How to calibrate a Thrustmaster joystick on a Mac

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How to calibrate a Thrustmaster joystick on a Mac

Thrustmaster USB joystick

I recently discovered that Google Earth has a built in flight simulator! It also works with a joystick, even on a iMac (OS X El Capitan), fantastic news. So I now need a joystick.

After some experimenting I found the Thrustmaster USB would work with most versions of the Mac so I ordered one from Amazon UK (£9.99 Amazon Prime).

My joy was short lived once I actually started to use the joystick with the Google Earth Flight Simulator. The joystick calibration was horrendous and there is no trim adjustment. With the joystick in the centre position (no input) the 'plane' banks to the right and spins until it crashes. On a PC this is not a problem because there is a calibration program included with Windows. On the Mac there is no such thing, even as a downloadable app. I am miserable again.

Step by step instructions

WARNING - READ THIS CAREFULLY

  • Don't attempt this unless you are mechanically confident
  • You will void your warranty
  • You may completely destroy your joystick

I was at a point where the joystick was going to be thrown away as it was unusable, so I thought I would have a go at mechanically calibrating the joystick.

I should also point out that my past includes many years as an electro-mechanical engineer, so stuff like this holds no fear for me.

The up/down - left/right movements are controlled by two potentiometers (variable resistors). Normally these are held firmly in position with protruding tabs. My solution was to snap these tabs off and manually turn each potentiometer until the 'plane' is properly trimmed. It worked, rather well. Here's how I did it in more detail.

Although I stripped my joystick down completely in order to modify it, as the potentiometers have no securing nuts, they are just push-fit. It should be possible to prise them away from their mounting just enough for you to snap the lug off.

The locating lug needs to be snapped off
Thrustmaster USB joystick internals
  • Unplug the joystick
  • Remove all of the screws from the base
  • Pull the base off downwards using the cable strain relief for leverage
  • The potentiometers have no securing nuts, they are push-fit
  • By prising the potentiometer away form its mounting or by complete disassembly, snap the locating lugs off each X & Y potentiometer
  • Reassemble, leaving the base off
  • Run Google Earth Flight Simulator move the joystick and then calibrate the flight trim by rotating the potentiometer body until perfectly adjusted. You may need to repeat this a few times.
  • I Iocked the pots. using blobs of BlueTac until I was happy that I had the adjustment perfect
  • Once you're happy the setting is good, then SupaGlue the pots to the joystick body for a permanent fix.

See also