How to turn old car parts into a video game controller

Jason Torchinsky of Jalopnik shows how to turn old car parts into a video game controller.


The idea came to me while adjusting the mirrors in a car, and realizing that the little mirror-control joystick was better than many video game joysticks I used. I then had a waking dream of the grand possibilities of playing old videogames with control pads sourced from cars. The dream was a beautiful, fantastical vision of a world we could all achieve. I woke up hours later behind a CVS, and headed straight to a junkyard to make this dream real.

Super-sleuth readers may note that in the final project I used a seat control panel instead of a mirror controller. There's a reason for that. When I got the mirror control pads and joysticks home and tested them, I uncovered one of the auto industry's darkest secrets: the "up" and "left" directions on mirror controllers are THE SAME DAMN THING. They're wired together! Think of all the times you've thought you were adjusting your mirror up, not left, thinking you were hot shit? IT'S ALL BEEN A FILTHY LIE. So I soon learned to look elsewhere. Luckily, 70s-80s American cars provided the solution, since they're full of funny little chrome joysticks for seat controls and other various duties.

How to turn old car parts into a video game controller


  1. That doesn’t make any sense, unless down and right are also wired together. Otherwise, your mirror is stuck at the lowest angle, forlornly tooling left and right, left and right, in a vain search for up.

      1. The point is that those switches are useless as game controllers because they had only three poles under them rather than the more adaptable four.

        The reason left and up superficially appeared to be wired together is because there is no left switch. There is a servo to control side-to-side movement and a servo to control up-and-down movement. Depressing UP closed one contact; depressing DOWN closed the opposite contact. Same for LEFT and RIGHT. One pole for up/down, one for left/right. The third pole was a ground.

  2. I’ve always wanted one of those buttons or switches that is red and glowing and is protected by a clear perspex box that you have to flip up to stop it accidentally being pressed (like for rockets in a fighter plane) but to have it hooked up to something a bit lame like a disco ball or maybe not so lame like remote activated nerf sentry guns.

    Game controllers out of car parts? Yes! I agree that this is a good thing.

  3. One could also just use a Sega Genesis or C64 controller, as they are 2600-compatible with no modifications.  They would certainly be more comfortable to one’s paw.

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