Improve Your HOTAS
In my experience no matter what brand of HOTAS you have or it’s cost, all HOTAS systems currently available have the same failing. They all exhibit ‘stiction’.
the friction that tends to prevent stationary surfaces from being set in motion.
I’ve owned Microsoft, Gravis, Saitek and Thrustmaster joysticks and HOTAS systems. As I could afford it, I’ve upgraded to the newest and coolest only to be plagued once more with sticking controls. Even the Holy Grail of flight controllers, the Thrustmaster Cougar, disappointed me. A bit miffed, I decided search for a solution and fix the problem myself.
Stiction Problems Explained
Most joysticks use traditional rigid gimbals to translate a joysticks movement into X and Y axis signals. The joystick gimbals’ are generally supported in bushings.
Plastic bushings are almost universally chosen but, can be prone to some stiction. This stiction can be masked by the heavy resistance of gargantuan return springs (ala’ Thrustmaster).
Some joysticks mount into the base using a plastic ball-in-cup connection (ala’ Saitek). The joystick shaft passes through the ball to hall effect sensors mounted below the cup. Elegant in it’s simplicity but, many owners of these sticks have complained about the high stiction of this design. All manner of lubricants and powdered concoctions have been tried eliminate the sticking but, the problem returns in a short period of time.
No perceived stiction is evident when joystick gimbals are supported in ball bearings. Too bad no major HOTAS manufacturer uses ball bearings.
The throttle either rotates around the throttle’s base in an arc or slides fore and aft in a linear plane. Whether rotating inside a large plastic bearing or sliding along a plastic rail, both styles have large contact areas. Through friction, the contact points resist initial movement and once moving, resist any change in direction. The user feels this resistance as ‘stiction’.
In an attempt to reduce the annoying stiction, users loosen the throttle’s tension brake. The users continuously loosen/tighten the adjustment dial looking for the magic spot where the stiction is acceptable while still holding the desired throttle position. Most of us just give up and live with a sticky throttle.
The Cure for Stiction:
I read reports that you can reduce/eliminate stiction and impart a smooth, linear, high-quality feel with damping grease of the appropriate viscosity. A few posts on the forums recommended NYOGEL 767A grease as the bingo needed. Here is a short demonstration video on grease viscosity… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59F9qUDNwnQ
In researching Nye Lubricants I discovered they manufacture greases (gels) designed to control motion, maintain accurate positioning, smooth operation, and provide touch feedback. Wow, sounds just like what is needed!
After explaining my HOTAS problems to Nye Lubricants, they were kind enough to send me some samples of greases they felt appropriate. I received a small sample quantity of different damping greases and what follows is my results.
Here is a short video on Nye Lubricants … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7ERDuXn1NM
As this was the product recommended in forum posts I began here. This is a clear, heavy viscosity, synthetic grease intended for components that require a heavy level of damping. 767A is also used to reduce free motion and to quiet operating noise of loosely-fitting components.
It came delivered in a white squeeze tube. To give you a sense of it’s consistency think of 5 minute mixed two-part epoxy after about 3 minutes. VERY thick and very sticky. The tenacity of the grease to remain in place is a key to reducing stiction. It doesn’t squeeze out from between the components. As a grease it smoothes the movement of the parts yet, unlike regular grease, it damps (slows) the components movement. Moving the Cougar throttle after applying 767A feels like rotating a high quality Nikon lens. Sweet!
In actual use I can attest that, after my Cougar throttle was lubed with Nyogel 767A, consistent positioning of the Cougar TQS throttle was possible without the need for any throttle brake. (A different TQS may need a bit of brake depending on how much wear there is on the TQS parts.)
Nye Lubricants suggested I also test their 868VH Fluorocarbon gel grease. This is a white color grease with (Teflon) particles to improve lubricity. I lubed a second TQS throttle with 868VH. This grease has almost the exact viscosity of the 767A grease but, the high percentage of Fluorocarbon (aka, Teflon) changed the lubricity to the point that about 35% brake was needed to hold the throttle in position when hands off. The throttle’s resistance to movement was less than with the 767A but, didn’t feel as ‘cushy’ . Overall, I prefer the 767A damping grease.
Nye Lubricants damping grease performed better than expectations. 767A damping grease greatly smoothed the throttle’s action and it eliminated annoying stiction. A bonus is the grease eliminated the need for adding the additional friction of a throttle brake and therefore, further reduced wear. I expect 767A will provide really great protection against parts wear, too.
Any sim enthusiast that uses a joystick or HOTAS system will be amazed at how good their controls will feel after application of Nyogel 767A. I certainly hope the controller manufacturers read this article. We’ve been complaining about the stiction problem long enough. They need to step up and cure the problem, especially if it is as easy to cure as this.
Here are a few photos I took while I re-greased my Cougar HOTAS throttle with Nyogel 767A…
Throttle base with bottom cover off.
Remove screw holding ground wire to PC board.
Pull up on wire bundle connector and remove from pins on PC board.
Remove red grease from Throttle brake pad and the inside of the throttle base.
Alcohol and paper towels work well.
Throttle assembly with red grease removed. Ready to apply Nyogel 767A.