Abstract Based on a 1:15 scaled 3/4 open jet automotive wind tunnel, this paper studies the effect of vortex generator on the buffeting phenomenon. The mean velocity, static pressure gradient, turbulent intensity as well as frequencies of fluctuant velocities have been explored experimentally with and without vortex generator. It shows that the less protruding vortex generator could control the buffeting phenomenon and improve the flow quality. Furthermore, the unsteady coherent structures in the jet shear layer have been visualized and analyzed by Detached-eddy simulation (DES). The vortex-ring pairing process is identified in the shear layer along with obvious frequency characteristics and velocity fluctuations. The vortex generator can postpone and restrain this vortex-ring pairing process, then reducing the velocity fluctuations.