Tremolo systems, especially "Fender" style units can be pretty tricky!
Over the years I've picked up quite a few little tricks that should help.
Here are some of them:
Strings vs. Springs
I've found the number of "springs" you use to be crucial. I've read that other repairmen disagree, but to me it just seems to work best if your "spring tension" = your "string tension". So, if you use an extra light string set (.009 - .042) use 3 springs, for regular lights (.010 - .046) use 4 springs, 2 on each side with the middle spring space vacant.
Keep all possible points of friction well lubricated! In particular, the nut and string retainers. Almost 90% of any "snagging" occurs at the headstock. You can tell if this is happening by listening for a "tick, tick" sound when you press the bar down. Among the most commonly used lubricants are graphite (pencil lead), Vaseline jelly and light machine oil. Oil is my choice, especially one with teflon in it!
Set your system to "float". Many players set their systems flush on the body, so you can only push the bar down. This also means that if you break a string, the rest of your guitar will stay in tune. This works for many, but I prefer the system to "float" with the unit off the guitar body by about 1/8" or more. This creates what I call "Back Tension" which helps the strings come back in tune better once the bar is pressed down. If the vibrato unit is flush on the body and a string goes sharp as a result of activity with the bar, the string has nowhere to go and will stay sharp! Not to mention all the cool effects that can be had when you can pull up on the bar!-!
Seal the wound
Seal the "wound" or ball end of the string with solder. Just a mild "tinning" is required here, and it stops any slippage at this end completely!
Greigg Fraser is a guitarist/songwriter
from London Canada. Click below to visit his web site and listen to audio samples from his