiometer wasn't in an Atari Game controller, it wouldn't be here at all and, in the end, this IS a potentiometer question, not so much a Game Controller question. If someone was interested in interfacing to an Atari via paddle controller, or interfacing an Atari Paddle controller -- then sure, as it mean specific information germane TO Atari controller. But this? This is a pot wrapped in a controller casing. Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 22:05

1 Answer 1


I have made use of petroleum jelly as a lubricant grease for moving parts in a number of old electronic devices, including:

  • A Dreamcast laser stepper's noisy rails and gears
  • The base of an N64's analog stick
  • The volume knob on an old hi-fi

among many others. Some of these repairs were done a decade ago, and are still working fine.

My wife buys it in half-kilo tubs for treating skin conditions, so it's readily available and inexpensive. I keep a small pot of it in my toolbox.

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