We hypothesize that enzymatic switching during translesion synthesis (TLS) to relieve stalled replication forks occurs during transitions from preferential to disfavored use of damaged primer-templates, and that the polymerase or 3'-exonuclease used for each successive nucleotide incorporated is the one whose properties result in the highest efficiency and the highest fidelity of bypass. Testing this hypothesis requires quantitative determination of the relative lesion bypass ability of both TLS polymerases and major replicative polymerases. As a model of the latter, here we measure the efficiency and fidelity of cis-syn TT dimer and abasic site bypass using the structurally well-characterized T7 DNA polymerase. No bypass of either lesion occurred during a single round of synthesis, and the exonuclease activity of wild-type T7 DNA polymerase was critical in preventing TLS. When repetitive cycling of the exonuclease-deficient enzyme was allowed, limited bypass did occur but hundreds to thousands of cycles were required to achieve even a single bypass event. Analysis of TLS fidelity indicated that these rare bypass events involved rearrangements of the template and primer strands, insertions opposite the lesion, and combinations of these events, with the choice among these strongly depending on the sequence context of the lesion. Moreover, the presence of a lesion affected the fidelity of copying adjacent undamaged template bases, even when lesion bypass itself was correct. The results also indicate that a TT dimer presents a different type of block to the polymerase than an abasic site, even though both lesions are extremely potent blocks to processive synthesis. The approaches used here to quantify the efficiency and fidelity of TLS can be applied to other polymerase-lesion combinations, to provide guidance as to which of many possible polymerases is most likely to bypass various lesions in biological contexts.