We've all been guilty at one time or another of removing our stock brake heat shields in the interest of getting more cooling air to brakes or clearing a set of larger-sized rotors, but have you ever considered the consequences of removing them?
Retaining the OE heat shield causes brakes to heat faster, cool slower, and braking performance to suffer, but removing them can expedite wear to ball joints and tie-rod ends. The factory heat shield helps protect the rubber boots on the tie-rod ends and lower ball joints from high heat radiating from brake rotors after hard driving, which can cause premature degradation or even melting of the boots, leading to all-out failure.
A simple DIY solution used by competitive vehicles like those of J's Racing in Japan, for example, is to wire heat-reflective fabric (Kevlar weave or similar) onto the outside of tie rods and ball joint boots. This simple modification can help extend the life of your suspension components for less than a few bucks, and allow you to remove those restrictive brake heat shields for better cooling.