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Manual transmission cars have a component called a clutch. This device helps to shift gears where an automatic car would do this, well, automatically. Occasionally a clutch will go bad and there are some tell tale signs of a failing clutch. You must be sure it is your clutch before taking it to be repaired as these fixes are very costly and take a while to repair or replace.
One of the first, and most common, signs of a failing clutch is what people refer to as slipping. This legitimately feels like what it sounds like. Occasionally, the car will seem to slip for a second especially while under stress such as going uphill, accelerating, or something like that. The transmission will feel like it gets caught and won't be smooth. It is a hard occurrence to describe, but most likely if it's happening you know exactly what this is talking about.
A burning smell or a terrible odor coming from the car may be another sign of a failing clutch. When the clutch is worn down, the facings will get overheated and they will eventually start to smell like they are burning. This is terrible for the health of the car and is a sure sign of something going wrong with the clutch. This in addition to the slipping can almost guarantee a failing clutch is the problem.
Noises and jerking are another way that things could be going bad. A clutch has many features that need to work in conjunction with each other harmoniously. If they are hitting wrong, or causing friction where they shouldn't be due to wear it often times causes noise. These noises are caused from parts sticking together and then jerking apart, or a loose component hitting against other parts.
The bottom line is that if you suspect a clutch is going bad look out for these signs that you might be right. As much of a pain that it might be to spend the money fixing it, the safety issues from not having a functional clutch simply aren't worth it. Clutch problems can be hard to diagnose properly if you don't know cars really well. The best option is usually to just get to an auto repair shop once the suspicions are being confirmed. A clutch issue shouldn't be left alone for long as the car will only be in worse and worse shape as it is left damaged.