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Car Shakes as it warms up

I own a 2004 Toyota 4Runner with 108,000 miles on it. I have taken it in to the Toyota dealer two times for the same problem and am getting nowhere with them… maybe you all could help.

The Check Engine light is on along with the VSC Trac and VSC off lights. It shakes upon start up for about 3 -5 seconds and then runs fine after the shaking stops. The service department replaced the #6 spark plug coil the first time we brought it in, this made no difference in the shaking, the lights were off for a few days and then all came back on. The second time we brought it in they suspected the head gasket was deteriorating, said this would be $3000 just to diagnose this for sure, and stated that it wasn’t worth it on a car this old/with this many miles. A few times, I have heard what sounds like rushing water in the engine upon acceleration and this is what lead to this diagnosis. However, I haven’t heard this noise in over a week now. They turned the lights off, but they came back on a few days later.

So, here are my questions…

- What’s causing the shaking?

- Does the head gasket issue sound like a possible diagnosis?

- Was it reasonable for the mechanics to think that replacing the Spark Plug coil would solve the issue?

- Is it safe to drive in this condition? Is it safe to go on road trips (like 100 miles or less) in this car?

- Is it worth it to put so much money into this car? Or, should we be looking for new cars? (I hate the thought of this as we just paid it off and have always thought of this car as our more reliable car.)

I know nothing about cars and would appreciate any advice on this situation! Thanks!