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That plastic sleeve that hooks on to the steering gear at one of the line fittings, covering the rag joint.
What's it there for?
 

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The Service manual calls it the Steering Shaft Coupler Shield and it does just that, shields the steering shaft coupler from debris. It also covers the slip joint in the steering shaft.
 

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To add, as in stuff not getting between it and immovable objects, like the frame rail.
Would be a bad day.

( says the guy who doesn't have one in place right now🤔)
 

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It probably is there to keep fluids from getting on the rag joint, and dissolving the cloth part.
 

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If I recall there was a class action lawsuit against GM that involved road debris (rocks) wedging between the steering shaft and frame causing loss of steering. (per 95Wagon). The result was the shield.
 
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