Many researchers have made efforts to develop structural health monitoring methods to detect damages, cracks, corrosion and bolt loosening using modal characteristics of structures. However, modal characteristics are affected by not only damages but also boundary conditions and loading conditions etc. In fact, local damages induce very slight change of modal parameter. Therefore, it will be difficult to apply most of these conventional methods to actual structures. In this paper, we propose a new structural health monitoring method to detect bolt loosening using the characteristics of local vibration modes of a thin plate sensor sandwiched between a bolt, a nut and washers in main structures. This sensor consists of a thin plate and some piezoelectric elements. In local mode vibration of the thin plate sensor, the bolt’s axial tension determines its boundary condition. Bolt loosening changes the boundary condition and natural frequencies of the sensor. However, main structure’s characteristics don’t affect sensor’s modal characteristics. Since our method attempts using local vibration modes it is important to distinguish the local vibration modes of interest from the global ones related to structures. We propose a technique to distinguish local modes using finite element method. Finally, we confirm the validity of the thin plate sensor experimentally.