Helicases involved in genomic maintenance are a class of nucleic-acid dependent ATPases that convert the energy of ATP hydrolysis into physical work to execute irreversible steps in DNA replication, repair, and recombination. Prokaryotic helicases provide simple models to understand broadly conserved molecular mechanisms involved in manipulating nucleic acids during genome maintenance. Our understanding of the catalytic properties, mechanisms of regulation, and roles of prokaryotic helicases in DNA metabolism has been assembled through a combination of genetic, biochemical, and structural methods, further refined by single-molecule approaches. Together, these investigations have constructed a framework for understanding the mechanisms that maintain genomic integrity in cells. This review discusses recent single-molecule insights into molecular mechanisms of prokaryotic helicases and translocases.