Over the last couple years I’ve rolled home 2 or 3 lawnmowers whose owners placed them on the curb on trash-day eve. Upon finding no obvious way to repair them, back to the curb they went. Recently a neighbor offered me a mulching mower for free. It looked to be in very good condition. He said something was broken and preventing it from coming on, but he thought I could fix it. I had no idea that my skills were so widely known.
It was easy to see that the problem was the switch lever, which is a safety switch that has to be held in the “on” position for the mower to operate. It was broken. The actual “on” button pressed by the lever worked fine, and the mower came on when I pushed it with the end of a wooden spoon. I ordered a replacement from a parts dealer for about $10 (including postage). On closer inspection, I saw that it needed some sort of plastic pin, like the pin of a hinge, that holds the lever in place and allows it to pivot. I improvised with a bolt and lock-nut. The repair took about an hour, including the time I needed to get the bolt and lock-nut. A new mower like this one would cost over $300 and I think this used one is worth around half that. This is a job that paid well over $100/hour. Pretty good work.
The moral of the story: A basic familiarity with spare parts, tools, and basic mechanics can save you lots of money.
I need to remember to thank my neighbor and tell him how glad I am to have the mower. Who knows what else he might need to find a home for?