Actually, what you mention is a big problem I have had myself.
The first thing I suggest is that you examine how far the U-joint collar is inserted over the shaft. My guess is that you don't have it on far enough.
My gripe about the U-joints is that they don't like to expand once the clamping bolt is removed. That means when you try to slide it back on the shafts, either the steering column or the pinion shaft of the gearbox, it only wants to go on partially.
That is especially a problem with the steering shaft, because if you apply the necessary force to set it on the shaft, you can actually break the crimp-fit where the two collapsible pieces fit. Then you have a shortened or lengthened shaft, which means the shaft needs to be reset to the proper length and somehow you have to re-crimp the fit without ending up with a non-collapsible shaft.
I have found that the joint naturally only wants to go as far as the end of the width of the centering groove that allows the bolt some clearance to pass to the other side of the collar. I think most people naturally would stop there, since at that point the bolt will pass.
However, the collar needs to slide on just a little more that that (I really need a pic to illustrate this), i.e., I'd just guess off the top of my head, about an 1/8" past the groove. There, the collar has enough bite on the shaft to prevent wobbling, and the bolt will pass through without binding.
As I mentioned with the steering rack pinion shaft, I had to use a long prybar against the U-joint collar to get an angle to tap the collar on past the groove. You do not want to overdo it. Otherwise, something might get damaged or you will have to tap it in the reverse direction so the bolt will pass through.
The bolt has a torque spec of 22 ft lbs. It is impossible to get a torque wrench to it, however, unless the U-shaft and rack are off the car.
if you get the collar on enough, you realize not much clamping force is necessary!
I don't yet have a solution to the problem of getting the collar adequately on the steering shaft. It is impossible to pry open the collar with any sort of conventional tool when the U-shaft is in the car.
I'd almost recommend removing the entire U-joint shaft from the car when doing the lower column bearings. That way, the collar can be expanded with a thin chisel and hammer, so it will slide enough over the steering shaft with just hand force. You would also need to expand it on the other end, so you don't have to beat it on the rack, either.
I may invent a special tool to expand the u-joint when it is in the car. It would be a C-clamp with a wedge brazed on the moving pad. The wedge would be taken off a bolt-splitter tool. The wedge would fit into the expansion slot of the U-joint and you could spread it without beating it.
Modified by chickenfriend at 5:15 PM 9-16-2009