The past 15 years have seen an explosion in our understanding of how cells replicate damaged DNA and how this can lead to mutagenesis. The Y-family DNA polymerases lie at the heart of this process, which is commonly known as translesion synthesis. This family of polymerases has unique features that enable them to synthesize DNA past damaged bases. However, as they exhibit low fidelity when copying undamaged DNA, it is essential that they are only called into play when they are absolutely required. Several layers of regulation ensure that this is achieved.