The processing of various DNA structures by RecQ helicases is crucial for genome maintenance in both bacteria and eukaryotes. RecQ helicases perform active destabilization of DNA duplexes, based on tight coupling of their ATPase activity to moderately processive translocation along DNA strands. Here, we determined the ATPase kinetic mechanism of E. coli RecQ helicase to reveal how mechanoenzymatic coupling is achieved. We found that the interaction of RecQ with DNA results in a drastic acceleration of the rate-limiting ATP cleavage step, which occurs productively due to subsequent rapid phosphate release. ADP release is not rate-limiting and ADP-bound RecQ molecules make up a small fraction during single-stranded DNA translocation. However, the relatively rapid release of the ADP-bound enzyme from DNA causes the majority of translocation run terminations (i.e. detachment from the DNA track). Thus, the DNA interactions of ADP-bound RecQ helicase, probably dependent on DNA structure, will mainly determine translocation processivity and may control the outcome of DNA processing. Comparison with human Bloom's syndrome (BLM) helicase reveals that similar macroscopic parameters are achieved by markedly different underlying mechanisms of RecQ homologs, suggesting diversity in enzymatic tuning.