1. Any way this is NOT a bad power-steering pump?
If could be any number of things, including just bad fluid. The only symptom you have is PS whine from time to time while at slow speed, many vehicles do this normally in cold weather.
2. Is this related to my larger tires and wheel spacers I just put on? Will I have the same problem with this again?
More likely the lift, the larger tires and wheel spacers might be contributing as well. Did you have the alignment checked after doing the lift?
The lift would change the normal angle the control arms and steering tie rods ride at, that can change the stresses on those items a lot and cause damage or accellerated wear. But, if this was common, I'd think we would be seeing more postsabout PS noise from all the folks that have put lft kits on their Commanders.
Bigger tires would increase the boost needed from pump, especially at slow speed, and a pump running short of volume and pressure would likely make noise. But, again, if this was common, I'd think we would be seeing more posts about PS noise from all the folks that have put larger tires on their Commanders.
Spacers? What is the offset/backspacing on your current wheels, how wide are they as well and how big of a spacer? If the combination of wheels offset/backspacing plus the spacer has made a huge change in the track and offset dimensions of the suspension, it could increase the forced needed to steer a lot at slow speeds, maybe that is the source of your noise, you're overstressing your PS system.
3. Reading the service manual, it says that because the HEMI has the hydraulic fan, I need to "...use the DRB III to activate the hydraulic fan on full fan operation..." as part of the bleed procedure. Is there a way to do this without the tool? Or do I really have to take this to the dealer to handle this?
Yea, you, I and a whole host of other shade tree mechanics are endlessly frustrated by the Manfacturer exploiting the software rights to the electronics to keep anybody but the dealer being able to service and repair your vehicle. Yea, a DRBIII or any of the follow on electronic tools cost 10's of thousands and even the lesser capable tools that private companies have reserse engineered, will cost you $500 or more and then it will just have some of the capabilities just for Chrysler Vehicles, no others. And all you need is the valve opened to the hydrualic fan motor.
BTW, I suspect that is why the XK/WK have a new PS fluid standard, MS-10383, the demands on the fluid for running that hydrualic fan. But, and maybe it is for simplicity sake and avoiding confusion, for the Commanders with different engines that do NOT have hydrualic fans, they still recommend the MS-10383.
You've got a couple of options,
1.)you could take it to the dealer and pay them.
2.)you could bleed and flush the fluid from the system like normal, NOT doing the fan circuit, you still replace a vast majority of the fluid and it should be fine.
3.)and I can't help you much cause I've never done it and don't have a Hemi Commander with the hydrualic fan, but imagine the fan has to have some sort of electrically activate valve in the circuit. You could try to remove that valve to bleed the fan circuit.