First things first. If mast is PERFECTLY NOT bent, and if it has been slathered with WD40, and if then cycled 15 times to loosen all black road grime, and then wiped dry and another 10 cycles with the rag each time, THEN you can move to that scary detailed R&R.
I've had luck in similar symptoms just jambing down the stalk to fully seated and pulling fully extended after it extends itself to work past built-up grime. It almost seems like the coiling plastic drive rack gets out of kilter with the pinion gear timing. The last inch of pushing down or pulling out has never seemed to hurt anything. I'm going with dirt and lube first.
\'96SS SOB: SSRI, Herter Tune, Tri-Y II, , 3000 Edge, F/HO bars, METCO extendeds with CV MMC, Bilsteins, currently Vredestein Ultrac Sessanta (315/35 rear). Finally, wait for it... LT-4 knock module!
\'96FWB BUW-Butt Ugly White: PCMPerformance tune, HDFA w/ swissed filter, 1/2 SLP s.s. catback with H- and Flow Super 50s, oem opti rebuilt 3 times, SS Bars, METCO LCA, Airlift 1000, Monroe SS, PowerTrax No-Slip, CTS wheels with +1 rubber. Finally, yes again... LT-4 knock module!