All ATP-dependent chromatin remodelers have a DNA translocase domain that moves along double-stranded DNA when hydrolyzing ATP, which is the key action leading to DNA moving through nucleosomes. Recent structural and biochemical data from a variety of different chromatin remodelers have revealed that there are three basic ways in which these remodelers self-regulate their chromatin remodeling activity. In several instances, different domains within the catalytic subunit or accessory subunits through direct protein-protein interactions can modulate the ATPase and DNA translocation properties of the DNA translocase domain. These domains or subunits can stabilize conformations that either promote or interfere with the ability of the translocase domain to bind or retain DNA during translocation or alter the ability of the enzyme to hydrolyze ATP. Second, other domains or subunits are often necessary to anchor the remodeler to nucleosomes to couple DNA translocation and ATP hydrolysis to DNA movement around the histone octamer. These anchors provide a fixed point by which remodelers can generate sufficient torque to disrupt histone-DNA interactions and mobilize nucleosomes. The third type of self-regulation is in those chromatin remodelers that space nucleosomes or stop moving nucleosomes when a particular length of linker DNA has been reached. We refer to this third class as DNA sensors that can allosterically regulate nucleosome mobilization. In this review, we will show examples of these from primarily the INO80/SWR1, SWI/SNF and ISWI/CHD families of remodelers. © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society.