Hardware My Setup

CH Fighterstick: New Potentiometers

The bane of the old, pre-Hall sensors, joysticks: potentiometers wear-out.
There is not really much to do about it, besides replacing them or modify the device. However, in the case of the old veteran flagship stick by CH Products, the Fighterstick, replacing the potentiometers is a very short and simple job.

Back in late 90s / early 2000, CH Products was a synonym of quality. I bought my CH Fighterstick to replaced one of my very first joysticks, the Saitek Cyborg EVO. The Cyborg EVO was cheap (20-something Euros) but quite well-built and only one major flaw: the spring holding the grip. After one year of intense Il2, it was so loose I had to make a thick cardboard disk to increase the tension, since I couldn’t find a proper replacement (I still have it and still works quite well, though).

I upgraded to the Fighterstick in 2003 / 2004, and it served me greatly until I moved to Virpil in 2017.

The Fighterstick still works like a charm but, as imaginable, almost 18 years of usage had an impact on the potentiometers. For my RIO 2022 setup, I decided to retire the Virpil T-50, but the pots of the Fighterstick were introducing too much jitter. The solution: changing the potentiometers.

Finding the Proper Replacement

There are a bunch of pages mentioning different spare parts all over the internet for the devices made by CH Products, most of them pointing to same supplier. For my Fighterstick, I bought two REPPOT604 from Digi-Key.
At least two versions are available. The pots you need for the Fighterstick have a longer shaft, and they work like a charm when installed.

It took only two days to have them delivered from the US, across the pond, to the UK. The shipping cost is not irrelevant though (£12).

Replacement

I did not find any guide about how to disassembly the Fighterstick, and I still have PTSD from that time I tried to repair the rubbish Thrustmaster Warthog (jeez how overpriced that thing is!), so I was quite cautious in this phase. However, after opening and looking at the device, it’s clear to me how the grip was simply inserted into the base from the bottom, all I had to do was pushing the grip gently downwards, liberating the potentiometers. Once they were set free, I unplugged and replace them, re-wired the new ones and close the whole thing.
It took me 6 minutes to complete the operation (although I admit that most of the screws holding the base together were not in place, due to something else I’m working on – no spoilers!). It’s really this simple!

Step-by-step Procedure

  1. Remove the 8 screws holding the base together. Four of them are underneath the rubber feet. One is accessible only by piercing the warranty seal;
  2. Remove the bottom part of the base;
  3. Turn the assembly upside down. Hold the base and gently push the grip. You should immediately notice how no screws of glue hold it in place;
  4. There’s no need to separate the grip from the base entirely. One or two centimetres are enough to free the pots (see the images below in you are unsure);
  5. Unplug the pots and replace them with the new ones. If they don’t fit, it’s probably due to the angle of the notch of the shaft. Use the old pots as reference (IIRC, the notch is orthogonal to the grip);
  6. Connect the new pots and close the base (careful, don’t close any wire between the two halves of the base, they are quite thin!).
  7. You may need to recalibrate the stick, then it’s all done!

Photos!

The screws keeping the base together; 8 in total.
The base. There are 3 pots in total, I replaced only the pitch and roll axis, not the throttle.
Push the grip slightly into the base to “free” the potentiometers.

I will soon post a new article about my updated setup, with some new changes for the RIO cockpit, and new “stuff” that should give me enough controls for the AH-64 front seat. In theory!

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